Car Review: It's The Real Thing
The striking exterior of the Corvette Stingray is bold and bordering on outrageous. Fortunately, the performance delivers on the promise of the styling! The 2021 C8 does not disappoint!
By John Grafman
Mon, Jul 5, 2021 07:51 AM PST
All photos by author John Grafman.
The good folks in product planning are successfully eliminating redundancy at GM (does Pontiac ring a bell?). It wouldn’t be surprising if someone on that same team asked something like “If we have a muscle car - aka the Camaro - what void is the Corvette filling?" or "If an electric car can bring gobs of performance to the table, what is the Corvette offering? Shouldn’t it be electric, as well?”.
Clearly, looking at the latest Tesla products, even a novice can plainly see what an electric car is capable of. However, batteries add weight and cost and when the C8 was being developed, battery technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now. Plus, there isn’t an EV charging station on every corner, and it takes considerably more time to achieve a complete charge. So, maybe going electric isn’t always the answer. Yet, not advancing the Corvette in a meaningful way just puts it in the same genre as its stablemate.
A Mid-Engined Corvette!?
The 2021 Corvette is indeed radical. Decades of evolution have been building up to something… and this is it! This is a massive leap into the future. And, given the price of other cars of this caliber, this Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the deal of the century with a base price of $66,200 ($82,255 as tested).
Overall, the Stingray design is bold and consistent within the field of exotic sportscars. Even Ray Charles would say this is dynamic. Running a hand along any surface, one can just feel the forms singing.
It's easy to see the attention to surface details in the modeling of the body. Subtle, flowing lines draw the eye across the panels. Matched with that are pronounced features capable of stopping traffic. This is most effective coupled with the correct paint color, like the optional ($995) Red Mist Metallic Tintcoat found on our review model. Additionally, the optional body color exterior accents ($995) are eliminating the ungainly, black boomerangs that frame the side intakes. Uninterrupted in body color, the overall surfacing and shapes are easier to appreciate.
The front is unmistakenly a Corvette, even if it's a bit shorter than its front-engine siblings. The leading-edge flows into the front trunk (formerly known as the "hood" of the car... maybe we should call it a "front storage locker"?). The massive, side-to-side grill opening below the leading edge of the bumper/hood gives the C8 a menacing shark-like mouth ready and willing to take a bite out of whatever it can.
With keen eyes you'll see other recurring shapes and themes in the rear windscreen and panel pieces. But it’s not just a cohesive design - the C8 is also visually entertaining. For this type of car, however, the engine is a bit tucked away. A better view of the 6.2-liter, eight-cylinder monster would be a bonus.
Walking-around the Corvette reveals a bounty of kodak moments. And, from the first moment to the last day, this car forces one to look back for another glance - making sure to leave a lasting imprint in your brain’s cortex.
It’s as if the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette wants to say, “If you like that, take a look at this.”
Instagram Friendly Details (aka Kodak Moments)
The little, tasteful details the casual observer might overlook, like the Corvette logo in the lens, provides an added reward beyond the initial encounter.
Over the ages, GM and Chevrolet has been reflecting elements found in aviation and is using those effectively to provide direction in styling. If I didn’t know better, the Harrier Jump Jet is inspiring the bold, oversized air intakes on the C8.
I hear myself thinking “there’s no way this car needs a vent like this… right?”. But there they are - provocative side vents loudly stating "Don’t mess with me!". And, of course, there’s always some clown motoring alongside wanting to take up the challenge.
Pizza Delivery In A Corvette
Between the V8 and the rear license plate is an additional trunk. There’s ample room for throwing golf bags or a dead body in there. However, it gets hot in this storge space. As such, it isn’t good for perishables (and perhaps not so good for dead bodies either), but it’s ideal for keeping hot to-go food piping hot. It is definitely pizza friendly. Nevertheless, the room in the back is a bonus making the 2021 functional for nearly everyday use. Combined, the front and rear storage can swallow 12.6 cubic feet of cargo.
Going Topless In A Corvette Is Easy
Of all the things that fit in the rear trunk, the most important is the Stingray roof panel. Release a few hold-downs, and the light-weight top is ready to go. One person, with minimal effort, can handle the transformation. Topless motoring, or at least without a roof panel, is certainly on the enthusiast checklist, and makes nearly any drive special. Even at highway speed, there’s nominal wind intrusion. As simple as removing and replacing the panel is, we just assume you'll be leaving it off whenever possible.
Slipping inside is easy enough (gravity does most of the work) - but getting out may prove a bit more challenging for some, given how close to the ground your gluteus maximus is. Once in, there is no mistaking the behind the wheel impression of the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The Vette is what every kid dreams of when he or she thinks of a race car. It’s not just fast - it allows mere mortals to handle the power.
On our particular review model, the 2LT, the interior is trimmed handsomely top to bottom. The C8 is no longer making any excuses for a lack of refinement. No more “…well it’s a Chevy” or “…that’s what you get at this price-point”. No, instead Chevrolet does more with less.
The optional vented and heated seats - with adjustable bolsters and lumbar support - are beyond good, and the optional ($1,495) GT2 bucket seats are handsomely crafted. These seats have me thinking of Italian sports cars... Which was probably the goal.
The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Initially Feels Overwhelming
The controls in the 2021 Chevrolet Corvettte envelop the driver. A river of switches stream down from the instrument panel onto the elevated center console. The gauge cluster with its multiple graphic layouts, the center screen housing the infotainment system (Apple CarPlay among others), and the HVAC controls on the center console initially feel overwhelming. Yet, it really isn’t that bad. As with any new car, it'll take a while to memorize where buttons and switches are - the most important are elevated toggles - but you'll be up and running in no-time.
Head Up Display & 0-60 Timer
Our 2021 Corvette comes with GM’s wonderful Head Up Display (HUD). Its various options allow the driver to see pertinent information on the windshield instead of having to look down. The Corvette isn't the only car with an available HUD - nor is GM the only manufacturer offering it - and regardless of what car you're looking at buying, check out the HUD. Once you use one of these, it's hard to let go. Of course, that goes for everything in this Corvette.
The HUD keeps the driver's eyes on the road. Paradoxaly, an automated timer for tracking 0-60 sprints also helps out with safety - alleviating the need to keep an eye on the speedometer, again helping drivers keep their eyes on the road.
Dropping the hammer can turn up sub-3 second launches! At least that's what we've heard.
The center touchscreen provides access to the settings menu - allowing adjustments to a wide variety of functions, from steering and suspension, to exhaust. Dialing in the driver’s preference creates an interactive, symbiotic relationship. Really, it’s a toy within a toy.
Stick-Shift, Automatic, or Button-Shift?
Shifting out of park and into drive is accomplished via the toggles on the center console. While this is unusual to say the least, it’s effortless and clears the center console of unnecessary clutter. Of course, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray comes complete with paddle shifters. Manually selecting the gears of the eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission with the paddles provides a technically superior drive but lacks the visceral experience of a stick-shift. It’s hard breaking those OG habits.
Starting A Monster
Hiding behind the steering wheel is the start button. Lighting this candle is an adrenaline inducing experience typically found in space bound craft. Unless you happen to be Bezos, Musk, or Sir Richard Branson, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette might just be the best ride you can afford. With the push of the button, the engine leaps to life, the revs jump, and the graphics awaken. In its own way, the C8 greets you with a “You sure you're ready?”
Just FYI, it’s impossible to turn the engine over subtly. Then again, that’s just not a part of the program. If one wants subtle, buy a Prius.
Stop Drooling On My Car
Even though the Corvette isn't really meant to be your daily driver, it does do a relatively decent job of the typical day-in, day-out driving. At least for the target customer without kids. Sure, the rear storage is like a sauna, and rearward visibility is hampered by a narrow window and wide buttresses that create blind spots, but who cares?
The optional, and must have, Front Lift Adjustable Height ($1,995) eliminates many of the problems low-slung supercars face. Coupled with the front-mounted camera, parking block and driveway disasters are a thing of the past. Really, the worst part of the C8 is keeping kids (and some adults) from drooling on the car.
Suspension & Brakes
The Magnetic Selective Ride Control 4.0 suspension dampens life’s lump and bumps with aplomb. Never is there a grit your teeth moment. The steering is firm (and adjustable), but never difficult. The five-spoke, aluminum, 19” front wheels covered in 245/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport ALS (305/30ZR20 rear) are ample. Surprisingly, these can really crank over in a turn, allowing for tight parking lot maneuvers. The turning radius of just 182.3” / 4630mm is really the result of the optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control - reducing the turning circle of the C8 by over 18-inches compared to the standard suspension. In addition, the adjustability allows the Corvette to handle both city streets and tracks.
As one can imagine, if the brakes can haul this down from supersonic speeds, around town driving and braking is no problem. In other words, this is a smooth experience without grabbing. The Z51 Brakes are part of the Z51 Performance Package. This upgrades the front to 13.6” x 1.18” (345 x 30mm) – an inch larger in diameter over the stock units. The rear grows to 13.8” x 1.06” (350 x 27mm), which is a half-inch larger in diameter and a tick (1mm) wider. With the optional package the front and rear are E-boost-assisted discs with Brembo four-piston monobloc calipers.
Engine & Raw Power
The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Was Created For More
Sure, there are those that will tool around town in the Stingray just to make others jealous. However, the Corvette was created for more. A lot more. There are very few products that are as capable as the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The 490-horsepower at 6,450 rpm and 465-lb.-ft of torque at 5,150 rpm puts the C8 into the superhero league.
Residing aft of the occupants is the A319-T7 cast aluminum V8 with cast-in iron cylinder liners. This also has cast aluminum cylinder heads with an 11.5 to 1 compression ratio. Fuel is delivered via direct injection with active fuel management.
Surprisingly, this is an overhead valve - two valves per cylinder engine with dual-equal variable valve timing. One would expect four-valves, a turbo or two, or even a supercharger. But no, this doesn’t need it. Sure, there's room for improvement - leaving wiggle room for aftermarket companies to exist.
The Corvette... Evolved
The lack of opportunities to really use the Corvette to its full potential are minimal. In the case of the C8, it’s really no challenge to drive this fast car fast. The Corvette was built to go fast. As such, however, it's hard to go slow. Over the past several decades the Corvette has evolved from being a sportscar to what it truly is now, a full-fledged supercar.
No, we haven't explored the upper range of the Corvette - many buyers thankfully never will. Why thankfully? Well, this car is so capable that it may have the driver unintentionally stray outside their capabilities. However, reaching maximum legal (and beyond legal) speeds is effortless. Even if a few other cars can get to 60 quicker, are louder, come from exclusive manufacturers, or are only offered in very limited quantities, it will be darn difficult to find a more gratifying car in terms of performance and design for the base price of the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. This has been - and still is - the secret sauce that Chevrolet has dished out for decades. And you don't mess with a recipe that works.
About The Author
John Grafman spent far too much of his youth thriving on the canyons that connect the valley to Malibu. This antisocial behavior has evidentially scarred him for life. Nevertheless, using his powers for good rather than evil, John has spent the past dozen or so years working on models for numerous automotive design studios on the west coast. You’ve seen his work on the exterior and interiors of some of your favorite concept and production cars. You can now see his imprint throughout LA CAR.