We’re just a few short weeks away from July 18th – the debut date for the mid-engine Corvette C8, one of the most highly-anticipated cars in the history of the automobile. And quite frankly, we’re a bit worried. Not about the car’s performance – after all, the mid-engine layout is sure to make the C8 a beauty on the track. But beyond all the nerdy engineering benefits and capability gains, there seems to be a deeper, more troubling issue. Namely: who – exactly – is gonna buy the new mid-engine Corvette C8? In other words, who is this product for?
Sure, we’ve seen loads of hype and anticipation is running high, but it will all be for naught if it doesn’t carry over into actual sales. And from where we’re standing, it doesn’t look like the mid-engine Corvette C8 is a product for the typical Corvette owner. We’ll explain.
For starters, the new mid-engine platform completely changes the car’s styling and proportions. The previous seven generations of the Corvette featured a traditional GT aesthetic – a long (very long) hood followed by a cab-back greenhouse. The design is striking, imposing, and gorgeous. It immediately catches the eye. The C8, by comparison, has none of those things. In fact, it can’t. With the engine placed in the middle of the car, the cab must move forward, thereby automatically making the hood shorter. As a result, the overall profile of the mid-engine C8 Corvette is more or less the same as any other mid-engine exotic.
Granted, the Vette has undergone some radical styling changes over the last few generations (remember the taillight brouhaha of the C7?), but the mid-engine Corvette C8 will be a total and complete departure from a styling standpoint.
Then there’s the topic of interior comfort and practicality. The previous seven Corvette generations boasted a surprisingly comfortable and usable cabin, as any good Grand Tourer should. However, we suspect interior space will be at a premium with the mid-engine Corvette C8. Obviously, we don’t have specs or specific details, but when the cabin and engine are mounted in the same spot, the inevitable result is less space for people and things, and more space for the engine.
And that brings us to the heart of the matter: we have absolutely zero doubt that the mid-engine Corvette C8 will be an exceptionally capable performer. Not only will it be best-performing Corvette of all time, but it will also be one of the most capable sports cars in the world. So the mid-engine layout makes sense from a performance perspective, but we’re not convinced it makes sense from a business perspective.
That’s because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performance of the current C7. In other words, we don’t believe that higher performance and more capability is something that most Corvette buyers are looking for. The performance envelope of the C7 is already so high that one can’t really appreciate it without going to a race track, and few Corvette owners actually do that. So while the C8 will catapult performance limits even higher than the already highly capable C7, higher performance is not something Corvette owners are clamoring for.
Instead, most are looking for a sports car that looks exciting, drives well, and makes good noises on the onramp while traveling from A to B in comfort and style. Going mid-engine doesn’t help those folks at all.
At the end of the day, we can’t help but feel like the mid-engine Corvette C8 is an answer to a question nobody ever asked.
Now, that’s not to say that GM should have canned the project outright. Rather, we think that the product that will launch as the mid-engine Corvette would work significantly better as a Cadillac, rather than as a Chevrolet. The
Wreath and Crest brand needs a halo vehicle, and a mid-engine performance machine would do wonders to modernize and improve customer perceptions. Meanwhile, the next-gen Vette would stay front-engined. Heck, the C7 could even stick around for another decade with various updates here and there, something that would enable it to continue being a highly-competitive performer and Grand Tourer.
As it is, we hope the mid-engine Corvette C8 is a success, but something tells us that doing so would be difficult, unless GM can conjure up some 30,000 Zora disciples year after year. It’s almost as though Chevy is trying to create customers that don’t exist… or perhaps they know something that we don’t. Here’s to hoping for the latter.