In the early days of HOD I was highly creative in getting attention to our HOD brand. Through some lucky connections, I had become a member of the Western Automotive Journalists, who’s members have access to press fleet test vehicles. Writing (and sometimes filming) car reviews, my first big connection was the introduction of the BMW 6 series…and there were many others along the way. The press fleet policies have changed over the years, and I frankly have not had the bandwidth to push for and compose reviews….. But the C8 came along and we made time.
I know this is probably the last review ever written on the C8 Corvette, but it is for our HOD peeps, and a car like this doesn’t come along very often. In fact, I would say once in a generation. So, when a C8 was offered to me for a week, I said HECK YES!! Sorry – but it’s not a track test. In a nutshell, Derek Abel of Abel Chevrolet allowed me 3 laps at Thunderhill in an early C8 Z51 and it was awesome. Simply put, it was on rails and LOVED to turn in…I was blown away by my 3 laps, but 3 laps do not a review make. There are MILES of YouTube reviews that will give you a great feel for what to expect on track. Note that several reviewers adjusted their impressions of on-track behavior after the C8 has had a performance alignment. This seems to be key for the frequent C8 track driver…with that, folks are astonished by this car on a road course!
What I know about the C8’s track capabilities are this: You first must be certain the Corvette you buy has the Z51 package….and then, you MUST TRACK YOUR C8!! If you don’t, it’s like buying a very expensive fly rod and reel and hanging on the wall – and never fishing…The 2020 Corvette is so good, and so fast, that you simply will be committing a felony if you get anywhere close to its limits while on public roads. You MUST HOD this car!!! And of course, we are totally impartial in this opinion!
Here is a commentary on our week with the C8:
The car is a stunner, inside and out. Several people along my route home – gas station, CVS parking lot, at a stoplight – “Is it a Ferrari?” several said. I looked to the right at a stoplight and we were being videoed by a thumbs-up bearing, grinning, enthusiast in a Camaro. I parked it in the driveway and studied it from every angle. I’m sure that every design can evolve and be improved, but the quantum leap that the Corvette design team took in relocating that pushrod V8 was unprecedented – and I give them an A++. It has the familial front Mako Shark fenders from the past yet blended into a new exotic and modern package. The only wish I have, and I know they tried, is to bring the rear quarter panel air scoops in an inch or two. They are just a tad too prominent. But, that 6.2 that is being assigned the task of rocketing this car on road and track needs air, so it is what it is. Beyond the side scoops, this car is gorgeous. I love the notches in the leading edge of the front trunk. The windshield is a panorama on the world from the cockpit. (I’ll hire a more agile person than I to clean the inside of this amazing windshield). The taillights retain the Corvette history, the roofline allows for amazing headroom in a true sports car package. We intentionally invited our neighbor Mike to check the car out. He thought we were being nice, but I just wanted to see if he’d fit! At 6’6”, he fit easily, and immediately asked his wife to sit in the passenger seat so they could wink at each other inside the car…The C8 brings the Corvette look from the past up to now in one, fell swoop. I think the most impressive thing about this change is how they managed the complete reproportioning of the body. I owned a C7, which is an awesome car. But the hood was the equivalent of an aircraft carrier runway. Sitting in the center of the C8, the car is just right – with adequate crash protection and frontal area for functionality (HUGE COOLERS HIDDEN), and lots of room for a sizeable driver, with a miraculous trunk in back as well…1/3, 1/3, 1/3 – nailed it!
Living with the C8 Corvette:
First, you must get used to being a celebrity. We were stopped at a Starbucks off of I5 by a guy walking his dog, who made a beeline for us…”OK, I’m a Ford guy with a 67 GT350H at home, but Chevy NAILED it with this car. Ford has some catching up to do – well, there’s the Ford GT, but it’s not attainable.” This guy literally was considering changing car religions based on this Flame Red Vette.
My wife Brynne and I planned a drive from the Sierra Foothills, through the Bay Area on a Friday afternoon (oh boy), down to Santa Cruz for a fun weekend. I can speak for Brynne and say that the C8 was a hero on the trip. Here are some remarkably simple but important observations:
Chevrolet engineers found the perfect balance of sports car firmness combined with compliance. The result is that this Corvette is a world-class touring car. At “slightly” above highway speeds, they have tamed the airflow over this pretty busy body, and we heard NO wind noise and felt the cockpit was incredibly quiet. And if there is any question about ride based on circumstances, the Drive Mode can be changed on the fly from Tour to Sport to Track…and each mode is clearly adapted to its mission… they are significant different feels with each turn of the knob. Especially steering feel…absolutely amazing. Also, I’m over six feet and Brynne is 5’8” and we both felt extremely comfortable in this car and wished we were going further. The optional sport seats are some of the best seats I’ve experienced and Brynne volunteered how comfy and supportive they were before I asked her. They are probably not for everyone, so the seat chosen for your use should be evaluated before checking the box. True confessions – I initially hated the slashed dash with the control panel creating a break between driver and passenger. How were we going to hold hands? Ok, yes, it looked cool – several said like a F18 fighter cockpit, but it just looked like it chopped up the interior. Well, the more I drove the car, the more I actually began to feel that cockpit feel and the control that comes with it…it took a day to get used to, but on day two, it felt like home…
I’m not crazy about the switchgear – little niggly things like the sound volume tabs are awkward on the bottom of the steering wheel and do not adjust enough…I found myself constantly fiddling to find the right volume. The dashboard information is not intuitive…one needs to read the manual to find all the optional information displays. However, I did smile at the engineers who put the 0-60mph timer on the dash…talk about aiding and abetting!
This was my first squared off steering wheel. LOVE it. Hands at 9 and 3 is very natural and you don’t have the top of a circle in your line of vision even when your hands end up on top.
Brynne did a short stint in the car, and she thought it was effortless to drive – exceptionally smooth and enjoyed it thoroughly. One thing we both agree on – we don’t like the center rear-view camera/mirror. It’s not a mirror and has a funky convex mirror feel and we both had issues focusing on it as we both wear prescription glasses. I also was concerned that the camera serving as the mirror is along the roofline in the rear and could be obstructed by snow and ice. But then realized this car should be in the garage when it’s snowy and icy!!
The storage in this car is a huge differentiator in the sports car space. Once again, the Corvette as a touring car comes through. We placed two full back packs a two-bottle wine cooler and my laptop bag in the FRONT trunk. In the back? Well, how about two full golf bags with clubs?! Yes, I had seen this in other reviews, but I now have proven it. We both golf and have nice bags – not pro bags but not just carry bags. I will admit it took a couple of tries and we used ALL the room, but you’ll see the pictures of both bags snuggled in…plus shoes, boxes of balls, and my HOD hat. The guys at Seascape Golf Club simply did not believe it. Having said this about getting golf bags in – if you are not hauling golf bags, you have LOTS of room for a lengthy trip. This is a good thing, as the cockpit is very comfy, but cozy…not lots of room in the interior for your “stuff.” I will add one item that will probably upset the Chevy guys, as I was not in on the wind tunnel testing. But it would have been great to put the rear wing on the rear edge of the trunk lid so it would go up with the lid and be out of the way for lift over of items to be placed in the trunk. With it along the rear edge of the body of the car, you need to be VERY careful lifting your items over the wing and down into the trunk.
Knowing that this is a sports car, and I’m talking a lot about the trunk, I guess you’d like to hear more about the sports car stuff.
In addition to the balance of the mid-engine car, and the resulting traction that comes from having the engine in its optimum location, we need to mention the sweet, 6.2-liter LT2 Pushrod V8. A few years ago, I was at a dinner with Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter who was asked “When will the Corvette get a more sophisticated overhead cam engine?” He bristled and responded (summarizing here) “Look at the size of the package, the torque, the reliability and economy and tell me what we’re missing.” I sincerely believe that, like rumors about the 67 big block Corvette, the dyno numbers for the C8 are a bit sandbagged as published. With HP just under 500 and torque at 470 ft. lbs., when put to use, this engine feels even more powerful. True story: We were on the way home in the dark, at a four way stop (Jack Tone Rd. and Highway 4), with no traffic, the devil told me – with no warning – that I had to just DROP the hammer. This was a near-marriage ending decision. The 2020 Corvette launches VIOLENTLY. With the TCS keeping the Vette squared up down the road, the initial thrust is backed up with a steady violent push. Brynne kinda freaked out. This was not well-received without warning.
From this experience and driving the car for a week, I have come to believe that this car is “Just right.” It has ENOUGH power. As I said earlier, if anyone gets close to the Vette’s limits on the streets and roads, they are irresponsible. This is a wonderful touring and sports car that is more at home on the track. Big power, monster brakes, ginormous coolers, adaptable/programmable suspension…this car is a superstar.
Having just used the “superstar” moniker, I am going to make one strong statement that could be a negative. The Corvette is not a good grocery-getter, errand-runner. With the amazing design and efficient use of space, comes an extremely low access and seating position. Put succinctly, this car is an effort to get in and out of. (OK…I am over 60…do not remind me!) The floor rails along the bottom edge of the door is certainly a safety and engineering feature. But it also creates the scenario where you need to prepare to enter – getting feet turned at the right angle and get balanced before slithering in. Exiting is the same, one must take their time and not drag their feet across the threshold, turn and push off to stand. And it’s really tough if the door does not open fully, as in a tight parking space. Yup, we would suggest that you have another car for your daily driving. I was reading Santa Clara Corvette Club’s “First Class Glass” magazine last night and saw a picture of a member’s C7 with the swing-wing door conversion…Now that would be a HUGE enhancement to the C8.
All in all, the C8 met my very lofty expectations and is better than I expected, after having read many positive reviews. This is an instant classic, a perfectly balanced package, and has the performance of a much, much more expensive car. I think the balance and synergy of the C8 would be upset by a supercharger or turbocharging….my two cents? This car is fast enough!! To that point, I hesitate to indicate to Chevrolet execs who read this article that it’s too cheap. But it might just be. If Chevrolet is trying to continue the legend that is the Corvette, and keep current customers happy with the change, they have done the job. But – and this is going to sound weird – I believe that many Porsche buyers won’t take a serious look at it because, “for $78 grand, it just can’t be that good.” Oh boy will they be wrong….Yes – Porsche is HOD’s number one brand, and they build amazing, track ready cars, but I’ll simply say that the old U.S. of A. has made us proud with a viable competitor at a great value. It is a wonderful world we live in that we have options like the C8, Porsche 911’s, 718’s, BMW M’s, Shelby’s, Mustangs and Camaros, AMGs, McLarens, Ferraris, RS Audis…and so on, and so on….
We hope to see you at HOD with one of those amazing cars out there soon!
Founder, Hooked On Driving