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Mid-engined and finally in right-hand drive, the C8 is a car of momentous firsts

When the Chevrolet brand announced its departure from the European market back in 2013, few predicted that there would one day be a bright side to all the job losses, factory closures and general doom and gloom of GM’s slow retreat from our continent.

One, admittedly, only for a select few sports car enthusiasts to really appreciate, but a bright side of a sort. It is the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette: the first car in this American sporting icon’s seven-decade history to be offered in right-hand-drive form.

The Corvette C8 Convertible has a motorised top, but you can take the roof off the coupe too. The roof is unlatched via two handles on the header rail, and a third under the trailing edge. Taking it off and stowing it can just about be managed on your own, but it’s easier with a helper.

If Chevrolet was still plugging away selling the Captivas, Aveos, Orlandos and other bargain-priced family cars that Europe’s motoring population is already beginning to forget, you can bet that it couldn’t now justify selling a V8-engined sports car that would inflate its fleet emissions statistics.

Luckily for the vastly smaller operation that GM Europe has now become, European emissions regulations on small-scale car distributors are more lenient than they are on larger ones.

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That’s how it has come to pass that you can, for the first time, buy an official, factory-built, right-hand-drive Corvette sports car from GM Europe’s one and only nominated UK dealer: Ian Allan Motors of Virginia Water, Surrey.

This is a sports car unlike any other in the Corvette’s long back catalogue. Critically, it’s a Corvette without the front-mounted engine and transverse composite leaf spring suspension that have defined so much about so many previous generations.

It is a Corvette, mind you, that retains a removable Targa-style roof, a relatively affordable entry price and a big-hitting, big-hearted atmo V8 – albeit one mounted behind the cabin rather than in front of it.

And so, finally, for our biggest and most exhaustive road and track assessment, to find out exactly what this enigmatic American has gained, how it compares with established European rivals and what it has sacrificed on its way to becoming a truly global mid-engined sports car.

Range at a glance

All European-market C8s get the Z51 pack (uprated suspension, brakes and exhaust; electronic limited-slip differential and shortened axle ratio), which Chevrolet charges extra for elsewhere, as standard. 3LT models get a sportier sports seat, plus the option of more leather and microfibre suede in the cabin.

There are plenty of cost options even on upper-spec cars, among them machined-finish alloy wheels, carbonfibre body trim and a nose-lifter. There’s no word yet on a UK price for the forthcoming Corvette Z06 high-performance derivative.

Engines Power From
Coupé 2LT 475bhp £77,200
Coupé 3LT 475bhp £82,290
Convertible 2LT 475bhp £82,200
Convertible 3LT 475bhp

£85,150

 

Chevrolet Corvette C8 First drives