Though we all knew it was coming, the official lid-lifting on the mid-engined Corvette Stingray is still a huge moment for enthusiasts. Following six decades of Vettes utilising the same mechanical layout, the switch from front-to-mid-engined configuration is momentous: it should mean a whole new dimension of performance and handling, as well as a Corvette that looks totally different to any other.
There's no need to dwell on the styling, because everyone will have their own view and there are more important things to talk about. For what it's worth, the folks at Chevy would tell you this C8 is still "unmistakably Corvette", boasting a "bold, futuristic expression with mid-engine exotic proportions" as well as an "athletic sculptural shape conveying a sense of motion and power from every angle." So there you are - now argue among yourselves...
Of greater note are the new underpinnings; the entire 1,530kg structure is built around the super-stiff, centre tunnel - using what's known as the 'Bedford Six' selection of die-cast aluminium parts - which is said to have all manner of benefits. Structural rigidity gives the suspension a solid foundation from which to work from, for a start. There are also less obvious advantages: with so much chassis stiffness bound up in a low, central tunnel, the centre of gravity is low, the Corvette removable roof panel is still there, both left- and right-hand drive will be available and this Stingray is said to have "outstanding" ingress/egress. Make your jokes about Corvette buyers' mobility... now. Once in, those customers will sit in a cabin 16.5-inches further forward than before thanks to the layout, this also an interior that "envelops the driver, conveying the high performance and aeronautic theme."
Some really significant changes underneath the Stingray, then, but also one overwhelmingly familiar trait: an enormous V8 powering the rear wheels. Chevrolet says the 495hp, 470lb ft 6.2-litre LT2 gives a "visceral experience"; now dry-sumped for the first time in the base model and of course mounted lower, even the engine should help contribute to the Corvette's new-found extra dynamism.
Another first for 2020 is the dual-clutch gearbox; there's absolutely no mention - for now, at least - of a manual gearbox. The DCT is a brand-new transmission, built with Tremec, and is reckoned to provide "the spirited, connected feeling of a manual and the premium driving comfort of an automatic." Which sounds a bit far-fetched, truth be told, but handily we're told that gears two to six - those ones that would be used on a quick drive - are short, and that the shifts are "lightning quick".
A different layout has mandated a whole new suspension arrangement for the Stingray, though with the promise of "superior ride comfort on the highway and well-balanced handling on the track." As standard - options to be dealt with in a second - the Corvette uses double wishbones at each corner with coilover dampers, E-boost assisted brakes (321mm front discs, 339mm rear), a more direct steering ratio that's now 15.7:1 from 16.25:1 and standard launch control, for a 0-60mph time of less than three seconds. There's even a nose lift, what with the Corvette now being a bonafide, ground-scraping supercar, raising the front in 2.8 seconds at up to 24mph. Tyres are by Michelin, the standard fitment said to be the first sports car application of the Pilot Sport ALS, with a Pilot Sport 4S part of the Z51 performance pack.
Ah yes, Z51, a product code that will be familiar to Corvette aficionados. As before, it sounds very much like an upgrade worth having, bringing in for this car a host of welcome enhancements: in addition to those tyres it gets bigger brakes (345mm and 350mm discs, front and rear respectively), Magnetic Ride Control dampers, a specific axle ratio and a performance exhaust.
There's plenty more scope for personalisation, too. There are three seat options - GT1 is the base chair (no pun intended), GT2 and then Competition Sport ratcheting up (that one was) the aggressiveness - 12 paint colours, six seat belt colours, two optional stitch packages and six interior colour themes. Phew. Perfect time, in fact, to talk about the cabin then...
Whether in something plain like Jet Black or a racier Adrenaline Red, this is clearly a very different Corvette interior to those that have come before. Note, as examples, the two-spoke wheel (to view the 12-inch dash display more clearly), the vertical climate controls and thin vents (for a lower dash, and thus more space), the generous use of real metal (it says here) and the prominent wheel-mounted shifters. Maybe a manual gearbox could fit where that enormous cubby currently resides. Or maybe not.
That's about it for now on the 2020 Corvette Stingray, Chevrolet adamant this car will bring customers "new levels of performance, technology, craftsmanship and luxury." It seems pretty remarkable, therefore, given how much has changed, that this car will cost less than $60,000 in its domestic market. But that's what it will be, Chevy saying the C8 continues the model's tradition as a "no compromise value proposition". Production will begin at Bowling Green later this year - count us in as one of very many keen to learn more.