2020 Chevy Corvette review: Testing the $59,995 C8 Stingray
Spoiler alert: Chevrolet's fabled $60K C8 Corvette is the performance bargain of the year.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
More than its 3-second 0-to-60-mph time, its 1.0 G of cornering grip or the fact that, you know, its engine sits behind the cockpit, the craziest thing about Chevrolet's new C8 Corvette Stingray is that everything I just mentioned comes on a wildly styled sports car that costs $59,995 -- including the delivery fee. No other car offers so much performance for so little cash.
The base Corvette 1LT has the same 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 as every other Stingray, with 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. Working through an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, the rear-wheel-drive Corvette will accelerate to 60 mph in 3 seconds flat, and do so without any overdramatic or skittish tendencies. Even on its stock all-season tires, the wide, 305/30-section rear rubbers simply claw into the pavement and shoot the Stingray forward.
The V8 sounds freakin' awesome on full boil near its (relatively low) 6,500-rpm redline, even without the performance exhaust. I don't like the transmission's paddle shifters -- most automakers get these wrong -- but they're a direct link to the quick-shifting DCT, which is also perfectly tuned when left to its own devices. The steering is communicative and nicely weighted, letting me know exactly how much grip those all-season tires have. And the standard limited-slip differential means power is appropriately distributed at the rear axle, so you can goose the throttle coming out of a corner without breaking the back end loose. The brakes are strong and offer confident, composed stopping without fade. The standard chassis tune is really good, too -- comfortable when you need it to be but nicely taut when it counts.
The key thing you miss out on with the base Corvette is the almighty Z51 pack, which includes larger Brembo brakes and Chevy's Magnetic Ride Control suspension with adaptive damping and performance traction management tech. You also can't get the sportier exhaust, which in turn unlocks an additional 5 hp and 5 lb-ft and actually pushes the Corvette's 0-to-60-mph time below the 3-second barrier, as if this car wasn't already holy-smokes quick.
But here's the thing: On several runs along my usual canyon test route north of Los Angeles, nothing about this base Corvette lets me down. It's clear that even the most stripped-down C8 is a fantastic driver's car through and through. In fact, it's one of the most memorable sports cars I've tested this year -- especially at this price. Frankly, all the Corvette most people really need.
The only real limitation here is the choice of all-season tires. But even then, I don't think the majority of Corvette owners will ever exceed the limits of what the Michelin Pilot Sport rubbers can muster (Chevy says they're good for 1.0 G of lateral grip, remember). If for some reason you find yourself needing something stickier, a whole slew of summer options are available from tire shops around the country. Besides, a $1,500 set of Pilot Sport Cup 2s is slightly easier to justify on what is, effectively, a $60,000 supercar.
And I do mean supercar. Just look at this thing; not a single part of the 1LT's appearance says "base Corvette." You get the same staggered 19-inch front and 20-inch wheels as other trims, and I don't have any qualms with the standard silver-painted look. Every Corvette comes with sharp LED headlamps and nothing about the long, low, wide proportions changes from model to model.
The only big difference is that cars without the Z51 performance pack lose the rear wing, and while I'm normally a spoiler-delete kind of guy, I kind of think the Corvette needs it. I'll go on record as saying I think the Stingray is pretty ugly from the dead-on rear and rear three-quarter views. Chevy's outdated notion that its mid-engine sports car needs to have a trunk wide and deep enough for two golf bags ends up squaring-off what could've been a shapely behind.
The Corvette's interior is hardly basic, with perforated leather wrapping the standard GT1 seats. And while these chairs aren't as comfortable as supportive as more expensive GT2 and GT3 options, I can't find a reason to complain. The seating position is excellent and never leaves me sliding around during spirited driving. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels great, too, though I hate its squircle shape, which doesn't really lend itself to nine-and-three hand placement.
As far as in-car tech is concerned, the Corvette offers some of GM's best. That 12-inch digital gauge cluster is standard across the board and it looks awesome, with colorful, reconfigurable displays. Move to the center stack and Chevy's Infotainment 3 setup is housed on a eight-inch, high-definition touchscreen. Upper trim levels include embedded navigation, but the C8 comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so if you have a phone and a USB cable, you're all set.
The 1LT doesn't offer much in the way of driver-assistance tech, sadly, with only rear parking assist and a backup camera. You can get rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring on more expensive Corvettes, and I might recommend the latter, since rearward visibility is kind of horrible. But don't lament the loss of things like automatic emergency braking or adaptive cruise control because Chevy doesn't offer this stuff on any Corvette trim, period.
Really, any issues I have with the Corvette aren't specific to the 1LT trim. Some of the plastic panels don't feel great, the accent stitching looks cheap and the whole center console is kind of an ergonomic mess. Maybe the single-column climate controls would become second-nature if I owned one of these, but the learning curve still involves a hunt-and-peck method of selection. That, and there's nowhere for your passenger to rest their left arm.
Taken as a whole, however, the 2020 Corvette Stingray 1LT is a sports-car bargain that's absolutely unmatched. Chevrolet's more expensive versions offer more creature comforts and widen the performance envelope, sure, but I'll be damned if this base Corvette isn't hugely impressive in its own right. Good luck finding a comparable experience for $59,995 out the door.