There’s a reason why Chevrolet revealed the 2020 C8 Corvette Stingray during the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The new mid-engine Corvette is one small step for Chevy, and one giant leap for the American-built sports car industry. It sounds like I’m exaggerating – maybe even like I’m a star-struck fan – but having had the chance to get up close and personal with the 2020 Corvette I’m pretty convinced it’ll create a huge tsunami in the world of high-performance cars.
And let me tell you, the shock factor is real; whether you hate it or love it, it’s very real. Besides having the engine in the most unusual place for a Corvette, the interior is simply a giant leap from the tacky cabin of previous-generation cars.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so I’ll personally reserve my judgment on the exterior style of the C8 (for now). Depending on what angle you look at it, the C8 does bear a striking resemblance to an updated version of the Ferrari 360 Modena. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but at the same time, I can’t blame purists if the design takes a while to settle in.
Until the collected automotive journalists get the opportunity to drive the new Stingray, we’ll take the time here to examine the really impressive interior design and overall build quality. With a base price of around $60,000, the new Corvette C8 offers unbelievable value. Previous generations of the Corvette were cheap for a reason: you get an engine, two seats, and that’s basically it. The body panels are mostly plastic, the switches were dated and flimsy, and the cabin appointments are sub-par at most. The interior was always the biggest letdown of any Corvette and is thus the reason why Chevy took its sweet time in making its new interior extra premium and doubly special.
I’m not alone in getting enthusiastic about the new Stingray’s marked interior upgrade: Tristan Murphy, the lead interior designer of the C8 Corvette, told me he’s particularly excited about the overall execution inside the cabin as well. “For the interior, we really wanted something that delivers on the exotic promise of a mid-engine sports car,” Murphy said. “So we did this extremely driver-focused interior that is very three-dimensional and doesn’t feel like anything else in the market.”
Murphy’s referring to the 3D layout of the dashboard and the way the cockpit wraps around the driver. It’s not the only unexpected shape: the car also has a unique squared-off steering wheel, covered in your choice of Alcantara or leather. Chevy chose this design to offer a better, unobstructed view of the digital instrument panel. Additionally, the flatter bottom allows for easy entry without worry about banging your knee.
Everything that your hands can touch or feel inside the C8 Corvette is covered in a premium-feeling material. “We wanted to treat everything inside the car like luggage or wrapped goods,” continues Murphy. “We made sure that everything single thing you touch is either leather-wrapped, suede-wrapped, carbon-fiber or aluminum. Even the simple door pull and you can look at that and nothing you touch is bare plastic. Everything is premium.”
At a fraction of what you’d expect to pay for an Acura NSX, there’s enough premium material in each of the Corvette to cover a few of the Japanese mid-engined sports car. It boggles my mind that, with only one shared a part with the outgoing ‘Vette, Chevrolet has managed to keep the entry price so low.
You can choose from six interior color themes including Sky Cool Gray, Jet Black, Morello Red, Two-tone Blue, Adrenaline Red, and Natural/Natural Dipped. But the new interior hues are not the primary reason for the premium execution in the new C8 Corvette’s cabin. Even the buttons, switchgear, and shifter have a well-made and luxurious feel.
Furthermore, buyers have options to customize the seats and seatbelts. For example, you are given a choice between three seating options. The GT1 seats are more comfortable yet sporty while the race-inspired GT2 seats are great for long road trips. But if you’re buying it for track purpose, the Competition seats are the best choice. They include more side bolstering to hug your body during hard cornering, and have headrests made of carbon-fiber. You can also choose six different colors for the seatbelts (orange, yellow, red, blue, black, and natural) and two different stitch packages. Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know your favorite configurations.
As I said, the new 2020 Corvette C8 Stingray is unlike any Corvette in history. Without a long, powerful, and protruding hood in the front, the cabin is designed to be kept as low as possible to improve visibility and driving feel. Everything inside the jet fighter-inspired cockpit is pared down, including the passenger air vents.
All the primary controls are oriented towards the driver. Interestingly enough, Chevrolet says the air vents are the slimmest ever in any production car. Stepping inside, the cabin is clearly divided into two, but Chevrolet wanted it to be even cozier inside than a McLaren or Porsche. Proof of this is the strip of buttons for the HVAC system. It is designed for two things: to serve as a divider between the driver and passenger, and to display the shared controls. As with a fighter jet, there’s redundancy, so the HVAC controls are also integrated into the touchscreen.
Having the physical HVAC layout where it is, Murphy explained to me, allows the display to be positioned as low as possible. That means a better line of sight out the front windshield. While this single design element is polarizing for many, I personally dig it. It’s a brave move and I’m positive owners will come to love it once they’ve lived with the advantages it unlocks.
Also, surprising is the amount of space inside. The driver’s side has a snug feel, which is partly exacerbated by the wraparound dashboard design. Still, I’m 6’2” and I felt fine inside the C8. For a tall person, leg room’s typically the commodity most in-demand, so by moving the engine from the front the first thing you’ll notice is plenty of footwell space. Headroom and shoulder space follows suit, and I even had enough space to adjust the front seats. It doesn’t feel like interior room and comfort was compromised during the development of the new C8 Corvette. In fact, this car feels like – dare I say it – a supercar grand tourer in a niche all its own. Move over Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, there’s a new love in my life.
I then spent even more time with Alexis Reusch, Infotainment Program Manager for the new Corvette. Before uttering a single word about the infotainment system, though, Rush made a point of demonstrating the 14-speaker Bose Performance Series audio system available in the car. It turned out to be a good decision.
“It’s the perfect audio system for a car like this,” Rush finally said. The sound is both powerful and clean, courtesy of strategically-located speakers around the cabin, and I suspect it’s one of those features that, when would-be owners test out the car, they’ll quickly be checking off the options list.
Rush also discussed the views available in the expansive 12-inch instrument cluster. The display changes color and graphics depending on the selected drive mode; you can also customize the windows in each mode, so you can have all the information you need in front of you at all times. “We put ourselves in the customer’s hands, and we gave them everything they wanted in terms of customization and user-friendliness,” added Rush.
The infotainment system also includes the PDR or Performance Data Recorder. Besides the usual G-force and tire pressure readings, the PDR records high-resolution video using the front camera. And, before I forget, the C8 Corvette comes with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The standard audio system is a 10-speaker Bose system that also sounds like business.
The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is ticking all the right boxes and pushing the right buttons. It shatters your expectations of what a $60,000 supercar should look and feel like. At the risk of causing a riot among the Supra and Porsche fans, I’m going to step out on a limb and say that the new Stingray starts to make the new Toyota Supra and Porsche Cayman 718 look a little overpriced. Adding salt to the wound, neither Toyota nor Porsche offer you that mid-mounted V8.
Fans and critics demanded it, and Chevrolet delivered: the 2020 Corvette C8’s interior is finally something to write home about. All that’s left is to conduct a proper track day and a road trip to see how the new placement of the engine, along with all the premium touches, hold up to the rudiments of everyday wear and tear – and if the smile stays on my face.