The mid-engined version of everyone’s favorite American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, is coming. Or at least, a lot of auto industry folks think it’s coming, thanks to all the rumors, leaked info, and test mules that have been spied recently. After decades of speculation and renderings, this is what we know so far about the most fervently anticipated American sports car in history.
(Shown above, an unofficial, speculative rendering of what a mid-engine C8 Corvette could look like)
It’s Been a Long, Long Time Coming
There have been rumors about Chevrolet developing a mid-engine Corvette for half a century. Indeed, Chevy has built a number of mid-engine concepts through the years, only to abandon them somewhere in development.
The first official prototype was revealed all the way back in 1970, and it was nearly production ready. In 1986, GM showed off the Corvette Indy, complete with a mid-mounted twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel-drive. Then, in 2002, Cadillac revealed the stunning Cien concept at the Detroit Auto show. In between the Cien’s axles, behind the passengers, was a 7.5L V12 with 750 horsepower. It wasn’t branded as a Chevy, but industry watchers took it as a sign that GM wanted to do something big.
In 2004, it was decided that the Corvette had reached the limit of grip with the traditional front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. As Bob Lutz explains, the design team got as far as constructing two full-scale clay models, a Corvette and the equivalent Cadillac XLR, both with the engine in the middle. Sadly, the recession of 2008 (and GM’s eventual government bailout) caused the automaker to put a hold on, and eventually cancel, this mid-engined Corvette project.
Now, development on the C7’s replacement has begun, and rumor has it, a mid-engine variant is in the works. Mark Reuss, head of Global Product development, says that the C8 will be “revolutionary.” To some Corvette watchers, that can only mean one thing: a mid-engine Chevy supercar.
If it Happens, It’s Going to Cost More
One of the key factors behind sales of the Corvette is it’s outstanding value. With a starting MSRP of only $55,400, the current C7 represents a great deal for those who want fun and performance without having to drain their kids’ college funds. Obviously, the mid-engined variant would cost more—probably a lot more, since it would require an all-new platform redesigned from the ground up. $150,000 seems to be the most popular number floating around, which is nearly double the starting price of the current Corvette king, the Z06. While that number undercuts the Ford GT’s MSRP of $450,000, that’s still quite a bit of money for a Corvette. It’s been suggested that there will still be a cheaper front-engined variant sold alongside the new mid-engined car, so as not to alienate any loyal fans or prospective buyers. Since it is still a Corvette, expect a V8 to be present (perhaps something more modern than the traditional pushrod layout), though some wild rumors suggest a turbocharged V6 option could also be offered to bring the price down.
The Design Would Be Pretty Different
Since the engine is going to be sitting behind the cabin, the car will look quite different from the traditional Corvette layout. Our friends at Car and Driver recently snagged spy shots of what looks like a C8 Corvette prototype testing, with several design cues that indicate a mid-engined layout. The cabin is far forward, with a longer rear section. There’s also a set of flying buttresses present, a popular aerodynamic feature on new mid-engined cars, such as the McLaren 570S and Ford GT. Although it’ll bear the Corvette name, the hypothetical mid-engine C8 will be radically different from the car it replaces.
The Performance Will Be Even Better
The only reason the Corvette would switch to a mid-engined layout is for performance. Engineers at GM understand that there is a limit to how much power a front-engine supercar can put down, and how much cornering grip it can achieve. Although the current Corvette Z06 is a fantastic sports car, it’s inherently held back by its front-mid-engine layout. With the engine in the middle, the car’s weight distribution can be optimized, with turn-in and corner holding capabilities benefitting as a result.
The mid-engine Corvette has long seemed like a fantasy, a daydream promoted by automotive journalists, Corvette loyalists, and those who want to see an American automaker finally build a direct competitor to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. Recent evidence suggests that this wish could finally come true. While we’re hesitant to call it a sure thing, we think there’s a strong likelihood it could happen. And we can’t wait to get our hands on it.
source: roadandtrack.com BY BRIAN SILVESTRO