The best Corvette ever built and our 2020 Car of the Year enters its second model year with meaningful small updates. Chevrolet introduced the eighth-generation "C8" Corvette for 2020, stealing headlines as the first Corvette to abandon the front-engine layout and position the engine amidships. The Chevy competes with other high-performance sports cars including the Porsche 911, Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Mercedes-AMG GT, and BMW M4.
We loved the C8 Corvette enough in 2020 to bestow upon it our highest honor: Car of the Year. We called it the most significant game-changer in usable mid-engine performance since the original Acura NSX of the early 1990s. In addition to the astonishing performance numbers it lays down in MotorTrend testing, the C8 is amazingly quiet, rides remarkably well, and delivers a level of interior quality never seen on previous Corvettes. The base car is almost as impressive, although you'll want the Z51 performance pack for maximum confidence at the limit.
If the Corvette has a significant shortcoming, it's the sheetmetal. Character lines appear incongruous, and although the shape and proportions seem right, the details are off. It looks fast but not necessarily pretty.
Don't worry, though; the C8's performance easily overshadows any flaws. Not only is this car quick and satisfying for a Corvette, the driving experience is alluring enough that it may draw buyers away from Porsches, BMW M cars, and AMGs. Straight-line acceleration to 60 mph bests the outgoing 755-hp Corvette ZR1 and matches the 789-hp Ferrari 812 Superfast. Braking is similarly world class, and although it tends to understeer at the limit, handling balance is sublime. It easily held its own in a track comparison against the Shelby GT500.
It's an easy, confidence-inspiring car to drive quickly or to tackle a continent-crossing grand tour. It is without question the best Corvette ever made, and it just might be the best sports car on sale.
The C8 Corvette's powerplant might be the most conventional aspect of its engineering. Aft of the passenger compartment and ahead of the rear wheels sits a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated pushrod V-8, but for the first time in Corvette history, there's only one transmission option: an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. No clutch pedals or manual shift levers here. Power output for the V-8 reads 490 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque, or 495 hp and 470 lb-ft with the performance exhaust system included in the Z51 package.
Moving the engine rearward and employing a quick-shifting dual-clutch with short gearing enables the Corvette to deliver supercar-rivaling performance. In a straight line, it'll launch to 60 mph in an eye-widening 2.8 seconds on its way to an 11.1-second quarter mile at 123.2 mph (the non-Z51 base car comes in at 3.3 seconds and 11.5 seconds at 121.9 mph). Not to mention, it can lap our figure-eight course in 23.3 seconds. The C8's performance numbers compete with those of cars costing three times as much.
Fuel economy is impressive for a car that delivers this level of athleticism, especially considering the Corvette's non-turbo high-displacement V-8. Cylinder deactivation enables the C8 to run on just four cylinders for efficient highway cruising. The car is EPA-rated at 15/27 mpg city/highway.
Despite expectations that Chevrolet would increase prices for the 2021 model year, the automaker keeps entry-level pricing for the C8 Corvette at $59,995 for the 2021 model year. If you're after the Corvette Convertible's folding hardtop, that model will set you back at least $67,495.
Chevrolet splits the Corvette into three trim levels. Starting with 1LT, the Corvette is equipped with all that mid-engined awesomeness but relatively straightforward features and trim. Upholstery options for the GT1 seats are limited to black, red, or gray. The audio system has 10 speakers. A good amount of kit is still included, like a digital gauge cluster display, wireless phone connectivity, and dual-zone climate control.
Stepping up to 2LT brings expanded interior upholstery choices, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, and cargo nets. Technology is enhanced by a digital rearview mirror, curb-view parking cameras, wireless device charging, and a 14-speaker Bose audio system. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also added—helpful, considering the C8's tricky rear visibility.
At the top of the Corvette range is the 3LT trim, which essentially increases the interior's luxurious ambiance. That comes from additional leather and suede applied across the cabin, as well as more upholstery color choices. 3LT models are also equipped with GT2 seats, which have more aggressive bolstering and carbon fiber trim.
Which C8 trim level is the one to get? Any is performance bargain, but we think the 2LT model hits the sweet spot.
Tick the box for the Z51 Performance package to extract the maximum potential of the 2021 Corvette. It'll set you back $5,995—effectively 10 percent of the base price—but the level of equipment included is well worth it. In addition to the raucous performance exhaust system that unlocks 5 hp and 5 lb-ft of torque, the Z51 pack adds upgraded suspension and brakes, an electronic limited-slip differential and performance rear axle ratio, front and rear splitters, high-performance summer tires, and a heavy-duty cooling system. Spending another $1,895 adds magnetic ride control.
Especially for a mid-engine sports car, the Corvette offers an impressive amount of usable space. Total cargo capacity measures 12.6 cubic feet between the front and rear trunks. We found the rear trunk will easily swallow two golf bags or at least one carry-on bag, and the front trunk, or frunk, can accommodate smaller bags.