As February came to a close, a scan of current auto news headlines revealed a clear preoccupation with the Q1 assault of tentpole auto shows and automaker woes (be it fiscal or recall-oriented). In fact, so prevalent have such stories been that it has sometimes proven difficult to get excited about certain new offerings and advances, without the sensation being diminished under the weight of both negativity and scrutiny.
And since General Motors has been one of the automakers to endure the lion’s share of such headlines in recent months, the string of poor decisions and executive level snafu’s being highlighted makes it genuinely hard to sympathize with GM’s troubled plight. However, for the car-lover in all of us, it’s hard not to appreciate the latest drama surrounding the iconic Corvette.
Awaiting the C8
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a handful of years since the industry first began talking in hushed whispers about GM’s plans to develop a mid-engine Corvette.
Based on what details have been released, expectations are that the C8 will be powered by an updated 6.2-liter LT1 V8 engine. But there has also been a fair share of talk supporting additional powertrain configurations, including a 5.5L twin turbo engine, and an all-wheel-drive hybrid engine capable of wrangling close to 1,000 horses.
Originally, the intention seemed to have been to introduce the C8 at January’s Detroit Auto Show with mass production to begin by summer of 2019. However, that timeline has been adjusted, with it widely believed that the debut will take place this summer; a standalone event, unattached to any of the tentpole auto shows. If so, production is likely to be moved out as far as December.
But setting aside any frustration with the production/release delays, it goes without saying that the C8 has generated a lot of excitement. Almost too much one might argue, considering that it’s now being blamed by some for sabotaging Corvette sales.
With the availability of the C8 faintly visible, just over the horizon, it’s really no surprise that sales of the C7 are far from being described as “strong.” It was recently reported that combined sales of the C7 during the month of January (2019) maxed out around 700 units, ranking as an all-time low for the Corvette. And while there’s no seasonal assurance that Corvettes should show strong sales in the winter months, the fact that tracking software puts current dealer inventories somewhere around the 9000 unit mark (at an MSRP of around $55,000 and above) is deserving of some concern. And if the fact that this equates to a 232-day supply of the iconic model, the fact that GM’s Bowling Green production facility continues to churn out the C7 Corvette might be a more damning indictment of a flawed strategy.
But that strategy doesn’t necessarily come from the top at GM, nor is it an intentional strategy at all. It comes from the fact that dealers are inclined to keep ordering Corvettes, rationalized by incentive and rewards programs that exist at the dealer level. While it might seem counterintuitive, larger orders place those dealerships in higher esteem with the automaker, making them the more likely recipients for C8 inventory, positioning the dealerships for greater success in 2020 and beyond. The fact that (i) not everyone will prefer the C8 over the C7, and (ii) that pricing incentives might be offered to buyers in the near future to unload the aging C7 inventory provides some degree of assurance to the dealership, and thus, the extent of risk being shouldered by the dealerships is unknown at this point.
So, with that said, let’s take a closer look at the C7 – and explore whether it will be completely overshadowed by its impending successor, or if it might be more deserving of immediate consideration.
Appreciating the C7
With six model years under its belt, it would be difficult to argue the point that the C7 Corvette is due for an update. But that’s really just “big picture” talk, meant to propel innovation and new model year sales. If any late-model offerings are deserving of extended appreciation, it’s likely that they come from the performance car segment. And a forward-thinking take on an iconic driver’s car with a 3.7-second sprint to 60 mph is a perfect example of a vehicle likely to prove an enduring favorite.
As of 2019, the Corvette lineup consists of the Stingray (what can hardly be considered a base model), the Grand Sport, Z06, and ZR1 covering an approximate price span of $70 thousand dollars. And while such an exorbitant price tag may not find the unique demands of everyone’s budget, it only speaks to reaffirm the Corvette’s appeal at any level. So whether your choice of Corvette comes prompted by pricing or performance ratings, there are plenty of options to choose from.
And that 3.7-second sprint comes courtesy of a 6.2-liter LT1 V8 engine churning out 460 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque, at least for the Stingray and Grand Sport variants. Of course, these numbers jump up to 650 hp and 650 lb-ft respectively, when we’re talking about the Z06. Equipped with the LT4 supercharger (20 LBS lighter than its predecessor) a 1.7-liter displacement and four-lobe rotor design serves up an enhanced, and more efficient performance, assisted by an integrated intercooler. Then, of course, there’s the ZR1 which comes powered by an LT5 small block 6.2-liter V8 with the larger Eaton supercharger to date. 52% larger than that of the aforementioned LT4, the ZR1’s engine cranks out a staggering 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. A new dual fuel injection system made its Chevrolet debut, partners with the Direct Injection system to provide additional fuel during extreme throttling. Not that many of us, among the casual everyday driver, are going to find ourselves behind the wheel of a ZR1 anytime soon.
Such impressive importance combined with an inspired aesthetic reminds us why there’s never a pressing need for most people to jump aboard the next-gen offering. Blending form and function, the sleek Stingray convertible is designed for superior aerodynamics, incorporating a boldly-styled (yet functional) hood air extractor to reduce front-end lift, and uniquely sculpted Bi-Xenon HID headlamps.
Switching over the hardtop Grand Sport, Chevy takes the same sophisticated DNA, and infuses it with a more confident, aggressive and wider stance, while offering plenty of opportunities for customization. The Z06 takes this a step further by offering tiered levels of performance-minded upgrades courtesy of the Aero, Carbon Fiber Aero, and Z07 Performance Packages. While the ZR1 boasts the most commanding stance and muscular lines of them all, there isn’t a single ridge or contour on the ZR1 that fails to play a role in its impressive 212 mph top speed and 2.85-second sprint to 60 mph.
Still Waiting for a C8?
We’re not judging, the excitement surrounding the next-gen mid-engine Corvette has been building for a long time now. But to those still considering a more immediate purchase, there are plenty of things to like about the outgoing C7 lineup.