Corvettes have come as partial convertibles with removable center roofs for decades — don’t call it a Targa; that’s a Porsche thing — but the convertible-versus-coupe debate for 2020 has a new twist. That’s because the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible offers a decidedly different drop-top experience thanks to its first-ever retractable hardtop. At a glance, top-down differences appear slim between the coupe with its top removed and the convertible with its top down. So, for an additional $7,500, does the C8 convertible do enough to differentiate itself?
Why Pick the Convertible?
Preserved Cargo Space
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the C8 convertible is that the cargo space is the same with the top up or down, and it’s unchanged from the coupe’s luggage space. The convertible’s roof retracts over the engine compartment and not into the cargo space, leaving both the rear and front trunks untouched when it’s retracted. There’s no trunk partition to worry about as there was with the C7 2014-19 convertible Corvette, so if your gear fits with the top up, then it fits with the top down.
The Vette road-trip crew should especially take note of the convertible if you plan to spend time with the top down and trunk(s) full. Like before, the coupe’s removable top still takes up most of the rear luggage space when stored, but without the bonus of more cargo space when the top is on — something the C7 offered. Trunk compartments on the C8 coupe or convertible easily accommodated my roller airline carry-on and a medium-sized backpack.
Third Power Window
Between the seats is a “mid-glass” power window that separates the occupant compartment from the rear tonneau cover. It lets in a pleasant breath of fresh air when the top is up and can hush wind noise and turbulence when the roof is down. What it does really well, however, is give the bassy V-8’s soundtrack an unobstructed path to your eardrums with the roof up and window down. The C8 sounds a bit subdued, even during wide-open throttle in Track mode with the optional performance exhaust, so I welcomed the extra volume coming into the cabin with the window down. As a side effect, the natural ticking of the engine is quite pronounced; I didn’t mind, but your tolerance may vary.
It’s a Show
As if the C8’s exotic looks aren’t already enough to bring every neighbor out of their basement, the remote-activated retractable roof is the one-two punch in neighborhood one-uppery. The large tonneau cover lifts up and the two-piece roof accordions into a tub over the engine before the tonneau extends and lowers over the retracted roof. But what about level 100 showing off? The top retracts while the car is in motion at speeds of up to 30 mph, a rarity for power-retracting hardtops. This party trick also happens in 16 seconds, versus the C7 convertible soft-top’s 25 seconds.
More than simply making your neighbors second-guess their $70,000 family SUV purchase, the major advantage here versus the standard removable roof is that it’s an entirely automatic operation. Like the C7 convertible, there’s nothing to manually unlatch, and the top goes down remotely via key fob, and up or down with a roof switch on the driver-side door panel.
This Transformer Is a Convertible in Disguise
The coupe’s transformation to a convertible loses very little cool factor. A traditional soft-top makes the car look frumpy: Imagine that sleek plunging roofline replaced with, essentially, a clamshell patio canopy. In addition to preserving the profile of the C8 coupe, the convertible doesn’t have a drastically different experience, either. It’s fairly indistinguishable, in fact, because wind and road noise and dynamics are so similar between the body styles. Base trim to base trim, the convertible does weigh an extra 102 pounds, with a curb weight of 3,637 pounds versus the coupe’s 3,535, though Chevrolet tweaked the shocks and springs to give the droptop a similar driving experience. Like the 1LT coupe with standard all-season tires, the 1LT convertible with a base suspension and all-season tires eats away road-trip miles in total comfort.
Why Skip the Convertible?
Rear Visibility Isn’t Better
You’d think rearward visibility would be great with the top down, but behind the seats is what Chevrolet calls a nacelle structure, which trails off into the rear tonneau cover. These large structures maintain the coupe’s profile but limit over-the-shoulder visibility. The base 1LT convertible comes with a rearview camera mirror (the 1LT coupe does not) that turns the rearview mirror into a camera display with a more complete view out back when the top is up. A blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert remain 2LT features, however.
On the downside, the camera mirror doesn’t work when the top is down because the camera is roof-mounted, so it folds into the car when the top retracts. That’s a bummer, as the raked rear deck blocks important things like the ability to determine whether that windshield in the rearview mirror is attached to a set of Ford Police Interceptor headlights. The coupe has more comfortable straight-back visibility through its rear hatch glass.
Most mid-engine cars limit rearward visibility, and the Vette makes the best of it with its electronic assists. As with the coupe, though, my recommendation here is to consider the 2LT trim.
Like the coupe with its top off, the air coming into the Corvette’s cabin still hits you mostly from behind, though it’s a less feverish blast than in the coupe and very livable at 70 mph. The nacelles and high rear deck keep the convertible from feeling like a traditional droptop, but it’s still a pleasant top-down experience, if a little untraditional. Then again, that’s the theme of the C8 as a whole: a little untraditional.
The C8’s 6.2-liter V-8, which makes 495 horsepower with an optional performance exhaust, hides underneath the tonneau cover versus being on display under a rear hatch. The visible engine is a showstopper in the coupe — but the convertible, of course, has its own show-stopper attributes.
When Can You Get a C8 Convertible?
If you’re asking when you can order and receive a C8 convertible, then you may already be behind the eight ball: Chevrolet is no longer taking orders for the 2020 model year, which it will now build for the rest of the year after extending production to meet current orders. Chevrolet dealers are instead taking orders right now for the 2021 Corvette, expected to start production in early 2021, according to Chevrolet spokesman Kevin Kelly. Because of production delays (not unique to Chevrolet given industry-wide delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic), the convertible went on sale much later than the coupe, with production only starting in mid-August. And if you don’t have one on order, it’s slim pickings on dealer lots; as of this writing, Cars.com’s national inventory shows just 52 2020 C8 convertibles on sale versus 136 coupes.
But is the Vette convertible worth the extra $7,500? The coupe doesn’t provide any additional cargo room as in previous generations, so why not pick the one that keeps its cargo space with the roof up or down? If your budget can swing it — and you can find one — the 2020 Corvette convertible addresses some of the coupe’s cargo downsides, so I don’t think you’d be missing out on much (well, other than $7,500).
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