Corvettes have historically been known for serving up the most bang for your buck. They have offered generations of petrolheads a heady combination of performance, looks and dynamic capabilities that could challenge supercars costing three times more. Now, with the eighth generation 2020 Stingray, the brand’s first-ever production mid-engine Corvette, Chevrolet has catapulted this iconic model to a completely new level. And it represents arguably the most radical leap for the nameplate since it was first introduced in 1953.

Photo: Supplied

While the Corvette has seen many changes over its seven generations, this quintessential American sportscar has always remained a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive model, although there have been several mid-engine prototypes over the years. Shifting the engine behind the seats brings the C8 Corvette directly in the firing line of Italian and German supercars. The C7 itself was dynamically better endowed than its predecessors, and now the C8 gets the added advantage of better weight distribution, with the rear weight bias promising to enhance performance in a straight line and on the track.

“Corvette has always represented the pinnacle of innovation and boundary-pushing at GM. The traditional front-engine vehicle reached its limits of performance, necessitating the new layout,” says GM President Mark Reuss. “In terms of comfort and fun, it still looks and feels like a Corvette, but drives better than any vehicle in Corvette history. Customers are going to be thrilled with our focus on details and performance across the board,” he adds.

The mid-engine layout has also had a bearing in the C8 Corvette’s design. While the profile is still unmistakably Corvette, it gains a more athletic, canopy-forward stance and adding to its exotic proportions is the massive LT2 6.2-litre V8 being visible through the large rear hatch window.

“As America’s most iconic performance nameplate, redesigning the Corvette Stingray from the ground up presented the team a historic opportunity, something Chevrolet designers have desired for over 60 years,” said Michael Simcoe, vice president of Global Design, General Motors. “It is now the best of America, a new arrival in the mid-engine sports car class. We know Corvette can stand tall with the best the world has to offer.” The key styling elements include low profile headlamps designed around all-new projectors, completely hidden door, hood and hatch releases, large side air intakes for engine cooling and aerodynamic performance, quad exhaust tips located on the car’s outboard ends and dual-element LED taillamps with animated turn signals.

Photo: Supplied

The light, stiff structure built around a centre tunnel promises to provide the ultimate in ride performance with exceptional lateral grip capabilities. Chevrolet says the C8 Corvette offers a solid, connected-to-the-road feel with minimal vibrations at high speeds or on long road trips. “Our mission was to develop a new type of sports car, combining the successful attributes of Corvette with the performance and driving experience of mid-engine supercars,” said Tadge Juechter, Corvette executive chief engineer. The new Stingray features coil over dampers that introduces new ride and handling characteristics to the model, and the mid-engine architecture allows for a short, straight and stiff steering system which, along with updated electronic assistance, promises to make the driver’s chassis input instantaneous. Chevrolet says since the new seating position places the car’s centre of gravity close to the driver’s inside hip, the car literally turns around the driver.

Photo: Supplied

The 6.2-litre Small Block V8 LT2 engine is naturally aspirated and churns out 495 horsepower and 637 Nm of torque when equipped with performance exhaust. These are the highest output figures for any entry level Corvette. “Though now placed behind the driver, the LT2 gives the same visceral experience we all expect from Corvette,” says Jordan Lee, GM’s global chief engineer of Small Block engines. “The LT2 has been designed to deliver excellent low-end torque and high-end power to give thrilling pedal response at any RPM.” The powertrain’s low position enables a low center of gravity for optimal handling. The LT2 is paired with Chevrolet’s first eight speed dual-clutch transmission, which promises to provide “lightning-fast shifts and excellent power transfer” and the “spirited, direct connected feeling of a manual and the premium driving comfort of an automatic”.

Chevrolet has also managed to maintain one of Corvette’s very important defining factors, its attainability. The 2020 Stingray continues the tradition offering great value with entry level prices starting at under $60,000 (Dh220,000).