Chevrolet is readying what will be the most radical change yet to its iconic Corvette sports car: the all-new, mid-engined C8, due this year.
Switching away from a front-engined layout for the first time in the car’s 66-year history, new spy shots show prototypes testing with different camouflage, detailing additional parts of the body. They follow a video (below) that showed the Porsche 911 rival being driven hard at the Nürburgring, revealing the expected V8 soundtrack.
Prototypes of the C8 Corvette, showing the distinctive long rear deck and cab-forward proportions indicative of a mid-engine model, have been circling for some time. The big mystery remains the car’s reveal date. Reports from the US suggest there have been delays in development owing to significant issues with the chassis and electrical architecture.
While it’s not clear yet if those technical problems have been overcome, speculation is rife that the C8 Corvette’s reveal is imminent. One option is next month’s New York motor show, though it’s just as likely that Chevrolet will host its own event a little later in the year. A Corvette dealer in New Jersey has been taking $1000 deposits for the new model, which could suggest we’ll see the C8 sooner rather than later.
In a further break with tradition, the C8 Corvette will be sold alongside a version of the current car. Sources inside General Motors, which owns the Chevrolet brand, indicate that we can expect a slightly revised version of the existing C7 as an entry-level alternative. Although the C8 will carry a price premium over its front-engined sibling, it will be sold at a price that significantly undercuts the junior supercars offered by other manufacturers.
Other parts of the design remain a closely guarded secret for now; the test mule gives little away beyond the need for significant cooling at the front of the car. Despite GM’s sale of its European operations to the PSA Group last year, the new car is being developed with significant use of the Nürburgring Nordschleife and we can expect the sort of aggressive aerodynamics necessary for good high-speed performance there, possibly including active elements.
But while the C8 will no doubt be extremely fast, the need to keep costs down means that the use of expensive materials will be limited. The chassis is believed to be an aluminium spaceframe, and it will have the glassfibre bodywork that has been used by every previous generation. Carbon brakes are certain to be available, but the new Corvette is likely to stick to a base specification of cast-iron discs for the same reason.
While the C7 Corvette has a ‘targa’ roof with removable panels, it seems likely that the C8 will shift to a more conventional split between coupé and a convertible, the latter to follow at a later date.
There is no confirmation of right-hand-drive production, which would seem like a long shot despite the success that the Ford Mustang has enjoyed in the UK and Australia.
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A US source said that the loss of Vauxhall and Opel has not made a significant difference in the case for European sales, with the C6 and C7 Corvettes both sold on this side of the Atlantic in small volumes through accredited dealers, of which the UK has just one.