The Corvette has been a stalwart of the American muscle car line up since, well forever. Well now those good ol’ boys in Bowling Green Kentucky have manufactured their latest C8 model with the steering wheel on the right hand side so the rest of the world can enjoy it. Anyway, GM Special Vehicles NZ gave us the keys to have a play and we have to say ‘it’s finger lickin’ good’.
It was September 1953 when the first Corvette made its way onto American roads and it was an immediate standout amid the unimaginative bulbous tin that peppered the 50s landscape, the Studebaker Starlight and Nash Rambler to name just a couple – oh my eyes!!!
Chevrolet initially crafted 300 Corvettes, all of them being polo white with red interiors and the base price for this new two-seater was a mere US$3498 (try getting one of them for that price now).
As the generations evolved, C1 to C2, C3 etc, the blueprint essentially remained the same, big V8 upfront sending oodles of power to the rear wheels, a low slung shell that’s as light as possible, and have the steering wheel on the left (cornering being an afterthought) – that is until now. With the new C8, the gloves are off. The engine has been moved to behind the two seats and production has commenced with the wheel on the right (and right) side.
At first glance, the new C8 could be mistaken for any number of the upper echelon supercar badges and in fact was. Its mid-engine design offers up a sleek and yet at times aggressively angular style, it has a ‘low to the ground’ stance and a long tail which underlines its supercarness.
The nose itself, although not ground scraping, does come with a lift button that raises the lip 2-inches in three seconds (so speed bumps are less of a worry), LED DRL’s and body moulded headlights. There are plenty of vents to help the C8 breathe and slip through the air but had the windscreen not been located over the front wheels there could very well have been an air dam to add to the mix.
My review model came in Accelerator Yellow which contrasted well against the jet black stripes and this contrast in colours continues down the Vette’s profile with black feet (19” front and 20” on the rear), a black air vent that hides the door handles and joy of joys, my model came with a targa roof that (with three catches) exposed the outside world above. The rear is simply artwork, with a boot hugging spoiler, arrow head lights, quad tailpipes and a stingray badge.
The tailgate itself lifts to expose some luggage space large enough for a couple of day’s shopping, (there’s also a bit more space under the bonnet) or a place to hold its targa roof and of course its relocated engine.
6.2 litres of naturally aspirated ‘merican V8 muscle giving the driver 365kW of power and 630Nm of torque to go crazy with. It’s clever too, switching to a V4 when you’re not giving it the beans – which is never.
The cabin is far more upmarket than I was expecting, with the focus being the driver. The steering wheel (as I said is now on the right straight from the factory) is almost square and is leather-wrapped for sporty appeal. Drive and Reverse are selected via angular pull-switches and despite its compact size, the cabin doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
The instrument cluster is digital and configurable and the infotainment screen is angled directly at the driver. Even the 21-buttoned AC and seat heat/cool strip that separates the driver and passenger is more driver biassed. But both driver and passenger get sports-style seats that are firm and ‘figure-holding’ although arguably too ‘fitting’ for those with a wider girth.
Speaking of expectations, I naturally assumed that on the road this would be another teeth-jarring ride that would be ideal for the track but a pain in the arse (literally) on the regular roads – boy was I less than correct.
Even in Sport driving mode (found under the hand rest in the centre console or via a Z button on the steering wheel), the ride is firm and positive in every single corner but not back breaking, however, when you put your foot down, the sound barrier breaks in terms of audible delight and speed. 0-100km/h is reported to be 2.8 seconds and although I cannot confirm this, it was fast enough to make a friend almost vomit. And the exhaust note when under stress. I mean revs is worth turning its hefty sound system down for.
The Corvette was delivered to me with a full tank of fuel and I have to say that I gave it back near empty having taken it everywhere. Around town it’s manageable and easy on both driver and passenger. Rear visibility is compromised with only a small rear window and door mirrors that only show the rear haunches, but who wants to look behind (don’t worry there are ample camera’s to make car park navigation a cinch). As expected the DCT gearbox is a bit lumpy at low speeds as it struggles to guess first and second selection in traffic, however, it’s the open roads where the new C8 is at its finest in all respects.
My road of choice was just to the West of Warkworth, with 100km/h straight and 35km/h corners and the Vette lapped them both up. The throttle depth seemed endless with speed limits arriving in the blink of an eye, and the way it zipped around the bends was physics defying, with lane changing and overtaking being effortless. And for the icing on the V8 cake, switching to manual and keeping the revs up high meant that the ear-bleeding engine tunes echoed off the rock face walls and trees – with or without the targa top on.
Make no mistake, with its looks and performance the new Corvette C8 really is in supercar territory. It’s a sub 3 second sprinter that has the legs to go way further than NZ speeds allow and can turn heads faster than you can say ‘is that a new Vette’. It’s a nameplate that comes with epic history and sure the greenies are not going to be big fans 9maybe quite rightly), I really am.
Finally, here’s a Tarmac Life Top Tip – The price of the Corvette in the 50s was about the same as an average California household annual income and half the price of an average Californian house. Now although at around $180k the new C8 probably exceeds many NZ household incomes to a power of two or three, it’s now a fifth the price of a house – so the new C8 is an investment, great driving for a bargain price – you’re welcome.