Right Hook

This car is an anomaly. It’s an American supercar. They don’t exist otherwise. Not unless you count one of the handful of skunkworks developed hypercars routinely barrelling across salt flats in search of speed records rather than a firm order book.

Aug 12, 2022

In one of the most dramatic breaks with the past seen from an automotive manufacturer in recent times, the mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette flips everything you think you know about American performance on its head.

There’s no point burying the lead: I shocked myself at just how much I loved this car. I was utterly enamoured with it. Walk-back-out-to-the-driveway-just-to-look-at-it enamoured. Didn’t expect that.

This is not to say I had low expectations in the lead up to driving the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Quite the opposite. There was no measuring stick though. I’ve never driven a mid-engined Corvette before because there hasn’t been one.

Not that General Motors wasn’t trying. The small team of Corvette engineers tasked with breathing new life into the legendary nameplate had been passing mid-engine design blueprints back and forth like a classroom of cheeky kids for almost a decade before they got the go-ahead, nervous the teacher (or their GM bosses at any rate) would flatly refuse the idea.

But here we are. Not only do we have the utterly reimagined mid-engined C8 Corvette, but we also have it in right-hand drive direct from the dedicated Corvette factory in charmingly named Bowling Green, Kentucky. This isn’t some third-party swap job; Kiwi ‘Vette’s come down the line at GM’s factory along with all the others with their tiller on the other side of the cabin.

Oh, and what a cabin. I’ve seen ‘driver-focused’ set ups before, but nothing like this. The passenger seat – though cosy and sporty and trimmed exactly as the driver’s – might as well be an afterthought. “Oh, you wanted to come along for a ride too, did you?”

The display screens, the dials (obviously), the centre console with its long thin line of comfort, convenience, and drive setting controls (which looks like it might prove fussy to use but actually once you’ve memorised which end of the strip of buttons the item you want is, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate); everything is there for the driver.

But the Stingray really is a supercar. When you strike that 6.2-litre dry-sump V8 into life, the visceral sound of it over your left shoulder leaves you in no doubt. You’re in a low-slung, cosseting car with all the creased-edge demeanour of something from Italy or Germany, but that sonorous thrum is unmistakably all-American iron. It sounds like a banger – in a good way – and it’s fantastic to see the engineers have kept this all-important touchpoint there to enjoy.

And good lord it can accelerate. The V8 sends 370kW of power and 635Nm of torque through an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, pre-selecting the next gear so that the cogs swap seamlessly. It’s all you can do to hang on as the ‘Vette rockets up to the legal speed limit in around three seconds (I wasn’t timing it, so I’ll take GM’s word for it).

Immense acceleration is matched with immense grip and traction. If Corvettes of old were criticised for being blunt weapons, then the C8 is a sharp-edged shiv. It’s not skittish and highly strung (it’s a big car after all despite the supercar silhouette), but firmly planted and controllable instead.

Goodness knows what the 500kW Corvette Z06, with its naturally aspirated 5.5-litre DOHC V8, will be like to punch for the horizon in when it arrives early next year.

Maybe it’s a moot point when the Stingray itself is so enjoyable? And you can’t really argue with the price either. The C8 Corvette range starts at $154,990 (plus ORCs), which gives you a lot of supercar for your money. The 3LT trim coupe as seen on these pages will set you back a bit more – $169,990 (plus ORCs) – but compared to what is demanded for cars that in some instances are far less enthralling, that’s still a pretty compelling price point. If you’re in the market.

There is also a 3LT trim convertible available, although the coupe comes with targa-style roof panels that pop out and nest neatly in the boot in a specially designed aperture. Don’t worry about losing boot space on a hot summer’s day; the mid-engined set up means there is more luggage space up between the front wheels.

Don’t let that fool you into expecting this to be a wholly practical car though: it isn’t. Nor is it easy to get in and out of without an involuntary groan if you’re not limber. The one I drove was also brighter-than-the-sun ‘Accelerate Yellow’. But none of this matters. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a deeply impressive machine. I’d have it over several of its competitors. But as an American supercar, perhaps it doesn’t even have any competition.