Prototypes for what's almost certain to be a mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette have been spotted, and the latest testers are wearing the least camouflage gear we've seen yet. In fact, most of the new car's final details can be seen.
The prototypes are thought to be a next-generation C8 Corvette due out early next year as a 2020 model, specifically a base variant. The C8 was originally expected for 2019 but then Chevy went and launched the C7 ZR1.
Even so, that's still a relatively short lifespan for the C7 Corvette which first arrived for 2014. The reason for the quick changeover is because General Motors had started work on a mid-engine design for the C7 but ended up scrapping the plans in the tumult of the 2009 bankruptcy, with the C7 we ended up with being somewhat of a placeholder.
Looking at the new shots and video of prototypes, we see can see that the C8 will be similar in size to the C7 but with a lower, wider stance. It won't get vertical-lifting doors of many exotics, though it looks like there will be a short front overhang. Flanking the engine bay looks to be a pair of chunky buttresses and we’re told designers will add a sheet of glass in the center to show off the engine (it's concealed here). One of the biggest challenges is thought to be heat management. We can also see a rear-facing camera that will feed images to a digital rearview mirror and what also looks to be dual-caliper brakes at the rear.
The new Corvette won’t be a pricey limited edition supercar like the modern Ford GT, though. We hear the basis for the car’s mid-engine platform will be the C7’s aluminum spaceframe structure rather than a completely new design. As for powertrains, the base model shown here should come with the C7 Corvette Stingray's 6.2-liter V-8 delivering about 500 horsepower. Later, a 5.5-liter V-8 with a flat-plane crank and DOHC design is expected to be dropped in, complete with about 600 hp. Then, a twin-turbocharging option for this engine could surface, seeing output rise to 800 hp.
But wait, there's more. At the top of the heap is expected to sit a hybrid—yes, a hybrid Corvette—powertrain adding an electric motor to the front axle and utilizing the twin-turbo V-8 for the rear axle to generate a hypercar-rivaling 1,000 hp.
1960 Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV) 1 - Image via RM Auctions
By now you’re probably wondering why GM would rock the boat with such a dramatic change to the Corvette formula. Apparently the front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout is reaching its limits. Also, the Alpha-based Camaro is already snapping at the heels of its big brother. Thus, to help separate future Corvettes from the Camaro, a more exotic design was required.
There’s also a bit of mid-engine Corvette history. Corvette father Zora Arkus-Duntov was a huge fan of the layout, especially for motorsports. He helped GM build a number of mid-engine concepts for testing purposes, the original being the first CERV (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) concept rolled out in 1960. Don’t be surprised if a Corvette ZR1 successor is named after him, since we know GM has a trademark for Zora.
Going mid-engine won’t be the only major change for the C8: another will be price. While the base C7 starts close to $60k, the new price of entry is thought to be rising to approximately $80k. The higher price can be justified by the more exotic layout, plus it provides a nice buffer with the Camaro. The change will also help the C8 become a semi-exotic halo model for Chevrolet worldwide, similar to what the GT-R is for Nissan and the NSX is to Acura and Honda. It will also make the C8 a better performer on the racetrack.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette (C8) spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
Production will take place at the Corvette’s home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. GM has spent over $700 million in upgrades to the plant in preparation for the new car and closed public tours until January 2019. We can't have any members of the public getting an early look after all.
Unfortunately, the news of the mid-engine Corvette means the C7 will likely be the nameplate's last with a front-mounted engine. GM may have introduced the ZR1 to send the older format off with a bang.
Stay tuned for updates as development continues.