New Corvette undergoes major redesign in bid to raise performance

Chevrolet isn’t just shifting the new Corvette Stingray into a higher gear. It’s getting rid of the stick shift altogether.

A dramatic redesign of the iconic sports car includes eliminating its manual transmission — and replacing it with an eight-speed, dual-clutch configuration that’s akin to what high-end racers like Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren use.

The new transmission performs “lightning-fast shifts and excellent power transfer,” General Motors’ Chevrolet division said as it unveiled the 2020 Corvette at a splashy event Thursday night in Orange County, Calif.

That isn’t the only dramatic change that comes with the eighth-generation, 2020 ’Vette, which GM has dubbed the C8. After hiding under the hood for 66 years, GM’s trademark small-block V8 now sits just behind the passenger compartment.

The new, mid-car engine location — also standard on many European super cars — is so close to the driver that the belt running the water pump is a foot away.

The idea is to give the new ’Vette the weight balance and center of gravity of a race car that can compete with those famous models overseas, according to GM President Mark Reuss.

“The traditional front-engine vehicle reached its limits of performance, necessitating the new layout,” Reuss said in a statement ahead of the C8’s unveiling. “In terms of comfort and fun, it still looks and feels like a Corvette, but drives better than any vehicle in Corvette history.”

The drive comes from a 495-horsepower engine — 40 more than the C7 engine — that takes the vehicle from zero to 60 mph in under three seconds. That’s a boast that can only be made in the US by high-end Teslas and Chrysler’s Dodge Challenger.

The best feature of the new Corvette, however, may be the price. Without committing to an exact number, Reuss said the base model will sell for under $60,000 — an increase of less than $5,000 from the 2019 model.

That’s a steal compared to the $202,723 required to buy the lowest-cost Ferrari.

Porsche’s 911 Carrera S entry model starts at $113,300.

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Despite the price difference, Roadshow by CNET tests showed that the new Corvette was faster, lighter and more powerful than the Porsche.

Plus, it has two trunks: a small one up front that can hold a TSA-approved carry-on bag and a laptop computer case and a rear trunk that GM claims can hold two sets of golf clubs.

“With its mid-mounted engine and increased focus on performance and handling, the ’Vette is better poised to not only take on a growing crop of high-horsepower American sports cars, but the world’s best supercars, too,” Roadshow concluded.

GM said workers at its plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, producing Corvettes since 1981, are starting to build the C8 for showroom sales later this year.

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