Is this a good reason for a quick UK-US trade deal?
Hey, keep politics off Top Gear. Furthermore, it is not the machinations of the WTO or Brexit that have so far prevented the Corvette from entering the UK.
No, the obstacles are those of General Motors. He never did the Corvette in right-hand drive. And frankly, it wasn’t a very British car in other ways.
Now things are different. This is the new eighth-generation mid-engined Corvette. It was designed to compete with European supercars. And GM still says the Vette will be available in the UK from late 2021, with a highly specified Z51 package. Mostly, he will have the steering wheel on the right side.
In the meantime, the first left-hand drive copy has been brought here by London dealer Clive Sutton. It’s also in the Z51 specification. Compared to the base American Stingray, the Z51 package means better tires and brakes, a sophisticated limited-slip differential, and other tasty elements of sports engineering. It also has the optional adaptive dampers that official cars will get. And we drove him.
Import welcome or chlorinated chicken?
This is a relevant question. So far, the Corvette has not traveled well. I have driven several generations and specs of Corvettes in the United States. They all felt very good there. Then they landed in the UK and… no. But, spoiler alert, this new one … did it.
What is the C8?
I’ll be brief. A sophisticated die-cast aluminum and sheet metal backing structure carries fiberglass panels. The engine is a naturally aspirated all-aluminum V8, going through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. The suspension is also made of aluminum.
It is therefore light: around 1600 kg with fluids. This V8 is a working 6.2-liter pushrod with variable timing on its camshaft, so there’s no shortage of torque: 470 lb-ft.
Shouldn’t Corvettes also be usable?
Yes. So he has decent boots on the back and front. The roof panel (optional carbon fiber in this car) pulls out easily and stows in the back. They designed the structure so that the thresholds are low, making it easy to get in and out.
The nose lifts hydraulically for ramps and speed bumps. This is related to satellite navigation, so if you store locations it will automatically increase the next time you are there. There’s a heads-up display, heated and ventilated seats, cordless phone charging, CarPlay, parking cameras and blind spot sensors, and a Bose stereo.
And of course, the small-block V8 is tied to the engines that power a billion American pickups. So it’s much easier and less demanding to maintain than an Italian four-camera howler.
Does he wear the supercar swagger?
While we were photographing him, several serious oil enthusiasts drove by and by, and they were unanimously impressed. It’s a clean design, more NSX than Ferrari. But look longer and it’s like the designers just don’t trust them anymore. As a compensation, they kept adding more and more folds. If you take a side cut just behind the headlights, the body has 13 longitudinal lines.
Inside, there are also a lot of people. Still, it combines usability with drama, and that’s what’s needed. The quality of the leather, plastics, switches and screens suffices.
Six point two liters then. How’s it going ?
Consistently and persistently. Apply a little or a lot of throttle and you get what you expect. It’s super satisfying.
But it’s not brutal. It’s a performance you can use, in its entirety, on the road. Give it full throttle, hear – feel – the noise and have fun holding it there. It’s not like the performance of today’s supercars, where all you can do is dip your toe down, as if you are diving into boiling water, then back out.
The throttle response is not very clear. Not like an electric motor. But it’s sharper than turbos. So it’s a cinch to drive smoothly and balance the car in a corner with exactly the power you want.
The transmission can get a little indecisive in its gear selection, but it’s still smooth. Most of the time I just used the paddles. It’s super attentive to them.
What will it do?
US manufacturers don’t quote performance numbers. Stores there use 0-60 mph, with a one-foot “roll-out” – in other words, the clock doesn’t start until the car is well started. They tend to get 0-60 times in the approximate 3.3-second stage for the Corvette, and about the same for a base 911 model. The way we test cars, a 911 gets 0-62 mph just under 4.0 seconds. So you can assume the same for the Corvette.
But to be fair, this car hasn’t been that fast. Could have been tight, be careful as it was brand new and had a few miles. So I didn’t want to be unfriendly by blowing it up multiple times.
It sounds pretty cultured, without the pounding howl of the old front-engined Z06 or ZR1. In fact, it’s surprisingly calm and gentle, so you don’t feel like a jerk. But there are variable shutters in the squelch, so changing modes will give it a bit more voice.
Yeah, yeah, ‘Vettes have always done well on the V8 charisma. That’s the handling and the direction they came off here.
Quite. And here the C8 deviates from the script. It no longer suffers from too fast steering, and it is not knocked down by bumps. It’s a chassis that feels right at home on your UK road.
The steering is direct and you are seated near the front wheels. It is not lazy. But above all, he’s not nervous either. The first American reports mention understeer, but they emphasize driving on the track. On the road, this gives you an idea of your grip. Then, with the help of the wonderfully progressive throttle, you can simply balance it through the rear tires, letting the electronically controlled differential do its job. This part, at road speeds, goes very well, and the traction control allows a little oversteer.
Look, it doesn’t have the transcendent communication of an Alpine A110, Lotus Exige, or McLaren 570S, but it’s still a car that has left me relaxed, confident and excited at the same time. This had never happened to me before in a Corvette in Britain.
But you sound like a GT not a supercar.
The springs are quite flexible and the adaptive dampers allow them to breathe. This is part of the reason why it is composed so well on a B-road – it doesn’t slow down by bumps and dips. If you go through the fashions it gets tighter and tighter, but even “sport” and sometimes “track” are still relevant if the road is smoother. Remember, LHD cars always face a driving handicap because you are sitting over the broken edge of the road.
For two-lane roads or busy roads, put it on a “turn” and the powertrain slackens, the ride is relaxed, the tires don’t roar and slam. Yes, this is a car you would be happy to do big miles in.
It sounds very tempting. Especially at American prices.
With the Z51 pack and adaptive shocks, it’s about $ 70,000 plus tax there. By comparison, the 911, without any options, is close to $ 100,000.
Here it is different. The 911 costs £ 83,000 including tax but no options. We’re promised the Corvette RHD will cost £ 81,700 for the fully loaded Launch Edition coupe. Whether GM will manage to stick to that when the car finally lands here in late 2021 is up for debate and likely to come after various trade and Brexit negotiations, as well as other hiccups related to Covid. . So it matches the base 911, but hugely undermines other exotics from mass mid-engined manufacturers, the Honda NSX and the Audi R8.
It makes some sense. The Corvette doesn’t quite have the same blissful precision as the 911, but it comes with good specs and a really impressive set of road handling. Oh and did we mention the naturally aspirated V8?
Clive Sutton’s example has even more specs, including the carbon fiber roof and engine decor, and a nose lift, making it a $ 100,000 car in the United States. It’s for sale at £ 132,000, reflecting the amount of effort and cost involved in getting a car across from the United States – not just the 10% import duty and 20% VAT, but the cost of submit the car to an IVA test in order to register it in the UK.
Beyond that, the price is still offset by the US Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Suggested, not necessarily real. The Corvette is new and popular, Sutton says, so American dealers are tagging and selling them way above the list. Still, people will pay to skip the queue for rare sports cars (especially if, as stated, the RHD Vettes are delayed). And in this case, whoever buys it will receive a voucher as well.
Photography: Jonny fleetwood