Right, it’s here. Sort of. It’s not officially here, but we’ll come to that later. This is the new, eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, the C8 Stingray, and, for the first time in its 67 years, this all-American hero, beloved by everyone from blue-collar workers to astronauts and presidents (Joe Biden owns a 1967 model), is being sold with an engine in its middle.
It will also – late next year at the earliest – come with a steering wheel on the right-hand side. More on that later, too. If you want a C8 now, you can have one, but your options are limited to importing one yourself or sourcing one via a UK importer.
That’s quite tempting on the face of it, because the base Corvette price in the US is less than that of the Porsche 718 Cayman, at just under $60,000 (about £44,000). But the reality is that it doesn’t work out that way once you’ve done the maths and added the premium, taxes, shipping and then some more taxes. But if you do, the car you end up with might look something like this.
This is a Corvette with a few options, of which there are many available. It’s in the 3LT trim level (about $11,000 more than standard), which means it’s top-spec, but more pertinently it’s equipped with the Z51 performance pack ($5000) and more, which all add so much to the price that it’s quite easy to end up with an $85,000 car even in the US.
Every Corvette has a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre pushrod V8 engine mounted in its middle. There’s an aluminium monocoque with aluminium subframes front and rear and composite bodywork, with double-wishbone suspension all-round and magnetic adaptive dampers (another $1895).
Specify the Z51 kit and power is raised to 495bhp, plus you get bigger brake discs, more aerodynamic addenda and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres in place of all-season rubber, a sports exhaust and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. So you definitely want the Z51 pack. But whatever spec you choose, the C8 comes with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox; there’s no manual for the first time ever.
I remember going on a Corvette launch where I was told that purists of the brand wouldn’t stand for it if a ’Vette didn’t have leaf-sprung suspension on at least one axle. But now? They will whistle: daaaaang son, this has got all the trademarks of one of them fancy European sports cars.
So we’ve brought one along to meet it. It’s a Porsche 911 Carrera, editor Mark Tisshaw’s long-termer, which comes in at £82,793 before options and £90,891 as tested. We will come back to the money, I promise, but it costs less than this Corvette. It has less power as well – with 380bhp from its turbocharged 3.0-litre flat six, by quite a margin. But a comparative paucity of power has seldom stopped 911s before.
The red car isn’t yet registered for use on UK roads, despite its numberplates, so we’ve borrowed a track and promised the independent importer that owns the Corvette, Clive Sutton, that we won’t do too many smoky drifts or try to match the quoted 2.9sec 0-60mph time.