he 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is quicker, faster, and better on the track in almost every metric than the C7. Yet the mid-engine C8 is also shorter, heavier, and more fuel efficient. It carries a more European supercar style yet is the beating heart of American automotive gumption. It’s a bundle of beautiful contradictions, so here’s another one: The track star makes for a pretty comfortable road tripper, all things considered.
I drove the 2020 Corvette 2LT with the Z51 Performance package more than 800 miles roundtrip over two days, with three-quarters of it on the Interstate. I would’ve preferred Ohio’s undulating county highways, but with deadlines looming as heavy as the clouds overhead it was time to shake a leg.
The key takeaways from my time in the Vette have nothing to do with taking it on a racetrack: There’s no way you’re fitting two golf bags, it’s quieter than the C7 despite the engine being over your shoulder, its packed tight but not uncomfortably, and it has adoring fans everywhere.
As a grand tourer, the hits added up like thumbs up from so many passersby.
With the exception of a 1967 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus Samba I drove this summer, no other vehicle came close to garnering the kind of positive attention the C8 Corvette in Sebring Orange received; not a half-million dollar Rolls-Royce, not a three-wheeled Slingshot, not even the Velocity Yellow C7 Stingray convertible I drove to cover Corvette culture when the sinkhole opened in the National Corvette Museum in 2014.
The fraternal bond of ‘Vette owners spans nearly 70 improbable years as America’s only affordable supercar. This trip elicited happy honks from semi drivers, goofy selfies from tweens, and more in-motion thumbs up than Siskel and Ebert gave in “At the Movies.”
I’m not convinced all the gawking passersby knew it was a Corvette until they saw the formidable rear end and unmistakable checkered flag logo. The stunning design of the mid-engine C8 features a decadent European supercar profile, a low, short nose, and cues of pure Corvette Americana throughout.
Nearly everything in the cabin is controlled by a thumb except for the paddle shifters. A thumb opens the doors from inside and out. A thumb is best to press icons on the narrow 8.0-inch touchscreen because resting your fingers on top of the screen provides better accuracy. A thumb works best to run up the climate control wall that separates the driver from the passenger. And, with hands on the wheel, thumbs are easiest for steering wheel controls. Yes, I enjoyed the hexagonal steering wheel and how it let me rest my wrists in various ways during the long highway drive. In more spirited driving, the unfamiliar contours gave it four points of reference, like a compass.
The C8 Corvette is more than 5 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the C7, with a slightly longer wheelbase, though it’s narrower inside. The cabin is cramped but comfortable, as long as you’re not a large human. My tester came with the GT2 bucket seats ($1,495) that were snug but never too tight. Heated, cooled and wrapped in nappa leather with the 2LT package, the seats have large side bolsters and 8-way power adjustments in addition to four-way lumbar adjustments.
That was key over 800 miles. It was comfortable enough to walk away with no lower back pain, but no matter how much I adjusted the seats, the seat belt chaffed my collar bone by the end of the day. It can be removed from the snap-in seat belt threader on the top of the seat, which should add variability to the position, but I didn’t realize that until afterward.
While the mid-engine layout affords a front trunk that can accommodate two carry-on bags, in no way can the trunk space behind the engine fit two sets of golf clubs, unless there are no bags. It’s long enough to fit drivers and woods, but not deep enough for two actual golf bags, unless they’re both really slender and not chunked with balls, tees, cooler bags, and that tattered golden scoresheet from the one time you almost shot par. I’d rather not golf than not ’Vette.