Risky business. There’s probably no other two words that can do proper justice in describing the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Well, at least no other two words that are safe to say in public. Concept to execution, this wonder-machine conjures up dangerous ideas.
Article and photos © John Grafman (photos © GM where noted)
Gazing at the C8, as this sits in the driveway, one must ask the question, how in the world did this ever become a reality? Boring and plain-Jane might be fine for some cars, but clearly not for the team working on the Corvette. This pushes the envelope in all directions.
The good folks in product planning are successfully eliminating redundancy at GM (see Pontiac). It wouldn’t be surprising if someone on that same team asked, “If we have a muscle car, the Camaro, what void is the Corvette filling? Secondly, if an electric car can bring gobs of performance to the table, what is the Corvette offering, and shouldn’t it be electric, as well?”
Clearly, looking at the latest Tesla products, even a novice can plainly see what an electric car is capable of. However, in all electric cars, a heavy right foot can suck the life right out of it, just as it drains the tank in a gas-powered car. Countering that, one can add more batteries, but that just adds weight and cost. Plus, there isn’t an EV charging station on every corner, and it takes considerably more time to achieve a complete charge. So, maybe going electric isn’t always the answer. Yet, not advancing the Corvette in a meaningful way just puts it in the same genre as its stablemate.
It’s Time To Go To Mid-Engined
“I remember Tadge Joecheter, the Chief Engineer, saying ya know we’ve optimized this platform as much as we possibly can. Now it’s time to go to mid-engined,” according to Tom Peters, Former Director of Exterior Design – GM Performance Design Studio.
And, it’s no secret that GM has been exploring mid-engine and rear-engine designs and has brought a few to production over the years (Pontiac Fiero, Chevrolet Corvair), however this is the Corvette. This has, well, history. It’s safe to ask, what will the typical 2021 Chevrolet Corvette buyers be thinking if this is anything but a front-engine/rear-wheel drive machine?
The 2021 Corvette is indeed radical. Decades of evolution have been building up to something… and this is it! And, given the price of other cars of this caliber, this Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the deal of the century with a base price of $66,200 ($82,255 as tested). The ‘21 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a massive leap into the future.
At a few hundred feet away, those unindoctrinated individuals could easily be mistaking the general profile of the C8 as that of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, McLaren, or other exotic. By no means is that a bad thing. This Chevrolet truly shares the dynamic presence of bona-fide supercars. Corvette Design Manager, Kirk Bennion, and Performance Car Exteriors Lead Designer, Vlad Kapitonov, are responsible for what we are looking at.
One Can Just Feel The Forms Singing
Overall, the Stingray design is bold and consistent with the field. Even Ray Charles would say this is dynamic. Running a hand along any surface, one can just feel the forms singing.
It is easy to see the attention to surface details in the modeling of the body. Subtle, flowing lines draw the eye across the panels. Matched with that are pronounced features capable of stopping traffic. This is most effective coupled with the correct paint color, like the optional ($995) Red Mist Metallic Tintcoat found on this model. Additionally, the optional body color exterior accents ($995) are eliminating the ungainly, black boomerangs that frame the side intakes. Uninterrupted in body color, the overall surfacing and shapes are easier to appreciate.
Getting a bit closer to the subject, the front end definitely reads as a Corvette, albeit abbreviated in length in contrast to the longer front-engine lineage. The leading-edge flows into the front storage locker/trunk panel (formerly a hood) surface without a discernable break in the plane. Sure, this isn’t new to Corvette, but the 2021 model is arguably the most successful, sharpest execution of this styling. Coupled with the massive, side-to-side grill opening below the leading edge of the bumper/hood, the C8 is menacing like a shark mouth ready and willing to take a bite out of whatever it can.
The front storage panel surfacing (formerly a hood) is crafted exceptionally to retain the Corvette flavor while pushing the faceted form, peaking visual interest. Walking-around, the leading edge of the car is revealing a bounty of kodak moments. It’s as if the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette wants to say, “If you like that, take a look at this.” And, from the first moment to the last day, this car forces one to look back for another glance.
Revealing A Bounty Of Kodak Moments
The LED headlights are punctuating the forms and accentuate the angular rise from the front bumper to the fender, as it envelops the wheels. Perfectly balanced, the covers and lens don’t overshadow the look, but gracefully enhance it. The restraint benefits the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette. One can only hope other OEMs use the same in minimizing the vast excesses of clear plastic. It can’t be emphasized enough how impactful this is to the design as a whole. However, the little, tasteful details the casual observer might overlook, like the Corvette logo in the lens, provides an added reward beyond the initial encounter.
Over the ages, GM and Chevrolet has been reflecting elements found in aviation and is using those effectively to provide direction in styling. If I didn’t know better, the Harrier Jump Jet is inspiring the bold, oversized air intakes on the C8.
On this topic, Tom Peters remarks, “Aircraft has been inspirational. Why is that? Because usually they are high performance, they’re purpose driven. There is a singular mission for them… and it relates to the Corvette beautifully.”
That little voice inside one’s head is saying, “there’s no way this needs a vent this large… but maybe it really does?” Both provocative side vents are loudly stating, don’t mess with me. Yet, there’s always some clown motoring alongside wanting to take up the challenge.
The C8 Rear Is Somewhat Akin To That Of A Chaparral Can-Am Car
The greenhouse, at 48.6” / 1234mm tall, tapers from the A-pillars rearward in plan-view enhancing the nature of the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette, as it has in the prior generation. By design, this physically creates a wider and longer rear deck, especially in a mid-engine car. Optically, this increases the width of the rear to something akin to that of a Chaparral Can-Am car. Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. In reality, the Stingray is just 76.1” / 1933mm wide.
Keen eyes are seeing other recurring shapes and themes in the rear windscreen and panel pieces. It’s not just a cohesive design, the C8 is also visually entertaining. However, the engine is a bit tucked away. Getting a better view of the 6.2-liter, eight-cylinder monster would be a bonus.
Unlike the other surfaces, the rear end is busy. Real busy. The 2021 model with the Z51 rear spoiler (optional), the taillights, vents, lower panel, and tailpipes, plus the license plate’s surface, there is an overwhelming number of elements. At the same time, it is badass. The taillights for 2021 appear more complex than any prior Vette. Beneath those high-mounted taillights are rather large air vents for extracting air from the center-mounted engine compartment.
Between the V8 and the rear license plate is an additional trunk. There’s ample room for throwing golf bags or a dead body in there. However, it gets hot in this storge space. As such, it isn’t good for perishables (and perhaps not so good for dead bodies either), but it’s ideal for keeping hot to-go food piping hot. It is definitely pizza friendly. Nevertheless, the room in the back is a bonus making the 2021 functional for nearly everyday use. Combined, the front and rear storage can swallow 12.6 cubic feet of cargo.
Topless Motoring Is Certainly On The Enthusiast Checklist
Of all the things that fit in the rear trunk, the most important is the Stingray roof panel. Releasing a few hold-downs, and the light-weight top is ready to go. One person, with minimal effort can handle the transformation. Topless motoring, or at least without a roof panel, is certainly on the enthusiast checklist, and that makes nearly any drive special. Even at highway speed, there’s nominal wind intrusion. As simple as removing and replacing the panel is, we just assume leaving it off whenever possible.
The mid-engine placement is dictating some of the design pathways on the Corvette at least to some extent. The striking exterior look is bold and bordering on outrageous. Fortunately, the performance delivers on the promise of the styling! The 2021 C8 does not disappoint!
There is no mistaking the behind the wheel impression of the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The Vette is what every kid dreams of when he or she thinks of a race car. It’s not just fast, but it also allows mere mortals to handle the power.
Slipping inside is easy enough (gravity does most of the work), albeit getting out might be a bit more challenging for some given how low this is. The massive doors are requiring a little extra room when parking next to other objects for ease of ingress and egress, especially in a garage. But that’s a small price to pay.
The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Initially Feels Overwhelming
Once seated, the controls envelop the driver, just as Brett Golliff, Color and Trim Design Manager – Global Chevrolet, envisioned it. The switches are streaming down from the instrument panel onto the elevated center console. Given the gauge cluster – with multiple graphic layouts, the center screen housing Apple CarPlay and more, and the HVAC controls on the center console, this initially feels overwhelming. Yet, it really isn’t that bad. Most of the HVAC buttons are easy enough to remember where those fall, and the most important of those are elevated toggles.
Drivers needing reading glasses might require memorizing the location of the buttons and switches. Plus, should anyone be looking at anything other than the road at triple digit speeds? I think not. On that note, the 2021 does remedy some of that very issue with GM’s wonderful Head Up Display (HUD). The various options allow the driver to select the info on the windshield, including the posted speed limits. Ah, as if we really want to know how much trouble we could be getting into with the long arm of the law.
Alternatively, the driver’s gauge cluster provides an automated timer for tracking 0-60 sprints. Dropping the hammer can turn up sub-3 second launches! Fortunately, the timer is alleviating the need to keep an eye on the speedo, and drivers can keep their eyes on the road.
The center touchscreen is also providing access to the settings that allow adjustments to a wide variety of functions, from steering, and suspension, to exhaust. Dialing in the driver’s preference creates an interactive, symbiotic relationship. And really, it’s a toy within a toy.
The Cocoon Surrounding The Driver Does Have That Fighter Jet Feel
The cocoon surrounding the driver does have that fighter jet feel, or what one would imagine that could feel like. It’s both comfortable and confining at the same time. Also, this does build a physical barrier between the driver and passenger. This could be either good or bad, depending on who is in the other seat.
On this model, the 2LT, the interior is trimmed handsomely top to bottom. The C8 is no longer making any excuses for a lack of refinement. No more “…well it’s a Chevy” or “…that’s what you get at this price-point.” The expectation of a lower level of quality was perhaps the single area requiring an immediate and proper fix. Finally, we can have our cake and can eat it too!
Nevertheless, Chevrolet does more with less, and in this case we are referring to the air vents. These slick slots are inconspicuous enough yet do an impressive job of getting the air moving about. With our current record temps this summer, along with the potential of serious climate change making the future a hot proposition, being ready for it is certainly a prudent decision on Chevy’s part.
Shifting out of park and into drive is accomplished via the toggles on the center console. While this is unusual to say the least, it’s effortless and clears the center console of unnecessary clutter. Of course, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray comes complete with paddle shifters. Manually selecting the gears of the eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission with the paddles is providing a technically superior drive but lacking in the visceral experience of a stick-shift. It’s hard breaking those OG habits.
It’s Hard Breaking Those OG Habits
The cabin does offer pleasant surprises. The 2021 Stingray comes complete with a wireless charging pad for a cell phone. Unlike the Cadillac models, the vertical placement in the C8 is in space between the seats and aft of the occupants. This can be tricky accessing for the driver, unless one’s elbow is replaced with a U-joint. Nevertheless, the charging is a godsend, and it works like a charm.
Hiding behind the steering wheel is the start button. Lighting this candle is an adrenaline inducing experience typically found in space bound craft. Unless you happen to be Bezos, Elon, or Sir Richard Branson, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette might just be the best ride you can afford. Pushing the button, the engine leaps to life, the revs jump, and the graphics awaken. In its own way, the C8 is saying, “Are you ready for a thrill?” Just FYI, it’s impossible to turn the engine over subtly. Then again, that’s just not part of the program. If one wants subtle, buy a Prius.
The optional, vented and heated seats, with adjustable bolsters and lumbar support are beyond good. The optional ($1,495) GT2 bucket seats are handsomely crafted. These seats have me thinking of Italian sports cars, and that was probably the goal. These are restraining without being abusive. With so many body types, it can be difficult to get that perfect, custom fit. However, the adjustability is allowing this to be dialed in just right. This clings to my body like well-tailored suit.
Now, the reason why the layout of the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette is so important goes far beyond the need to have well designed products in all cars. This is one blazingly fast off the line and continues well into triple digit territory. Bottom line: the interior design allows the driver to operate this jet with minimal distractions. And that’s a good thing. Is there still room for improvement? Probably.
The Worst Part Of The C8 Is Keeping Kids From Drooling On The Car
This does a decent job of the typical day-in, day-out driving. Sure, the rear storage is like a sauna, and rearward visibility is hampered considerably – even with the switchable rear mirror/video. The optional, and must have, Front Lift Adjustable Height ($1,995) eliminates many of the problems low-slung supercars face. Coupled with the front-mounted camera, parking block and driveway disasters are a thing of the past. Really, the worst part of the C8 is keeping kids (and some adults) from drooling on the car.
The Magnetic Selective Ride Control 4.0 suspension dampens life’s lump and bumps with aplomb. Never was there a grit your teeth moment. The steering is firm (and adjustable), but never difficult. The five-spoke, aluminum, 19” front wheels covered in 245/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport ALS (305/30ZR20 rear) are ample. Surprisingly, these can really crank over in a turn, allowing for tight parking lot maneuvers. The turning radius is just 182.3” / 4630mm. Honestly, this is really the result of the optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control that is reducing the turning circle of the C8 by over 18-inches compared to the standard suspension. In addition, the adjustability allows the Corvette to handle both city streets and tracks. The Z51 Performance Suspension with MSRC will tack on an extra $1,895 to the bottom line.
As one can imagine, if the brakes can haul this down from supersonic speeds, around town is no problem. In other words, this is a smooth experience without grabbing. The Z51 Brakes are part of the Z51 Performance Package. This upgrades the front to 13.6” x 1.18” (345 x 30mm) – an inch larger in diameter over the stock units. The rear grows to 13.8” x 1.06” (350 x 27mm), which is a half-inch larger in diameter and a tick (1mm) wider. With the optional package the front and rear are E-boost-assisted discs with Brembo four-piston monobloc calipers.
On the subject of safety and technology, Chevy stuffed this with a number of essential tools. The 2LT and 3LT models come with HD front and rear vision cameras with front curb view; Rear Park Assist; Side Blind Zone Alert; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; and the previously mentioned Head-Up Display.
The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Was Created For More
Sure, there are those that will just tool around town in the Stingray, just to make others jealous. However, the Corvette was created for more. A lot more. There are very few products that are as capable as the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The 490-horsepower at 6,450 rpm and 465-lb.-ft of torque at 5,150 rpm puts the C8 into the superhero league. Faster than a speeding bullet? Maybe!
Residing aft of the occupants is the A319-T7 cast aluminum V8 with cast-in iron cylinder liners. This also has cast aluminum cylinder heads with an 11.5 to 1 compression ratio. Fuel is delivered via direct injection with active fuel management.
Surprisingly, this is an overhead valve, two valves per cylinder engine with dual-equal variable valve timing. One would expect four-valves, a turbo or two, or even a supercharger. But no, this doesn’t need it. However, there is certainly room for improvement. This also leaves wiggle room for aftermarket companies to exist.
Loaded with this much juice, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette is not saddled with the same laws of physics and gravity that lesser cars are bound by. Tires turn to clouds of smoke with a flick of the foot. Even the gods look down from up high at the C8 and nod in approval!
‘Vette Has Evolved In The Past Several Decades From Being A Sportscar
Perhaps the only other downside, besides the rapid depletion of fuel that the EPA rates at 15 city / 27 highway (we saw single digits often enough), is the lack of opportunities to really use this to its full potential. The old saying holds true, it’s more challenging to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slowly. In the case of the C8, it’s really no challenge to even drive this fast car fast. Over time, the Corvette has evolved in the past several decades from being a sportscar to what it truly is now, a full-fledged supercar.
No, we are not exploring the upper range, as we don’t have a racecourse at our disposal, not to mention that I value my driver’s license. However, reaching maximum legal and beyond legal speeds is effortless. Even if a few other cars can get to 60 quicker, are louder, come from exclusive manufacturers, or are only offered in very limited quantities, it will be darn difficult to find a more gratifying car in terms of performance and design for the base price of the 2021 Corvette. This has been the secret sauce that Chevrolet has dished out for decades. And, when the original recipe works, don’t change it. indeed, gambling with success would also be risky business.
Find out more about the Corvette.