The law of unintended consequences doesn’t usually apply to pleasant surprises, but the radically new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray comes with a beauty.
The first-ever Corvette with its engine mounted behind the passengers — a midengined layout, in auto parlance — is also the quietest and smoothest in the history of the great American sports car.
Sub-3-second 0-60 mph time notwithstanding, the new Corvette isn’t just ready to run with exotic sports cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini on track and country roads. It’s also primed to match the best from Mercedes AMG for long-distance touring.
Based on a brief test, I wouldn’t hesitate to drop the Stingray into track mode and set off on a cross-country drive.
Improved handling and the ability to use more power aren’t surprises in a midengined car.
But I didn’t expect the quietest and most vibration-free cabin of any Corvette I’ve driven. It’s not easy to keep engine noise out of the cabin as the engine pounds away 18 inches behind the driver’s ears. Chevy engineers pulled the trick off with traditional insulation and active noise cancellation.
Add a very stiff chassis with springs and bushings expertly tuned to lock out road noise and vibration and you’ve got an interior that’s as peaceful as many luxury sedans.
The steering is fast and direct, even more responsive than the 2019 ‘Vette, thanks to the car’s lighter nose, a higher ratio and new steering gear.
A new feature that will save owners countless paint chips and minor repairs allows the driver to raise the Corvette’s nose for driveways and to avoid parking blocks. You can even tell the GPS to remember frequently visited spots and raise the nose automatically if you forget.
The engine announces its presence when you hit the gas, of course. The ‘Vette leaps forward and the engine roars to life. The suspension shifts smoothly at light throttle, but hammers through the gears when you nail it.
The new Corvette’s dynamics, design and comfort have the makings of a hit.
Virtually everything about the Corvette changed when Chevy decided to move the engine from the nose to between the passenger compartment and rear axle.
Putting the engine there means 60% of the car’s weight is over its rear axle, not coincidentally also Ferrari’s preferred ratio. It lends itself to better acceleration, since the weight presses the wheels down, putting more power to the street without spinning them.
Brace yourself for future Corvettes that are even more powerful than the 2019 ZR1’s 755 horsepower, but the current car’s 490 hp already delivers that 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds.
A fast and smooth dual-clutch automatic transmission connects engine and rear wheels.
The 2020 Stingray is the first Corvette that doesn’t offer a manual transmission. The dual-clutch (also called a DCT) is quicker and more efficient than a manual, but Chevy would’ve offered a manual if it could. The problem was that sales would be so small no transmission maker would even bid for the job to develop and make a new manual for the ‘Vette. On top of that, there literally isn’t enough room for a clutch pedal in the driver’s footwell. I found it surprisingly roomy, likely enough to stretch and shift your legs during a long drive.
If you insist on shifting yourself — seriously? Do you churn your own butter? — the steering wheel has paddle shifters.
Tailored to the driver
The interior fits like it’s tailored to the driver. An 8-inch touchscreen angled toward me as I sat behind the wheel. Below it on the center console are a computer-style wrist rest, buttons and levers to select gears, a dial for drive mode and a wall of climate control buttons and switches between driver and passenger.
The midengine layout changed the Corvette’s basic proportions, shortening the hood and lengthening the rear deck. Overall length increased 2.5 inches. The height of the roof is virtually unchanged, up 0.1 inch to 48.6.
It took cranky baby boomers less time to complain about the ‘Vette’s looks, layout and transmission than to say “Where’s the in-dash CD player?”
Distract them with a “Brady Bunch” DVD and go out for a drive. The changes are for the better. The 2020 Corvette Stingray is a landmark.
Prices start at $58,900, a bargain for a car with the Stingray’s looks and performance. My test car was loaded with features including:
- Removable carbon-fiber roof panel
- Power seats
- Magnetic ride control suspension
- Blind spot and cross traffic alerts
- Apple CarPlay
- Android Auto
- 14-speaker Bose performance audio
- Head-up display
- Front and rear high-def cameras
- High-def video rearview mirror
- Leather-wrapped instrument panel
- Performance tires on 19-inch front and 20-inch rear aluminum wheels
- It stickered at $87,800. All prices exclude destination charges.
The 2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray will go on sale late this year or early in 2020, depending on when production resumes after General Motors’ strike with the UAW is resolved. A convertible will follow a few months later.
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What could go wrong?
A few omissions from the 2020 Corvette Stingray’s equipment surprised me:
- No tuning dial for the audio
- Adaptive cruise control is not available
- Driver assistance features like lane keeping assist are not available
- No electric features to improve fuel economy
There are answers, if not explanations, to several of those. A wheel on the steering wheel doubles as a tuning dial, but only when you’ve got the audio displayed in the instrument cluster instead of other features like a G-force meter and trip computer.
Chevrolet won’t say this, but I’ll be disappointed if the Stingray isn’t the first non-Cadillac to offer GM’s marvelous Super Cruise hands-free semi-autonomous driving system. I don’t understand why adaptive cruise control, which uses some of the same systems but doesn’t steer the car, isn’t offered from Job 1, but I’m confident there’s more to come in Corvette’s driver-assistance arsenal.
The lack of electrified fuel-saving features is surprising, more so if Chevy doesn’t have something up its sleeve over the next few model years. Otherwise, the new ‘Vette runs the risk of being dated before its time.
Other things to watch include:
- Luggage room, a strength of recent Corvettes, falls 16.7% to 12.5 cubic feet. The midengined layout cost the accommodating hatchback of previous ‘Vettes, so the total is divided between a rear trunk and carry-on size compartment in the nose. On the other hand, the upcoming convertible doesn’t lose any luggage space and will be bigger than the 2019 convertible had.
- Is it easy for the passenger to reach their climate controls, located on the ridge dividing the two seats?
- The new gear selector seems intuitive in a short drive, but only time behind the wheel will tell for sure.
At a glance
- Base price: $58,900 (excluding destination charges)
- Price as tested: $87,800
- Two-passenger rear-wheel drive sports car
- Assembled in Bowling Green, Kentucky
- 6.2-liter V8 engine
- 495 horsepower at 6,450 rpm; 470 pound-feet of torque at 5,150 rpm
- Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
- EPA fuel economy rating: TBA
- Wheelbase: 107.2 inches
- Length: 182.3 inches
- Width: 76.1 inches
- Height: 48.6 inches
- Base curb weight: 3,366 pounds
Contact Mark Phelan at 313-222-6731 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter.