If MotorTrend.com had headers, they’d be glowing cherry red right now. If it had brakes, they’d be sizzling and billowing smoke. In fact, we should all take a cooldown lap while singing along to Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.”
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I tap out this story after the long awaited, much anticipated debut of the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette nearly broke our website. But let’s rewind. Back in April, in a PR stunt involving GM president Mary Barra, the New York Stock Exchange, and a heavily camouflaged vehicle of distinctly supercar proportions, Chevrolet finally, formally acknowledged what legions of petrol heads already knew to be true from countless spy photos and internet posts: The next-generation Corvette was coming, fast.
Prior to its announced July 18 reveal, we racked our brains to extract the meaning in those numbers. My best guess was that it was a hiding-in-plain-sight nod to the C8’s Nürburgring lap time; 7 minutes, 18 seconds would be impressive for an entry-level Stingray.
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But GM had much grander plans, a moonshot of its own. It used July 18, 2019, to celebrate both the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which launched on July 16, 1969, and put the first humans on the moon, and the debut of the most drastic renewal of its flagship sports car, which has its own special ties to America’s space program.
With bona fide American heroes, former astronauts Mae Jemison and Scott Kelly, as the opening presenters, Chevrolet went heavy on nostalgia, themes of American optimism and idealism, and the challenges of science and engineering. For all the flag waving and chest thumping, Chevy managed to tie one of America’s proudest moments to, yes, basically a new product introduction, but it did so with surprising class.
It was an ambitious, highly choreographed, and hideously expensive affair (from the look of things). But it was also grounded in authenticity and (most important) substance in stories of man/woman and machine.
Twenty-four hours before the coming-out party, MotorTrend snagged exclusive, up-close-and-personal time with the show vehicles, to the create videos and photo galleries that lit up our website like the Rocketdyne F-1 engines on a Saturn V rocket. What might have gotten lost amid all the anniversary pageantry and plumes of C8 excitement are three revelations.
Despite the supercar layout, Corvette remains a shockingly livable grand tourer, at least from a packaging perspective. I was one of the first journalists to get behind its wheel, and it was a completely forgettable process. It wasn’t until hours later that I recalled—or rather, couldn’t remember—any particular difficulty in getting in or out of the vehicle. The car is Corvette low, but there are no wide rocker panels to hoist one’s thigh over. Nestling into the Competition Sport seats, while deeply bolstered, did not require cleansing breaths or yoga asanas.
Up front, the frunk easily swallowed up a cabin-approved rollaboard and my work backpack, with laptop. The trunk, which somehow sits behind the engine and above the gearbox, is still deep enough to hold two slim golf bags, stacked on top of each other. I know because I packed and repacked both a couple of times in a video you can see right here. Boring bit of trivia? Not for the legions of current Corvette owners skeptical of losing its daily drivability. It also begs the question, why don’t more mid-engine sports cars have usable rear trunks?
This brings me to the boldness of this entire mid-engine proposition. Prior to launch, as leaks of the C8 started to emerge, chatter materialized on social media that perhaps the Corvette team had made a serious mid-engine miscalculation. Was this something the loyal fanbase actually wanted? To hedge its bets, why not expand the Corvette line to include an upmarket, mid-engine variant while retaining a legacy front-engine model? Play it safe, make everyone happy, have a fallback position.
But no; the Chevy and GM brass made a clean break. In popular business lingo, they went all in on the new platform. To seal the deal, GM president Mark Reuss closed out the event by whipping out his pricing gun and firing off the Stingray’s under-$60,000 starting price, which promptly sent everyone into sticker shock—the right kind, for once. No retreat, no surrender, good night.
But this isn’t the end. This isn’t even the end of the beginning. The story of this next-generation Corvette has only just begun—hang on as we deliver more C8 exclusives.
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