The 2020 Corvette C8 is real, and we still can’t get past its divisive dashboard. From the early leaked image, through to confirmation that the button-blasted cabin really was official, it’s been clear that it’s the accommodations which will be most controversial in the new mid-engined sports car.
Chevy is particularly pleased about its cabin design. Moving the engine from the front to the middle of the Corvette C8 means it could shift the passenger compartment a full 16.5-inches forward, improving the overall balance and dynamics. The design itself is certainly more memorable than in the old Corvette, too.
Is it, however, better? One aspect Chevrolet has focused on is the blend of physical and virtual controls, and it’s there where opinion is most clearly split. “You’ll notice the only knob on the audio system is the volume control, and that’s because it’s the most frequently used,” Phil Zak, executive design director for Chevrolet, pointed out during the big unveil. “Every other button had to earn its place.”
At first glance, the bar to earning that place seems to have been set a little low. On the one hand there’s a new touchscreen in the center console, used to interact with the automaker’s newest infotainment system and things like the updated Performance Data Recorder that now doubles as a dashcam. That’s a huge and welcome improvement.
At the same time, though, there are a lot of physical controls too. The steering wheel gets the usual cruise control and multimedia shortcuts, but also a dedicated “Z” mode button which instantly summons your preconfigured perfect settings for things like the engine, transmission, suspension, and active exhaust. Consider us more than pleased to see that.
Things get a little weirder in the center console. The push-button transmission is going to infuriate manual gearbox fans, but we’re okay with Chevy’s crisp-looking, chrome-finished keys and a dedicated manual-mode lock. Dedicated buttons alongside for things like the nose lift and front camera are also welcome.
No, it’s the long row of buttons alongside that, a veritable ski slope of HVAC controls, which is giving us pause. It’s arguably the first thing your eye fixes on, dividing the cabin into two distinct sections for driver and passenger, and it’s likely to be the design element most consistently argued about.
So, like any good skier, let’s take it from the top. First up you have a rocker to control the driver-side temperature: there’s a little arrow just above to show which side of the car it’s focusing on. Below that are the buttons to control the headed and ventilated seats, each of which have three levels of operation.
The “Sync” button to link temperature control of the two-zone HVAC is below that, and then the “Auto” button to leave the fans and vents to the Corvette’s own devices. Under that are three buttons to manually control airflow, and then a rocker switch below that for fan control.
Next comes the HVAC power button, to turn the whole system off, along with the A/C button for shutting off the compressor, and then the recirculated air button. The front windshield demist and heated rear window keys come after that. Finally, we’re back in a repeat of the initial controls only for the passenger side: heated and ventilated seats first, then the temperature control rocker.
All in all that’s a whole lot of controls just for dealing with cabin temperature and climate, particularly in a vehicle that’s meant to be a focused performance car. Other automakers take different approaches with their sports vehicles: in Jaguar’s F-TYPE, for example, the temperature control knobs double – when pressed – as dials for the heated and cooled seats. That way, the British car can pare back its dashboard design.
Dedicated controls are great, in moderation. There are some buttons which we really do prefer to see left physical: a volume knob, which the 2020 Corvette has too, is one such example. All the same, there’s a solid argument to be made that too many buttons can become a distraction, especially when they’re not clustered together into any more of an ordered layout than “one long row” as in the new ‘Vette.
So here’s the question: what do you think of the 2020 Corvette’s cabin? Ergonomic mess, or dashboard dream? Let us know in the comments.