Three big lessons the 2020 Corvette C8 must learn from 2019's Stingray Z51

Themid-engined2020CorvetteC8isalmosthere,butthere’smoretoChevrolet’slong-lastingsportscarthanjustthelocationofitsengine.Whenyou’rerebootingabonafideiconthere’sawholelotofhistorytotakeintoaccount.That’swhyIspentsometimeinthe2019CorvetteStingrayZ51toseewhereChevyshouldgonext–andwhatthe2020CorvetteC8shouldavoid.

SevengenerationsofcarhasgivenChevroletaprettysolidbasisforeachsuccessiveCorvette.And,whilethere’snoshortageofsuperchargedmadnessatthehigh-endoftherange,likethefaintly-ridiculous2019CorvetteZR1,it’smoreattainablefarethatreallysetsthecarapart.

ThisparticularCorvetteStingrayConvertiblecamewiththeZ51PerformancePackageandthe2LTPackage.Withthe$1,7258-speedautotransmissionandacoupleofotherextras,alongwith$1,095destination,itclockedinat$74,855.Dowithoutmostoftheextras,andsettleforthestandard7-speedmanual,andstickerpricekicksofffrom$64,495.

That’smorethanaggressive,fora6.2-literV8enginewith460horsepower,460lb-ftoftorque,anda0-60mphtimeof3.7seconds.FigureslikethatpittheCorvetteagainstrivalslikePorsche’s911andJaguar’sF-TypeR,butChevyundercutsthembynotjustthousandsbuttensofthousandsofdollars.

The2020Corvetteneedstobeattainable

Bangforbuck,Americanmusclecarshavealwaysbeenaboutgettingmaximumperformanceforyourmoney.Chevroletcan’taffordtosacrificethatforthe2010CorvetteC8.WhileaswitchtoanewEuropean-stylemid-enginedlayoutwillintroduceinterestingnewwildcardsaroundthingslikebalance,drivingdynamics,andstyling,itcan’taffordtocompletelybreaktieswiththeold.

Forastart,whiletheCorvettemayundercutitsPorsche,Jaguar,andMercedes-Benzrivalsonpaper,thatdoesn’ttakeintoaccountperceivedvalue.There’snodenyingthattheChevroletjustdoesn’thavethebrandcachettocompetedirectlywithitsmoreprestigiousrivals.WhetherthatcomesbacktohauntthenewCorvettedependsonhowmuchChevyhasbeendrinkingitsownKool-Aid.

The2019CorvetteStingrayZ51isexcellentvalue,anditperformswell.Indeed,itholdsupnicelyregardlessofthebadgeonthenose,particularlywhenyouhavetheZ51’selectroniclimitedslipdifferential,thoughyoushouldalmostcertainlypaythe$1,795fortheMagneticSelectiveRideControlwhichleavesthecarfarmoreagileandmakespushingitmorepredictable.

Pushingtheboatoutwiththeoptions,though,narrowsthegapbetweentheCorvetteanditsalternatives,andthat’sahugerisk.Evenwithitsengineinthemiddle,I’mnotsurethe2020carwillhaveenoughprestigebeyonditscoreaudienceofenthusiastsandfanstosnipesalesfromthecompetition.AttainabilityhastobeacorecomponentoftheCorvetteC8’sDNA.

The2020Corvettehastoacknowledgeexpectationshavechanged

“Attainable”doesn’tmean“cheap,”however.Oneofmybiggestissueswiththe2019Corvetteisn’titsperformance,orevenitsfaintlypriapicstyle,buthowspecialyoufeelinthecabin.Or,moreaccurately,howspecialyoudon’tfeel.

I’mtalkingabouttouch-pointsjustasmuchasIamaboutdesign.Let’sfaceit,the2019CorvetteStingray’sdashboardhardlylooksfreshandmodern.Slabsofblackandsilverplastic,alongwithbuttonclustersthatlooklikethey’vebeendredgedfromChevy’scommunalpartsbucket,screamboth“basic”and“budget”inawaythatsportscarbuyersdon’treallyliketohear.

I’mnotsayingthatthe2020CorvetteC8needselaboratedesigninside.WhatitabsolutelydoesneedChevrolettofocuson,though,ishowspecialeachofthepartsyoumostcommonlyinteractwithleaveyoufeeling.

That’sthesteeringwheel,sure,andthegearshifter.The2019‘Vettehasaprettynicestarterbutton,andthethick-rimmedwheelisnice(evenifthetwo-tonehubanditsswitchgearareunderwhelming).Chevroletdropsseriouspremiumpointsonthingslikethepaddleshifters,though,whichfeellikecheapplastic,andthedrivemodeknob,whichhasthetactilerewardofanoventhermostat.

ThereareinklingsthatChevyhasgotthatmessage.We’veseenthe2020car’ssteeringwheel,forexample,andwhiletheslope-shoulderedspokesareundoubtedlygoingtobecontroversial,whatappeartobemetalpaddlesareawelcomeimprovementoverthe2019model.Here’shopingtherestofthecabinlivesuptomodernexpectations.

Whateverthespeed,the2020CorvetteC8can’tfeelfuddy-duddy

Iconfess,frombehindthewheelofthe2019CorvetteStingrayIdidwonderwhetherpeoplewerelookingatmeandthinkingIwashavingamidlifecrisis.There’snodenyingthat,despiteitsorigins,successivegenerationsof‘Vettehavegainedareputationasbeingthecarofchoiceofagentlemanofacertainage,lookingtoreclaimsomesenseoflostyouth.Youcouldmakeagoodargumentthatthey’rethesensibleones,givenhowaggressivelyChevypricesthecarandwhatyougetinperformanceforyourmoney,butit’sasmallaudienceandthe2020CorvetteC8needstoappealmorebroadly.

Asizablechunkofthatwillbedowntothetechnology.The2019cardoesn’tjustlookplaininside,it’slackingsomeofthegadgetrythat’sfastbecomingtable-stakesifyouwanttobetakenseriouslybyyoungerdrivers.There’snoadaptivecruisecontrolandnolane-keepingassistance.Chevy’smirrorsdon’twarnyouofcarsinyourblind-spot.

Thenthere’stheinfotainment.The2019CorvetteStingray’sMyLinksystemdoesatleasthaveAppleCarPlayandAndroidAutosupport,butit’sgraphicallydrearycomparedtoChevy’snewersystems,nottomentionslowandconfusinglylaid-out.Theonlydramaisthatthe8-inchtouchscreencandropdowntorevealahiddenstoragenook:youdon’tgetthecolor-changingLEDmoodlighting,appconnectivity,wirelesscharging,orothergadgetrythatmodernrivalsboastof.

Keepwhatworks,capitalizeonwhat’snew

Isthe2019CorvetteStingrayZ51abadcar?Certainlynot:ifperformanceandpriceareyourtopconsiderations,it’shardtoarguewiththeircombinationhereinChevy’soutgoingcar.Whatholdsitbackisage–asenseeitherrealorperceived.Theawkwardcabin,difficultblindspots,mundanetechandactivesafetysystems,andthatineffablefeelingthatyougainafewdecadesjustbysittingbehindthewheel.

Whatitdoesisleavemequietlyhopefulforthe2020CorvetteStingrayC8.NoneofwhatneedstochangeisbeyondChevrolet,ifit’sseriousaboutmakingatrue,modern-daysportscar.We’llfindoutforsuretomorrow,July18,whenthebrandnew‘Vetteisofficiallyrevealed.

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