The mid-engined version of everyone's favorite American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, is coming. Or at least, a lot of auto industry folks think it's coming, thanks to all the rumors, leaked info, and test mules that have been spied recently. After decades of speculation and renderings, this is what we know so far about the most fervently anticipated American sports car in history.
(Shown above, an unofficial, speculative rendering of what a mid-engine C8 Corvette could look like)
It's Been a Long, Long Time Coming
There have been rumors about Chevrolet developing a mid-engine Corvette for half a century. Indeed, Chevy has built a number of mid-engine concepts through the years, only to abandon them somewhere in development.
The first official prototype (pictured above) was revealed all the way back in 1970, and it was nearly production ready. In 1986, GM showed off the Corvette Indy, complete with a mid-mounted twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel-drive. Then, in 2002, Cadillac revealed the stunning Cien concept at the Detroit Auto show. In between the Cien's axles, behind the passengers, was a 7.5L V12 with 750 horsepower. It wasn't branded as a Chevy, but industry watchers took it as a sign that GM wanted to do something big.
In 2004, it was decided that the Corvette had reached the limit of grip with the traditional front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. As legendary GM product guy and R&T contributor Bob Lutz explains, the design team got as far as constructing two full-scale clay models, a Corvette and the equivalent Cadillac XLR, both with the engine in the middle. Sadly, the recession of 2008 (and GM's eventual government bailout) caused the automaker to put a hold on, and eventually cancel, this mid-engined Corvette project.
Now, development on the C7's replacement has begun, and rumor has it, a mid-engine variant is in the works. Mark Reuss, head of Global Product development at GM, says that the C8 will be "revolutionary." To some Corvette watchers, that can only mean one thing: a mid-engine Chevy supercar.
GM Is Testing Prototypes
Earlier this year, one of our spy photographers caught what very much looks like mid-engine Corvette test mules undergoing winter testing. These mid-engine prototypes were testing alongside the upcoming Corvette ZR1. While these cars were heavily camouflaged, some trademark Corvette design elements are present.
Of course, a prototype isn't definitive proof that a mid-engine Corvette will reach production, but it seems increasingly likely.
It's Going to Take the Fight to the 911 Turbo S
Our spy photographers recently caught three mid-engine Corvette prototypes testing in southwest Michigan alongside a Porsche 911 Turbo S. The Corvette and 911 have always been rivals, but benchmarking a Turbo S indicates that Chevy is trying to make a true everyday supercar.
If It Happens, It's Going to Cost More Than a Regular Corvette
One of the key factors behind sales of the Corvette is it's outstanding value. With a starting MSRP of only $55,400, the current C7 represents a great deal for those who want fun and performance without having to drain their kids' college funds. Obviously, the mid-engined variant would cost more—probably a lot more, since it would require an all-new platform redesigned from the ground up. One-hundred fifty-thousand dollars seems to be the most popular number floating around, which is nearly double the starting price of the current Corvette king, the Z06.
While that number undercuts the Ford GT's MSRP of $450,000, that's still quite a bit of money for a Corvette. It's been suggested that there will still be a cheaper front-engined variant sold alongside the new mid-engined car, so as not to alienate any loyal fans or prospective buyers.
The Design Would Be Pretty Different
Since the engine is going to be sitting behind the cabin, the car will look quite different from the traditional Corvette layout. Just check out our spy photos from earlier this year for proof.
A mid-engine layout would give the Corvette very different proportions than we're used to, but it does appear that some trademark styling details are present. The roofline and windshield look distinctly Corvette, for example,
The Performance Will Be Even Better
The only reason the Corvette would switch to a mid-engined layout is for performance. Engineers at GM understand that there is a limit to how much power a front-engine supercar can put down, and how much cornering grip it can achieve. Although the current Corvette Z06 is a fantastic sports car, it's inherently held back by its front-mid-engine layout. With the engine in the middle, the car's weight distribution can be optimized, with turn-in and corner holding capabilities benefitting as a result.
The mid-engine Corvette has long seemed like a fantasy, a daydream promoted by automotive journalists, Corvette loyalists, and those who want to see an American automaker finally build a direct competitor to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. Recent evidence suggests that this wish could finally come true. While we're hesitant to call it a sure thing, we think there's a strong likelihood it could happen. And we can't wait to get our hands on it.
It Might Be Powered By a DOHC V8
A document that leaked late last year indicated that Chevrolet is working on a dual-overhead-cam V8 to be installed in the 2018 Corvette. Code-named LT5, it's widely expected that this engine will find a home in the upcoming ZR1, but it could find it's way into the mid-engine Corvette too. After all, it's hard to imagine Chevy developing a new engine for just one model. In the ZR1, this engine will almost assuredly have a supercharger, but it's unclear if the mid-engine Corvette will also rely on forced induction.
A DOHC engine has only been used in one Corvette before, the C4 ZR1, which was built from 1990 to 1995. That engine, also called the LT5, was designed by Lotus and built by Mercury Marine.
It Could Be Dual-Clutch Only
A Corvette without a manual? It seems like an impossibility, but . Instead, the mid-engine Corvette will use a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox sourced from Tremec. Of its seven speeds, the top three are overdrives, and Tremec says it can handle 9000 rpm input speed and 664 lb-ft of torque.
Car and Driver argues that Chevy will only offer this Corvette with one gearbox to reduce cost and complexity, but a world without a manual-transmission 'Vette is hard to imagine. Still, a dual-clutch would be a big improvement over the current Corvette's eight-speed auto.
A Hybrid Version Is a Possibility
In an August 2016 report, the Detroit News said the mid-engine Corvette is codenamed "Emperor," and that a hybrid version could be in the pipeline. Speaking to the Detroit News, Bob Lutz speculated that the mid-engine Corvette could have a small battery and electric motor to decrease fuel consumption and enable all-wheel-drive.