8 things that make the 8th-generation Corvette special

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Orange County, California – So now you’ve finally seen it. It's not a Bigfoot or Sasquatch. The mid-engine 2020 Chevy Corvette C8 is real.

And it’s a rocket. You’ve seen the headliners: Sub-3-second zero-60 time, dual-clutch transmission, 495 horsepower. All for under $60,000. But beyond the swashbuckling performance are dozens of details that remake the car from the ground up.

We interviewed the Corvette's development team to highlight eight unique aspects of this ambitious eighth-generation car.

1. What, no manual transmission?

The demise of the stick is industry wide, but purists will really feel its loss in Corvette, a powerful sports car that is fun to manhandle with a manual.

Determined not to interrupt the flow, designers did away with door handles — a button under the side intake blade opens the door.

“Originally we wanted a manual,” says Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter. “But there’s a bunch of negatives. First, there is affording it because that would be another bespoke transmission. We see our own manual volume dwindling to near zero. We would have to make some pretty serious architectural compromises to do that.”

Like punching a hole in the aluminum spine for the cable, for example, thus compromising the car’s structural rigidity. And for what? The new dual-clutch 8-speed automatic promises to be stupid quick. So quick the car rockets to 60 mph in under 3 seconds with just 495 horsepower.

The Corvette C8 claims the same performance numbers as the $270,000 all-wheel-drive Lamborghini Huracan EVO for a quarter of the price. GM can keep the car affordable by building the small-block V-8 on the same high-volume production line as truck engines.

2. How can they make it so cheap?

The Corvette C8 claims the same performance numbers as the $270,000 all-wheel-drive Lamborghini Huracan EVO for a quarter of the price. Indeed, it equals the Huracan’s sub-3 second time despite having 145 less horsepower and only rear-wheel drive.

“It’s magic,” laughs Juechter. Well, that and GM’s ample resources. Bespoke premium makes like Lambo have to make every car by hand.

“There’s advantage with GM in a lot of ways. We can leverage GM economies of scale,” says Juechter. “This (V-8) engine will be built on a high-volume production line along with truck engines. We put the cost in the content because our manufacturing costs are way down.”

The squared-off steering wheel allows for easy access and good visibility for the 12-inch instrument display.

3. First-class luxury

“We had the opportunity to experience the LaFerrari when it came out, and the Porsche 918 and the Bugattis. We talked about what made those cars special,” says interior designer Mike Murphy.

The 'Vette boasts standard premium features at under $60,000 that wouldn’t be out of place in those $1 million chariots. Like a 1.5-inch front suspension lift for steep driveways or speed bumps, and it's GPS programmable to remember up to 1,000 locations no less. You also get stitched leather interior, fully digital displays, even Tesla-like over-the-air updates.

That’s a Chevy?

The 2020 mid-engine Chevy Corvette C8 sports luxury features like adjustable ride height and dual-clutch transmission.

4. The Bedford Six

While its mid-engine layout draws comparison to exotic Europeans like Ferrari and McLaren, the Stingray’s character is all-American right down to its home-brewed, six-piece aluminum structure made at GM Powertrain in Bedford, Indiana. Ford outsourced its mid-engine GT to a Canadian race shop. The V-8 powered C8 is assembled in Kentucky. That Porsche-like, dual-clutch gearbox? Made in Wixom by Tremec.

Juechter again: “We wanted to combine German instantaneous shifting with American big-bore responsiveness, low-end torque, sound quality.”

A square steering wheel makes it easier to see the huge, 12-inch instrument display.

5. Why is the steering wheel square?

The current-generation Corvette’s steering wheel already a flat-bottom for better legroom. As Corvette developed its huge, 12-inch instrument display, engineers found it easier to see the upper corners with the top flattened as well.

The wheel is also akin to the C7.R’s racing yoke which drivers find easier to use because their hands are always in the optimal 3-and-9 o’clock position.

The rear window of the mid-engine 2020 Corvette C8 shows off the 6.2-liter V-8.

6. Rear window

The original Corvette Stingray was a 1963 split-window. Chevy fans like Ken Lingenfelter remember that as the car that made them fall in love with Corvette. Designers have made the rear window a focus of the 2020 Stingray as well — except this time it’s showing off the 6.2-liter V-8 instead of the ’63 car’s cargo space.

The split window ultimately gave way to a single pane after complaints about rear visibility. The new Corvette offers a visibility solution: the camera mirror. The camera itself is mounted on the roof for unobstructed views out back.

7. Hidden access panels

The C8 is one sleek beast, from its sculpted nose to its deeply scalloped rocker panels. Determined not to interrupt the flow, designers hid all panel access. Forget door handles — a button under the side intake blade opens the door.

The 2020 mid-engine Chevy Corvette C8 has frunk 'n' trunk storage.

8. Cargo space in a sports car?

Locating the engine amidships usually means compromising cargo space. Want to pack luggage in an Alfa Romeo 4C? Fuhgeddaboudit.

The C8 is an exception. Sure, cargo space shrinks from the C7’s 15 cubic feet to 12.6. But you can still fit two golf bags (or the removable roof) in the trunk, and a carry-on and laptop bag in the front "frunk."

So proud is Corvette of its luggage space that you can actually purchase a five-piece set of designer Corvette luggage.

Load ‘em in, it’s gonna be a quick trip.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.