It’s the most radical redesign in the Corvette’s history.
Chevrolet unveiled the first mid-engine Corvette at an event in California on Thursday night. The change intended to take the all-American sports car to the next level of performance so it can compete with the world’s best on equal footing.
The Corvette has had its engine up front through seven generations, ever since the first one hit the road in 1953. Previous attempts to swap ends were met with resistance because they were deemed too complex, expensive and odd for the car’s audience.
Legendary Corvette engineer Zora Arkus Duntov understood the dynamic advantages of placing the engine between the axles ever since he created the first mid-engine Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle (CERV i) in 1960. He and his successors developed several more prototypes using the layout over the years that gained plenty of attention, but couldn’t convince management to put them into production as the conventional Corvettes continued to sell well.
The 2020 Corvette Stingray is the culmination of those dreams. Looking more like the sports cars it aims to steal the thunder from than any Corvette before it, the low-slug, Targa-top coupe is powered by a 490 horsepower 6.2-liter pushrod V8 that sits under a clear cover and drives the rear wheels through a quick-shifting, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. No manual is being offered, which will give the traditionalists another thing to complain about.
With 465 lb-ft of torque, plenty of weight on the rear tires and the latest traction and launch control systems, Chevrolet says it can accelerate to 60 mph in under 3.0 seconds when equipped with the optional Z51 package and performance exhaust that bumps power and torque up by 5 hp and 5 lb-ft. That puts it squarely in exotic car territory. Keep in mind that the Stingray is the entry-level Corvette model and much more powerful iterations are still to come.
The Stingray’s backbone chassis is primarily made of aluminum and dressed in fiberglass body panels, in keeping with Corvette tradition. Its elongated headlights and angular quad taillights are the only styling elements that recall the car it replaces.
The suspension features A-arms and coil springs at all four corners, and finally loses the signature leaf-spring rear end of past Corvettes. Adaptive magnetorheological dampers are also available and a hydraulic nose lift is offered that raises the front of the car 1.5 inches to get over bumps. You can even geotag the locations where you most often need it and the feature will automatically activate as you approach them.
The interior features a squared-off steering wheel, a full-digital instrument cluster, a central tablet-style display canted toward the driver and a long row of buttons and toggles situated on a raised ridge between the seats. Behind the motor is a trunk large enough for either the requisite two golf bags or the Targa roof panel, while a smaller compartment in the front can hold a carry-on bag. Visibility is enhanced by a video rearview mirror that uses feed from a wide-angle camera at the trailing edge of the roof, while a forward-facing camera can be used to film track sessions with the Performance Data Recorder or as a dashcam on public roads.
The 2020 Corvette Stingray enters production late this year. Exact pricing hasn’t been announced, but GM President Mark Reuss said it will start under $60,000, which is close to what the current Stingray goes for and about the same as a 300 hp Porsche 718 Boxster. A full-convertible version will follow the coupe's debut.
This article has been updated with additional information.