Mountain Wheels: Revolutionary mid-engine 2020 Corvette Stingray redefines American muscle
As we get closer and closer to bidding adieu to 2020, I will have to admit that it has been a spectacular year for automobiles — a rare highlight, but you take what you can get.
To that end, of course Thanksgiving brought me a five-day drive in the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. And even better, it was the more expensive convertible version of this very highly anticipated and excitingly polarizing American sports car legend.
The Corvette is certainly not going to be a year-round vehicle for Summit County residents, even with the addition of high-performance winter tires for my test period. But if you think summer — or spend a lot of time in the mostly snowless Front Range — this fantastic piece of futuristic equipment, base priced at $66,400 (and $85,330 as tested) makes a bit more sense.
Fire it up and it’s a motor enthusiast’s dream come true, with roaring exhaust and 495 snarling horsepower at the ready, an entirely revised cockpit layout and wide, low-to-the-ground, supercar-styled presence.
Yes, the 2020 Stingray does not look much like a traditional Corvette, with the possible exception of the view from the top of the hood into that newfangled cockpit, which has moved 16.5 inches forward to accommodate the engine migration. It sports more Italian-inspired, sharp-edged aerodynamic fins and scoops and wings than anything ever produced by General Motors.
In a way, it’s a bit of a time machine, as the company has contemplated a mid-engine layout — taking that old-school, naturally aspirated small-block V-8 from the front and setting it just behind the passenger compartment — for decades and decades, as is more common in supercar competitors from Ferrari to McLaren.
I summarized it by saying that it was so patently futuristic and really non-Corvette in its design that it looks like something you’d see in a display from the 1960 World’s Fair: The Corvette of 2020, with then-unimaginable features like an in-cabin TV screen and a rectangular steering wheel.
There is still some commonality in form and shape here to the previous seven generations of Corvette, but purists may still find it heretical. The spacious real estate to house the rippingly loud and occasionally fire-breathing 6.2-liter V-8 is perhaps the oddest part of the layout — made more unusual given the Stingray’s automatic roof apparatus, which deletes the more aesthetically pleasing, Ferrari-styled window into the engine compartment, found on the removable-panel hardtop version of the car.
Then there’s those oversized air scoops on the sides, valuable for sucking air into this decidedly non-turbo, non-future-fancified engine. Even the tail has gone all Testarossa with its mix of floating spoiler, massive underbody aerodynamic wings and squared-off, quad exhaust ports.
What we have here is a living, breathing design experiment that will likely get tweaked as the new Corvette evolves. A Corvette racing friend noted the 19-inch wheels up front (20s in the rear) seem undersized and a bit too inset for the scale of the vehicle, something perhaps remedied in the eventual Z06 version.
You’re not going to notice or worry too much about that when settled, literally, behind the wheel, which really is rectangular. You will be mesmerized by a new driver-focused layout that integrates digital displays, a touchscreen navigation and a long, tall bar containing HVAC controls, which basically cordons off the passenger seat.
Driving the 2020 Stingray is a decidedly different experience than Corvettes of the recent past, though much remains the same: the smell of hot fiberglass and exhaust, the long stretch over wide rocker panels to settle yourself into the cockpit and the purist appeal of boisterous, mechanical V-8 power.
Yes, it’s the fastest base-level Corvette they’ve ever built, with 470 pound-feet of torque, and 0-60 times fully under three seconds when you upgrade to the $5,000 Z51 performance package. I came to appreciate the winter tires as they kept me from doing anything really stupid in the car — burnouts, 360-degree-spins on icy canyon roads or actual high-performance testing — and I spent several days just casually tooling around, chatting with enthusiasts and causing Toyota 4Runner drivers to demonstrate how unbelievably fast their SUVs are.
The powered top folds away with a crazed array of motors, wheels and pulleys, that precious engine sadly hidden from view under a plastic cover, and it’s only when the roof is still in place that you tangibly hear and feel the belts and buzzing from that engine just behind your head.
There’s no manual transmission option, but the eight-speed, dual-clutch system does a pretty admirable job of channeling all that power, with paddle shifting being the sportiest method of delivery.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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