Testing the C8 Corvette, stripped down and without its excellent Z51 performance package.
One of the many things that amazed us about the new-for-2020 Chevrolet Corvette was its base MSRP of $59,995. The combination of its low price of entry along with its V8-power and exotic mid-engine performance made it a no-brainer when we crowned it our 2020 ProdigyBlog Car of the Year. We’ve gathered plenty of testing and track data since the new eighth-generation Corvette launched late last year, but admittedly most of our test cars have been well equipped (usually in the top-spec 3LT trim).
Most have packed GM’s fancy magnetic dampers and the excellent Z51 package that bundles a long list of performance upgrades like larger brakes, electronic limited-slip differential, sport exhaust, aero bits, a beefier cooling system, and stickier summer tires. So what happens when we strip the ‘Vette experience down with, say, a modest base 1LT model? Let’s find out.
Thankfully, nothing changes drastically in the powertrain department. Passing on the sport exhaust trims 5 hp and 5 lb-ft, leaving the 6.2-liter V-8 with an ample 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, which are passed to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It still sounds wonderful (even without the performance exhaust), power delivery is smooth and linear, and gear shifts are quick and snappy. Ride quality with the standard suspension is quite nice; it’s compliant, too, isolating passengers from the rough stuff.
A visit to the dragstrip resulted in 0-60 mph and quarter-mile times of 3.3 seconds and 11.5 seconds. Good numbers, yes, but not as impressive as the Z51 Corvette’s 2.8-second run to 60 mph and 11.1 seconds to cross the quarter. Road test editor Chris Walton could feel the difference even before he crunched the data. “It doesn’t quite tingle the spine as the sport-exhaust C8 Corvettes have,” he said.
The Z51’s modest power advantage isn’t the difference-maker: That package’s shorter rear axle ratio and stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires versus the Michelin Pilot All Season 4 rubbers on our base test car likely explain the performance discrepancy. Not opting for the Z51 package means you’ll also see the taillights of a 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S (with PDK), which ran to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and the quarter mile in 11.2 seconds. When it comes to braking, the standard Corvette and the Z51 don’t look much different on paper. Both sport Brembo four-piston callipers all around, but non-Z51 brakes have two-piece callipers up front and monoblocks at the rear (the Z51 has monoblocks all around).
Furthermore, the standard 12.6-inch front rotors are an inch smaller than the Z51’s, and the 13.8-inch rear rotors are smaller by half an inch. Those small differences (along with the all-season tires) make a big difference in stopping the car from 60 mph. Its stopping distance of 104 feet is 10 feet longer than that of our shortest stopping Z51, and Walton noted that the pedal went soft after just two test runs.
The base Corvette’s braking performance was also a weak point on the figure-eight, where its lap time of 24.1 seconds lagged behind the Z51 Corvette by 0.8 second and the 911 Carrera S by 1.4 seconds. Body control was decent, though not as taught and tidy as the suspension with magnetic dampers we’ve experienced in previous C8 test cars. And yes, this car understeers, too, but not at a level that zaps away the fun. It’s still very much a hoot to drive at the limit, and it further solidified our excellent impression of the C8’s chassis.
So what did we learn? To truly unlock the C8’s performance potential, the Z51 package is a must-have option and a relative bargain at just $5,000 (and about 75 percent of 2020 Corvette customers have done just that). The same goes for the magnetic dampers ($1,895 over and above Z51), which really help keep things planted. But if your C8 is destined to be a casual weekend cruiser that occasionally wanders off into twisty canyon roads, then you can do no better for less than $60,000. And, as of this writing, the low base price will carry over to model-year 2021 C8s (though the Z51 option price has jumped by $995). Better snag one soon before Chevy changes its mind.
2020 CHEVROLET CORVETTE STINGRAY SPECS
|PRICE AS TESTED||$59,995|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||6.2L/490-hp/465-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,552 lb (39/61%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||182.3 x 76.1 x 48.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||11.5 sec @ 121.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||104 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.95 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.1 sec @ 0.83 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||15/27/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||225/125 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.03 lb/mile|