For all its innovations, one thing that has eluded Detroit is the mid-engined supercar. There have been American cars with the engine mounted behind the driver, including the Saleen S7 and the SSC Ultimate Aero. But these are rare cars made by small boutique manufacturers. Elsewhere, mainstream manufacturers, including Audi, Honda, and, at one point, Jaguar, have produced a halo model in this way. But there hasn’t been a mid-engined American car since the Pontiac Fiero was put out to pasture in 1988. The only exception was the Ford GT, both the 2004 and 2016 version, but these were made in strictly limited numbers with price tags to match their exclusivity.
That’s all about to change as America’s sports car, the ‘Corvette’, has, for its eighth generation, abandoned its classic front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout. The new C8 keeps the ‘Stingray’ name and still uses a V8 engine. But that’s really where the similarities end. Engineers say that the change in layout was to keep the car competitive with high performance European sports cars, adding that they had reached the limit of what was possible with a front mounted engine.
One big challenge they faced was in the design. “The 2020 ‘Stingray’s’ exterior has a bold, futuristic expression with mid-engine exotic proportions,” Chevrolet says, “but it is still unmistakably ‘Corvette.”
But back to the engine. The “jewel in the centre” is the LT2, a 6.2 litre V8 which in America means it’s a small block! It makes 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, the most for any base level ‘Corvette’ before it.
“Though now placed behind the driver, the LT2 gives the same visceral experience we all expect from ,” said Jordan Lee, GM’s global chief engineer of Small Block engines. “The LT2 has been designed to deliver excellent low-end torque and high-end power to give thrilling pedal response at any RPM.”
When equipped with the performance package the new ‘Stingray’ can sprint to 60mph in under 3 seconds, not far off from a Lamborghini. But while a Lamborghini costs about the same as a house, Chevrolet promises that the ‘C8’ will be under $60,000. What’s more, the company will be considering offering it in other markets and that includes in right-hand-drive.
American cars in general, particularly muscle cars, have always had a cult following across the Atlantic. Whether it’s because of their appearance in movies or the bargain performance they offer, there has always been something about them that has always been alluring.
This would be a welcome change. If other American cars are anything to go by this could mean that the C8 Stingray would be close to £60,000. This would make it well below any mid-engined European cars bar the Porsche 718 and Lotus Elise.
We tend to be cynical and laugh at American cars. And there was a time when that cynicism was well earned. It took until 2014 for the ‘Mustang’ to get independent suspension all around. And the ‘Corvette’ itself has, for a long time, used cart springs in the rear. But now the self-proclaimed greatest country in the world has cars to match its self-image.