How the new Chevrolet Corvette went from sports car to supercar
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The Chevrolet Corvette. One of the all-time most recognizable American sports cars and notorious scene-stealers in the history of cinema. But even as its supercharged versions, the Z06 and ZR1, continue to crank up the horsepower, the 'Vette hasn't quite slipped its way into the same class as the high-priced, high-speed supercars offered by automakers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, or McLaren. That is, until now. For the 2020 model, Chevrolet may have finally closed the gap with one crucial design change. And it's created an entirely new car that can definitely hang in the big leagues.
Since its introduction in 1953, the Chevy Corvette has undergone a number of changes, gradually transforming from a slick street cruiser into a high-powered race car. In recent years the car has even ventured into supercar territory with its high-performance Z06 models that gave luxury sports car owners a run for their money. For crying out loud, the 2019 ZR1 packed a 755 horsepower engine under its hood.
However, the Corvette's current design was holding it back from performing at its full potential. So the automaker's team went back to the drawing board and completely redesigned its iconic sports car. The company finally took the plunge and gave its fans a "mid-engine" Corvette.
So what's a "mid-engine" car. It's actually quite simple. It just means that instead of the engine sitting at the front of the car under the hood, it sits in the middle of the car, typically in the space right behind the driver. It's a layout found in some of the most popular exotic supercars because of how much it can improve a vehicle's performance.
So how exactly does a mid-engine design result in better performance? First of all, it improves the car's handling and braking. When the engine is placed in the middle, its weight is more evenly distributed between the front and rear wheels, allowing the vehicle to change direction more easily and rapidly. In a rear-wheel drive car, like the new Corvette, this added weight to the rear also increases traction and lets the rear brakes do more of the stopping.
A mid-engine design can also provide a boost in acceleration. Generally speaking, adding horsepower and torque to an engine means increasing its mass as well. However, in a rear-wheel drive vehicle, if that hefty engine is sitting on top of your front axle putting far less weight on the wheels all your power is coming from, there's only so much faster you can make your car go.This is exactly what happened to Chevrolet with its monstrous Corvette ZR1, despite its beast of an engine, wasn't performing much better than its previous generation models. The solution? Finally slide that engine back and see what this baby can do.
But a mid-engine Corvette wasn't some brand-new foreign concept. In fact, Chevy has been testing it since the 1960's with its series of Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicles. However, these prototypes remained concept cars because of issues with engine cooling, their limited passenger and luggage space, and an overall unbearable loudness. Fast forward to 2019, and advancements in engineering have finally given us a mid-engine Corvette that many have already labeled a supercar due to its comparable design and performance to a number of exotics.
So what does this mean for those luxury automakers selling high-performance cars for hundreds of thousands of dollars? It could spell trouble. Let's take a look at Ferrari. One of the Italian company's popular choices is the 458 Italia, a mid-engine supercar it produced from 2010 to 2015. As holder of the last naturally aspirated V8 engine Ferrari produced, the car remains a favorite, particularly with purists who despise its turbocharged successors.
Now, a quick look and you'll see that the new Corvette's base model and Ferrari 458 are extremely similar both mechanically and performance wise. The real difference? Price. At its release, the 2015 458 started at a cost of about $240,000. The 2020 Corvette? Try just under $60,000.
While the next-generation Corvette appears to be a Ferrari cousin with the lavish addition of modern tech throughout the interior, there are still plenty of questions about the car that will only be answered when it hits showrooms at the end of this year. But whether you're a traditionalist unhappy about the Corvette's complete reconstruction, or can't wait to get your hands on an exotic supercar for a fraction of the price, there's no arguing that the leap of faith Chevrolet has taken with its legendary 'Vette is the most radical change to happen in the American car industry in a long long time.
Source: Business Insider