The release of a mid-engined Corvette seems to be a given, with various mules seen around the country, and even in the Nurburgring, where it has been observed on several occasions. The latest pictures from the middle of September show a definite resemblance to the current Corvette. When viewed from the front and rear that is, however, that's where the similarities end. As with a lot of the current crop of mid-engine cars, the mid-engined Corvette features a cab forward design. It’s safe to assume that this piece of Chevy automotive history will cover the walls of high school southerners in various designs of automotive art.
While GM has established the earlier generations of the Corvette as a high performance car by all measures, and an affordable one at that, deciding to produce a mid-engine variant is a venture that may not succeed as expected. Producing a mid-engine Corvette that will compete with the established supercar manufacturers like Lamborghini and Pagani is no easy task, even with the vast resources that General Motors can bring to the project. There are some factors that will come into play once the successor to the C7 is released.
1. Power Plant
There is the traditional base of loyal fans who have grown accustomed to a thundering V8 making itself heard from up front. Corvettes, from their inception, have always had a V8 in front driving the wheels in the back. To have the growl of a high performance V8 just behind your ear will take some getting used to, although not necessarily bad.
With complexity comes price. By all accounts, the mid-engine Corvette C8 will be more expensive than a race car driver's divorce. One of the great incentives for buying a Corvette is its affordability. Able to compete with high performance cars costing hundreds of thousands of dollars more, the front-engined Corvette is a great deal. New tooling and processes will undoubtedly raise the price of the Corvette to six figure territory, especially if Chevrolet hopes to make money off the things.
3. Ending Up in a Ditch, Without Your Pride
Thirdly, a mid-engined car handles very differently from a front-engined supercar. It’s not hard to imagine many new owners of the mid-engined C8 damaging their cars extensively because the car got away from them. A mid-engine design is more prone to snap oversteer, whereas a front engined car exhibits the more familiar push, or understeer. While a mid-engine car can be more exhilarating to the experienced track driver, the average Joe (who’s may be more accustomed to stoplight Grands Prix) will find the car a handful.
While modern cars are more difficult to maintain, even checking the fluids on a mid-engine car can be a chore. Components are more tightly packed in a mid-engine configuration, and access is not as easy as bending under the hood of a front-engined car.
Despite extensive testing at the Nurburgring (which in itself gives an indication of the seriousness of the effort), the mid-engine layout is unfamiliar territory to Chevy engineers. The earliest mid-engine Corvette prototype appeared in 1970, with various prototype models appearing in the decades since. Notable among these were the Corvette Indy in 1986, featuring a twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel drive, and the Cadillac Cien in 2002, which hid a 750-hp V12 amidships. So, a high-performance mid-engine car has already been stewing at GM for quite a while. These one-offs never made it to the production line but are now seen more often as automotive wall art, alongside Ferrari art or Lamborghini art.
Initially, it was thought that the mid-engine design would do away with the Vette’s traditional V8, as the development mules did not exhibit the traditional bellow of an American V8. A forced-induction V6 was hypothesized (ew), as it would offer a more compact package that would suit the mid-engine layout. However, it seems that a V8 will be offered on launch, which is anticipated for early next year. Future upgrades will most probably include a twin-cam cylinder head variant, forced induction, and even an electric front axle assisting the rear-driven wheels. The first two options have already been seen in previous iterations of Corvettes, and an electrically-driven front wheel drive should not be a very difficult add-on for the company’s army of engineers.
Only time will tell if Chevy’s foray into producing a mid-engine supercar will relegate the original version to history, remembered only as classic automotive wall art, museum displays, or historic races. For now, many traditionalists will probably be thinking twice about laying out the money for a much more expensive Corvette, whose outright performance and reliability is still an unknown in the real world. There are also the high performance cars currently available that it will be compared with, such as the offerings from McLaren, Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini. Initially, it will compared to the front-engined, rear-wheel drive original whose performance and desirability has been proven for the last 65 years, and whose renderings as automotive wall art are legendary in bedrooms, dorms and man-caves across the globe.