6 Gripes Holding the Corvette Back from Mid-Engine Greatness
By Don Sherman on February 27, 2020
Now that I've enjoyed two days driving a pre-production C8 Corvette Z51, I am still smitten with the car. Slapping down a few dollars to secure my place in the order line two years ago was one of my more brilliant car-purchase moves. That said, I do harbor these reservations:
The new Corvette's exterior is a cavalcade of creases, ports, grilles, and surface embellishments. While most details do serve a worthy function, some seem gratuitous. My personal tastes run more in the sculptural elegance direction. I rate Audrey Hepburn over Zoe Kravitz in the all-time beauty hit parade.
While I appreciate the rear-wheel loading generated by the wing/spoiler device tacked onto the Corvette's tail, I do not find that appendage attractive. And considering it knocks 10 mph off the car's bar-bragging-rights top speed, I happily left the $5000 Z51 option (containing the spoiler/wing and other track-focused hardware) off my order form.
Rear-side visibility is too horrible for any array of mirrors and cameras to remedy. I blame the blanked-off tapering roofline combined with a too-small hatch glass. I do not fault the engine location, which is far below the ill-conceived upper body surfaces.
Speaking of the engine bay, the LT2 V-8's shroud does not flatter its intrinsic mechanical beauty. I acknowledge the need for sound deadening and to mask the underlying plastic intake manifold, which resembles an ice cube tray. But please give us a cover with actual engine flavor – tubes, fins, ribs, runners – not a mammoth insect shell.
In theory, eliminating C7's bulky torque tube by combining the engine, transmission, and differential in one handy bolt-together unit should yield more tidy exterior dimensions. Why exactly the Corvette team stretched the wheelbase, length, and width is beyond me. My mission is to find out why they birthed a baby that's stouter than its siblings.
Changing the steering wheel from a circle to a square is one of the C8 team's boldest moves. When I saw that touch in early photos, I feared dissatisfaction. Now that I've lived with the square wheel for two days, I agree it works as advertised. Thigh clearance is enhanced for easy entry. There's an expanded view of the instrument cluster and suitable three- and nine-o'clock hand grips to suit practically every driving circumstance. So why is this item on my gripe list? Because Corvette engineers were so busy fine-tuning their square wheel that they neglected to route any genuine road feel from the pavement to the rim via C8's electrically assisted power steering. My fond hope is that production versions are better than the pre-prod car I experienced in California.
Now that my mid-March build date is in hand, the countdown to arrival at my dealer has begun. Watch this space for a detailed look at the Corvette I spec'd out and more driving impressions.