Chevrolet Corvette C8 3LT review

The Corvette’s mid-engined chassis offers handling skills that are unmatched.

What is it?

The production of the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette was slow at the beginning of 2019. It was also difficult to predict what 2020 would bring. Last year was not good for everyone, except for mask manufacturers and home-office suppliers.

However, Chevrolet’s production lines in Kentucky’s Bowling Green are cranking up at an accelerated pace, producing C8s at a rate close to 50,000 per year. Most of these C8s are currently being taken over by the North American market. They’re going somewhere, and that’s a lot. It’s more than the 911s made by Porsche or all of the Jaguar F-Types this year.

However, sales volumes have not been sufficient to make Corvette a respected player in its strategically important market. This is the purpose of the car’s updated mechanical layout and technical configuration, which includes a mid-mounted engine, dual clutch gearbox, adaptively dampened, manually adjustable coilover suspension, as well as a new right-hand drive option. The Corvette handles like its European pedigree rivals. It also makes it more difficult for badge snobs and to ignore.

The European delivery of this car is underway as of right now. UK sales agent Ian Allan Motors, Virginia Water, Surrey, expects its first right-hand drive customer car in November. They currently have an order bank that will last well into 2023. You did indeed read that right. They are the only UK dealer. Although you might be able to obtain a car faster if you import it yourself or through third parties, the official route gives you a right hand-drive car, a genuine dealer warranty, and service backup.

It’s what?

European-spec C8s come with Chevrolet’s Z51 performance package. This includes a stiffened suspension, enhanced brakes, increased cooling, and a shortened final drive ratio. Because they must meet Euro 6d emissions standards (475bhp versus 495bhp), they are slightly less powerful than American-spec C8s. However, the European-spec C8s come with a higher equipment specification and grippier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires than US cars. The standard feature is an electronically controlled limited slip differential; however, magnetorhelogical adaptive dampers are still available (and were fitted to our test vehicle).

Prices for the UK regular series car, rather than the previously-announced launch version, start at PS74,000. This seems like a good price for a mid-engined semi-exotic 475bhp V8 two seater. It won’t buy you a bus ticket next week, a Twix, or a music streaming for your iPhone 47.

It is strange to look at the car and feel a strange mixture of familiar and unfamiliar feelings. The C8 is less like a Corvette to me than a Ferrari F430 haunted by an F-22 fighter plane ghost. It’s okay, but a little generic.

It’s a hit in stars-and stripes America and it’s hard to fault them for that. It does look like a Corvette, however. It doesn’t look like a Corvette to me. It’s mid-engined rather than the long-bonnet front-engined proportions that it was, and I don’t see how that could have happened.

The enigmatic view out of the long bonnet and the feeling that you are perched on the rear axle like you were driving a Caterham Seven, and sitting almost a foot and half forwards in the Corvette than in the last Corvette, is gone. New Corvettes could offer a slightly better, lower-positioned driving position. You might have difficulty seeing forward under the low-set front head rail if you are particularly tall.

You could argue that this is only possible in sports cars. Fortunately, you are able to sit in the middle of the car, and the chassis seems to revolve around your hips while you turn this or that way, in mid-engined mode. This cabin is hard to fault for its technologically advanced and rich build. The dashboard and fittings look and feel exactly as they should for a PS75k car. And the on-board technology (digital instrumentation, head-up display and premium stereo) is all correct.

It’s like you’re closer to the front wheels of the Corvette than any Corvette before. And what a difference it makes. One thing Corvettes have not been able to do well is steer. Long steering columns and a lot of weight at the front have made that impossible. It steers with great precision and responsiveness, and is light and agile. It’s not as direct and darty as a Ferrari F8, nor is it as feel-good as the hydraulic rack on modern McLaren and Lotus. The car is easy to navigate at a pace and can be enjoyed throughout its speed range thanks to the consistent, moderate steering gearing.

The C8’s apparent weight and size don’t suit the modern mid-engined dynamic mold so well. It isn’t light-feeling and difficult to maneuver through gaps. The car fills its lane well and moves with a very gentle, laid-back pace. It rolls and moves around in a smooth, easy-to-drive manner, and it is clearly marked out as a versatile, everyday-drivable, somewhat effortless-going sports car, rather than a high-end supercar. Although the car’s initial direction change and body control are a little lax, it feels very dynamic to drive.

While engineers will inform you of the stiffer spring rates in the new car than the C7’s, the engineers will also explain that they were trying to achieve a balanced, pragmatic, dynamic compromise and a versatile rolling personality. This car is a very pleasant long-distance car that is comfortable and easy to drive. It’s also supple and smooth on roads that are not perfect. But it’s also incredibly agile and composed.

The C8 is a great car to drive and handles well. It rides more comfortably than supercars, but it still has balance, poise, and natural verve. But guess what? The car’s main attraction is that V8 engine. Chevrolet may be tempted to despair after all the millions spent engineering and developing a midengined chassis. But it’s just one sign of how diverse this car’s appeal and how unique it still is.

The Corvette is the only sports car with an atmospheric V8 motor. If you are quick, you can choose between a front-engine Ford Mustang GT GT or a Lexus RC-F. But they’re not the same fish.

The throttle pedal controls the engine through long travel. It feels very Corvette-like when you squeeze it. At high revs the delivery is a bit sluggish, but the crank spins freely at 6000rpm. The crank delivers a wonderful progressive torque delivery with lots of power and a very pleasant audible character. The V8’s mechanical whirrs, warbles, and creamy-smooth exhaust note, all sit right behind your head. This car can be a very vocal performer if you work hard. At lower speeds, its cruising refinement evaporates like unburnt fuel gas vapour. It’s hard to miss.

Do I need one?

It made a good impression on German roads, in left-hand drive form. But, there are more tests. These are all good signs. However, once we have driven the car on UK roads and tracks, we will be able say more with greater confidence.

No matter what, if this car doesn’t sound and feels right to you, you won’t be a true car enthusiast. If you don’t appreciate how much more sporty the Corvette is now, regardless of whether it’s the sports car you like or the departure from the norm, I would say that you are simply not giving it a fair shake. It’s as simple as that.

This car is ready to take on the world and deserves it.