Priced to compete in a class seemingly of its own, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a mid-engine bargain.
The mid-engine Chevy Corvette benefits from some small improvements and feature tweaks aimed at making the 2021 model both easier to live with and more appealing. Not that a head-turner like the C8 'Vette wasn't already tremendously compelling to begin with, but hey, every little bit helps.
The 2021 Corvette Stingray is still powered by a 6.2-liter V8 engine making 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. This example features the performance exhaust upgrade, which bumps output to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft. The extra power is nice, but this is an option box you'll check more for the throatier sound the exhaust makes in Sport and Track modes than any appreciable difference in performance.
The performance exhaust isn't as loud as you might think, however. Sure, it'll give a good bark while cranking up and it'll howl nicely at full chat in the Corvette's sportier drive modes, but around town and on the highway, the Chevy's cabin is surprisingly quiet. Likewise, the Magnetic Selective Ride Control -- which can now be optioned independently of the Z51 performance pack for 2021 -- never makes the car feel punishingly harsh over bumps, even when damper firmness is dialed up.
Torque is sent to the rear wheels via a standard eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which you can exert manual control over via standard paddle shifters. Acceleration is obviously good; with nearly 500 ponies pulling just 3,366 pounds, the 0-to-60-mph sprint takes just 3 seconds. Not bad at all.
Going in a straight line is fun, but I really enjoy the way the Stingray carves up corners. The mid-engine configuration totally changes the Corvette's driving dynamic relative to its predecessors. The short hood and impressive front visibility make it easy to precisely position the car exactly where you want it on the road. The rotation point of the chassis seemingly falls right where my hips meet the seat, creating a confidence-inspiring connection between my inputs and the coupe's feedback. Power is plentiful; the suspension is firm, but not punishing. This car is impressively easy to drive -- and an even easier one to drive fast.
The 'Vette's three drive modes -- Touring, Sport and Track -- are selected by twisting a knob on the center console, right next to the electronic shifter. For even easier access, there's a Z button on the steering wheel that toggles a driver-customizable performance mode with a twitch of the thumb.
All C8 Corvettes are technically convertibles, you just have to decide if you want a removable roof panel or a full-on power retractable hardtop. From there, buyers have their pick of three trim levels. The 1LT is the nicely equipped base model with an 8-inch touchscreen running the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system, as well as a 12-inch digital instrument cluster. New for 2021 are wireless connections for the standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay tech and a new digital tachometer display option on the instrumentation screen.
Stepping up to the 2LT model adds a head-up display, onboard navigation software, Bose premium audio and wireless phone charging. The 1LT's GT1 seats are upgraded with power lumbar and wing adjustment, which is nice, and the buckets gain heated and ventilated surfaces.
Perhaps the most important upgrade to the 2LT model is the Rear Camera Mirror, which really should be standard equipment on a vehicle with rear visibility as poor as the Stingray's. It takes a little getting used to -- you have to look at it rather than through it -- but it's a huge upgrade over the gun-slit rear-view you otherwise get. The 2LT trim level also adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, which help deal with the Coupe's massive blind spots. Also standard on the 2LT is a Curb View Camera, which helps keep those staggered wheels -- 19-inch up front and 20-inch rears -- free of curb rash.
My loaded 3LT example upgrades the interior with leather and suede trim and swaps in GT2 seats with Nappa leather and carbon fiber accents. These seats look sweet but are not very comfortable. They're a touch too narrow in the shoulder -- though, surprisingly not in the midsection or hips -- which makes longer drives painful. And because the seats' carbon fiber shells come at the cost of some adjustability, there's nothing to do but grin and bear it.
My example has a Rapid Blue exterior matched with a Tension and Twilight Blue interior that verges on being too much blue, but looks fantastic… until you settle into the driver's seat during the day and see that the blue leather dashboard glares and reflects off of the windshield. Maybe stick with a more toned-down theme with an all-black dashboard when you spec yours.
Personally, I'd stick to the 2LT trim. It gets you all of the bells and whistles that matter and keeps the best version of the GT1 seats for daily driving. And you'll save $4,650 by skipping the leather, which can be put to better use elsewhere.
I'm normally a huge fan of physical buttons in a car's cockpit, but the Corvette's climate control bank is a bit of a mess. It's one long, vertical strip that runs along the ridge of the center console and requires entirely too much eyeball time to find the function you're looking for. Fortunately, standard automatic temperature control means you can set it and forget it, but that also means you'll be out of practice when it comes time to quickly make an adjustment or toggle the heated or cooled seats while driving.
One physical button I appreciate in particular is the one dedicated to activating the front and surround-view cameras. It's easily accessible at the front of the center console, just below the screen. A lot of other vehicles hide this feature in menus which can be difficult to access quickly. I prefer this dedicated button that can be tapped for instant camera access and peace of mind when squeezing into a parking spot.
Owners with steep driveways also will appreciate the Front Lift option, which raises the front suspension by about 2 inches in around 3 seconds. The system remembers up to 1,000 GPS locations where the lift has been deployed, so you don't have to tap the button every time you pull into your driveway or approach that particularly nasty speed bump on your commute. Just keep your speed under 24 mph as you approach a remembered location for an automatic nose lift over the obstruction.
The two-seat Corvette's practicality continues to impress me. The underhood space vacated by the engine leaves room for a medium to large-ish carry-on bag. Meanwhile, there's room for two small golf bags stacked in the trunk behind the engine bay -- or one big ol' bag, if you're a PGA pro. Of course, you lose that rear storage if you want to store the coupe's removable roof panel, but keep the top above your head and two people can pack pretty generously for a long weekend away.
The rear hatch has a soft-close feature kind of like the doors on an S-Class , so when you gently drop the lid, a motor secures the latch with a pull. However, the hood doesn't share this function, which is a bummer. You'll have to give the lightweight composite lid a good, hard slam every time -- it'll feel like you're going to break it, but put some oomph into it to make sure the frunk latches properly. If you don't and the Chevrolet detects the hood lifting at speed, it will electronically limit the 'Vette to 35 mph until you pull over and address the issue. This is better than the hood violently flipping back onto the windshield, but a soft-close feature like the rear would be a better solution.
The 2021 Corvette also features a new Buckle-to-Drive feature that prevents the transmission from shifting out of park before the driver's seatbelt is fastened. This new setting can be disabled in a menu -- which you may want to do when using a third-party racing harness in an on-track situation -- but it will still beep persistently at you if you attempt to drive unbuckled on public roads.
Another thing that hasn't changed for 2021 is the Corvette's price. The Coupe starts at $60,995 for the base 1LT, including the $1,095 destination charge, reaching $71,945 for the 3LT before options. As tested, this example has an $80,020 price tag thanks to the front lift option ($1,995), Magnetic Ride Control ($1,895), performance exhaust ($1,195) and visual upgrades to the wheels, paint and engine bay.
That may seem expensive for a Chevy, but remember that the only other mid-engine sports cars this side of six figures are the Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster models, both of which are very excellent competitors but also with half the cylinders and around 100 fewer ponies in their more expensive S models. The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is priced to compete in a class seemingly of its own.