Living With a 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8: All That and Fuel Efficient Too?

As I sat on the porch of my family’s lake house on the eastern coast of rural Michigan gazing at the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray sitting on the grassy lawn, I couldn’t help but stare at it and think, “I can’t believe they actually built it.” 

Related: 2020 Chevrolet Corvette: Everything You Need to Know 

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After 50 years of hemming and hawing about shifting the Corvette to a mid-engine configuration, and several concept cars and prototype testers running around GM’s technical center over those decades, the automaker finally pulled the trigger and did it. This latest version, the C8 to Corvette fans, is the pinnacle of GM’s old-school automotive engineering prowess; it’s not the latest electric, autonomous, self-guided mobility pod that demonstrates the modern idea of what a car is becoming, but instead it’s the height of the enthusiasts’ achievements at GM. It’s a supercar in form and function, sharing more details with brands like McLaren and Ferrari than not, but wearing an American badge and featuring a sticker price that heralds the new democratization of mid-engine supercars. 

The idea behind the Corvette always has been to create the ultimate American sports car, but one that’s usable on a daily basis. A lot of people do indeed use their Corvettes as primary transportation, which is not necessarily something you find with exotic mid-engine brands like McLaren, Ferrari or Lamborghini. Those cars tend to be too fragile, too extreme, too fussy or uncomfortable to use on a daily basis. Which left us wondering — in Chevrolet’s move to reconfigure the Corvette, had the brand given up that daily usability in the chase for the next level of performance?

Comfort Is King

My week with the new Corvette didn’t have any track time, but that’s OK (this time). The vast majority of Corvette owners don’t take their cars to tracks, just like the majority of SUV owners never touch a dirt road. Frankly, after driving this Corvette around for a week, I’m not sure I’d want to take this specific one to a track — it’s too soft. I had the 2LT trim level, the mid-grade model, which did not feature GM’s phenomenal adjustable-firmness Magnetic Ride Control dampers or the Z51 Performance Package that includes things like bigger brakes, a performance tuned suspension, a different final drive ratio, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and more. What that means is a lower sticker price, just $72,075 including destination fee. For a car that can still get from 0-to-60 mph in about 3 seconds with a 6.2-liter V-8 throbbing away behind your head, that’s an astonishing bargain. 

It’s also far, far more comfortable than the last Corvette. The ergonomic layout of the cabin in the C7 was questionable. It was tight and confined, with little room and a highly reclined seating position — not as bad as the last Dodge Viper’s reclined seating position, but still more than some people are comfortable with. Not so in the new C8. The adjustability of the driver and passenger seats is improved over the last version. Headroom is adequate too, and even with my well-padded 6-foot-tall frame, I had no problem getting comfortable in the Vette. It’s also a lot easier to get into and out of than just about any other mid-engine supercar I’ve driven. There’s none of the wide sill problem that you have to climb over to get into a McLaren 720S, for instance, thanks to the Corvette’s construction that builds everything off of a super-stiff central aluminum spine. The interior of this production model exhibited none of the questionable assembly quality that the internet has talked about from customers. 

The Zen of Corvette

What’s most shocking about the new Corvette is just how unaggressive and easy to use it is. The old one was brash, harsh, loud, delivering an in-your-face attitude that was equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. The new one … does not. The C8 feels far more refined, much quieter, much smoother than the C7 — almost too smooth, frankly. Despite the angular bodywork, all the rough edges of the Corvette have been filed off to leave you with a car that’s as easy to drive as a Chevrolet Malibu out on the street. The base suspension is shockingly compliant, delivering a smooth ride that filters out road imperfections to an amazing degree. Sure, a big crater or massive bump will still set your teeth rattling, but even without the adjustable magnetic suspension set on a comfort mode, it survived Michigan’s crumbling streets without beating up its passengers in the slightest.

And it’s astonishingly quiet, even with the optional performance exhaust (which increases horsepower and torque) meant to open up its pipes and let the sound and fury flow. Keep it in its quietest setting, and you can sail through town like a stealth fighter, nobody noting your passing at all. Even with the exhaust fully opened in the Track setting, it’s still not as startlingly loud as the old Corvette, even with the sound artificially piped into the cabin. 

Speed and Thrift?

The speed is real, however. Mash your foot and the 495-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 slingshots the Corvette forward at deceptive speeds. The smoothness of the car masks just how fast you’re actually going — it’s not uncommon to think you’re going just a little over the speed limit on the highway, only to realize that you’re actually going significantly over the speed limit. And even at those speeds, the Corvette is doing something amazing — it’s cutting out half the cylinders in the name of fuel efficiency. 

Exceptional Gas Mileage

I drove from my home in Ann Arbor, Mich., to the family lake house near Lexington, Mich., an entirely highway distance of about 130 miles. The Corvette’s computer told me that I’d covered it with an average speed of 79 mph, with an average fuel economy of 29.1 mpg. My total week with the Corvette covered nearly 400 miles, and reported an average fuel economy of 25.4 mpg. And I promise you, I did not drive it gingerly. That kind of fuel economy is exceptional for a car like this. By comparison, the car is EPA-rated at 15/27/19 mpg city/highway/combined, meaning it apparently gets considerably better than its ratings, even when driven hard and in a spirited fashion. 

Still Room for Improvement — but Not Much

Not everything’s perfect with the new Corvette, however. There are still a few issues with the car that need some addressing, such as storage available inside and outside the passenger compartment. Putting your phone in the holder behind your right arm sounds like a neat idea, but not if you intend to also plug it into the car’s multimedia system to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. And the move to a mid-engine layout means that you no longer have the massive storage area under the rear glass that the last several Corvettes coupes featured. Yes, you can still fit two golf bags in the rear compartment, but most hard-sided styrofoam coolers won’t. You’ll be investing in soft-sided luggage if you plan on taking road trips with more than one person. A standard rollaboard suitcase does fit in the frunk with room for a laptop bag on top, but any luggage larger than that will have a hard time fitting in the car at all — time for some premium duffel bags. 

Aside from these issues, the new C8 Corvette is actually a more usable, more livable daily driver than the previous one was, despite its exotic-car layout and design. You can take it grocery shopping and fit a sufficient amount in the two storage areas to feed a family. It’s surprisingly fuel efficient and features a compliant, comfortable, quiet driving experience that feels more posh luxury coupe than fire-breathing sports machine. It’s easy to get in and out of, won’t burst your kidneys on the first patch of frost-heaved pavement, and costs almost half what a Nissan GT-R goes for — or more than $100,000 less than the starting price of an Audi R8. I may be spending considerably too much time on the Chevrolet Corvette configurator, building one how I’d like. Spend a few days with one and you might be too. 

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