2020 Chevrolet Corvette Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Sep 30, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

Chevrolet has irrevocably altered the course of Corvette history. Redesigned this year, the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette adopts a mid-engine layout similar to most exotic supercars. This action sets the stage for significant performance gains the company says were not possible with the previous front-engine design.

Simultaneously, the all-new 2020 Corvette retains essential characteristics of those which came before it. Given the standard performance level, the car remains a genuine bargain at a starting price of less than $60,000. It retains a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 engine, styled for viewing under the car’s rear window glass. It only has two seats. And a handful of styling cues tie the redesigned Corvette to those of the past.

Leaps forward include newfound levels of interior quality and technical sophistication, a brilliant dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT), and a different look, feel, and driving character that can win over a new generation of Corvette fans necessary to sustain the 68-year-old nameplate for its next several decades of existence.

Available as a coupe or a convertible, the new 2020 Corvette comes in unimaginative 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT trim levels, as though it were nothing more special than a Chevy Equinox. To each, a Z51 Package adds more power and performance, and the automaker will expand the lineup in years to come.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT Z51 Coupe Orange Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Corvette 3LT Z51 Coupe equipped with optional paint, upgraded wheels, Competition Sport seats, orange seat belts, carbon-fiber trim, a Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension, a front suspension lift system, an Engine Appearance Package, and several cosmetic accessories. The price came to $86,865, including the $1,095 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the redesigned Corvette, it is helpful to understand who buys premium sporty cars, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 82% of owners in this segment are male (vs. 60% for the entire automotive market), and the median age of a premium sporty car owner is 61 years (vs. 56).

Owners say their favorite things about this type of vehicle are (in descending order) the exterior styling, powertrain, driving feel, setting up and starting, and feeling of safety. Specifically, these five things about premium sporty cars rank highest in comparison to all vehicles:

  • Exterior styling
  • Power of engine/motor
  • Steering/handing in normal conditions
  • Smoothness of engine/motor
  • Sound of engine/motor

Owners indicate their least favorite things about this type of vehicle are (in descending order) the interior design, driving comfort, infotainment system, fuel economy, and getting in and out. Specifically, these five things about premium sporty cars rank lowest in comparison to all vehicles:

  • Getting in and out of the front seats
  • Vehicle protection
  • Getting in and out of second-row seats
  • Rear seat comfort
  • Ease of loading and unloading

The J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study did not include the new Corvette.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides his perceptions about how the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette measures up in each of the ten categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Look closely, and you’ll see how the new 2020 Corvette recalls those of the past. From the headlight locations and fender sweeps to the tapered rear window and quad-element taillights, classic Corvette cues are evident in the new design. And the angular themes introduced with the seventh-generation Corvette (C7) continue to define the eighth-generation car (C8).

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT Z51 Coupe Orange Rear View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Nevertheless, with its cabin pulled forward toward the front wheels and its long tail wrapped around a mid-mounted engine, the redesigned Corvette adopts the proportions of nearly every supercar taped up on young driving enthusiasts’ bedroom walls since the days of the Lamborghini Countach. The fundamental reformulation of what a Corvette is will undoubtedly serve it well as Chevrolet seeks to appeal to a new generation of performance car buyers.

Interior

Long criticized for its cheap-looking interior, the 2020 Corvette is substantially improved in this regard. When decked out with the 3LT trim level, which adds premium leather, a simulated suede headliner, and real carbon fiber interior trim, the Corvette’s quality matches that of a typical Cadillac.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Chevy goes high-tech with the new Corvette, too. Digital instrumentation, the latest infotainment system, and a dramatic approach to the transmission and climate controls firmly cement the Corvette as a thoroughly modern supercar. And while the unusual control layout may appear daunting, it’s actually quite easy to use.

Expectedly, in-cabin storage is limited, and Chevrolet awkwardly locates the wireless smartphone charger on the car’s rear wall. Pack light in terms of personal items and drinks, and you’ll find enough space.

Getting In and Out

It’s not easy to get into or out of a Corvette, but this is nothing new. At least the side sills are relatively low and narrow for a mid-engine supercar, which helps ease the process. Also, you need to open the doors wide to get in or get out, so avoid tight parking.

The new Corvette has two trunks. You’ll find the first in the front of the car, under the hood. It holds a typical airline carry-on suitcase plus, depending on its size, a backpack, or other smaller item. Loading this front trunk, or frunk, is easy. Just be sure to latch it when you’re done.

Beneath the enormous rear hatch, between the engine compartment and the back of the car, is another trunk. This one is wide and deep, but short. You can place a couple more carry-ons inside, and Chevrolet designed it to hold two sets of golf clubs. The Corvette Coupe’s removable roof panel also stores in this location. Loading this trunk is more challenging due to the high liftover height, and with the Z51’s rear spoiler, the required clearance is even greater.

Together, the trunks provide a total of 12.6 cubic feet of luggage space. That’s roughly equivalent to a typical compact sedan.

Setting Up and Starting

Sitting in the new Corvette is an experience like no other car. Cabin design inspired by fighter jets, coupled with forward visibility unobstructed by anything but the car’s front fender peaks, gets your adrenalin flowing before you push the engine start button.

Do so, and the 6.2-liter V-8 roars to life. If you think it sounds loud on the inside of the car, try standing outside. After a few seconds, the engine settles into an idle, but the note is less of a classic rumble and more of a stifled roar.

If you’re familiar with modern smartphones and computers, setting up the Corvette’s digital instrumentation, head-up display, and infotainment system is easy. You’ll also want to explore the car’s different driving modes by twisting the knurled metal knob under the palm rest on the center console. 

The Corvette’s optional front lift system is worth considering because it raises the car’s front end nearly two inches for added clearance. Keep in mind that you can program it to recognize up to 1,000 different locations so that the vehicle automatically lifts its nose based on specific GPS coordinates.

Infotainment System

Chevrolet installs the latest infotainment system architecture and software in the new Corvette, but it uses an 8-inch touchscreen display rather than the larger 10.1-inch screen that debuted in the 2021 Chevy Tahoe SUV. Physical controls are limited to a power/volume knob and a Home button that takes you back to the system’s main menu, where you’ll find large icons that serve as shortcuts to the various infotainment functions.

Standard equipment includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and OnStar connected services. For quick pairing to the Bluetooth, the Corvette features Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. As you upgrade to higher trim packages, the car adds SiriusXM satellite radio, a navigation system, and a surprisingly good Bose Performance Series premium sound system with 14 speakers.

Using the infotainment system is simple and straightforward, and it includes voice recognition technology that responds well to typical commands. A Performance Data Recorder is also a part of the infotainment system, and it records more than just your weekend track-day antics with an overlay of acceleration, braking, cornering, and lap-time data. The Valet mode captures how other people drive your Corvette when it’s out of your sight.

The head-up display controls are on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel, and you can program the contents and appearance of what’s shown. Notably, it remains light and bright when the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses.

Keeping You Safe

While the rest of the automotive industry is rapidly adopting advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) and rolling out new Level 2 semi-autonomous driving technologies, Chevy keeps it legit with the new Corvette.

Rear visibility is horrible, though, so the Corvette gets a standard high-definition reversing camera and rear parking sensors. More cameras come with the 2LT and 3LT trim, including a rear camera mirror that shows an unobstructed 180-degree view of what’s behind the car. The Corvette 2LT and 3LT also have blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning systems.

Via the infotainment system and an active subscription to OnStar connected services, Corvette owners benefit from automatic collision notification and SOS emergency call. The car also comes with Teen Driver technology, so if you are willing to entrust the vehicle to your household’s young and inexperienced driver, you can obtain a report card explaining why your expensive performance tires will need replacement sooner rather than later.

Powertrain

The whole point of the Chevrolet Corvette is performance, and the new C8 does not disappoint. Equipped with a 6.2-liter V-8 engine generating 490 horsepower at 6,450 rpm (495 hp with the Z51 Package) and 465 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,150 rpm (470 lb.-ft. with the Z51 Package), the Corvette can wail to 60 mph in less than three seconds and hurtle itself to almost 195 mph, according to the automaker.

For maximum velocity, you’ll want the Z51 Package. It installs an electronic limited-slip differential, a performance axle ratio, upgraded engine cooling, stouter brakes, and a stiffer suspension. Aerodynamic enhancements add a maximum of 400 pounds of downforce, too.

You cannot get a manual gearbox in the new Corvette, but the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) is nothing short of perfection, so you likely won’t care. Drivers who want full control over gear changes can use the Manual mode and the paddle shifters.

Chevrolet also provides several driving modes for the new Corvette. They include Weather, Tour, Sport, Track, My Mode, and Z Mode. My Mode allows the car’s owner to mix and match different component settings to create a personalized performance recipe. Z Mode, activated using a button on the steering wheel, gives the driver instant access to a calibration meant for a specific use case, such as teaching the Porsche in the next lane a lesson.

Acceleration is addictively transcendent. You’re going to want to set a programmable speed warning because you’re going to need it if the plan is to retain your driver’s license. Also, though it exhibits the characteristic traits of a DCT, the transmission knows how and when to execute shifts better than a typical driver using the shift paddles.

This is not a single-purpose car, though. A Corvette is also terrific to drive when you’re not trying to set personal-best performance times. Choose Tour or Sport mode, and this mid-engine sports car is as docile and forgiving as a Malibu midsize sedan, whether you’re battling the daily commute, running errands, or taking a leisurely sunset drive along the beach. 

Fuel Economy

Based on our test driving, the new Corvette is unexpectedly fuel-efficient, too. The EPA says it will get 19 mpg in combined driving, and during 146 miles covered at an average speed of 38.7 mph, the Corvette averaged 20.5 mpg. 

Combine that result with the Corvette’s 18.5-gallon fuel tank, and the car supplies almost 380 miles of range. Leaving yourself a cushion, you’ll stop for premium gas every 340 miles or so.

Driving Comfort

Do yourself a favor. Unless you’re a gym rat or you’re going to track your new Corvette, skip the optional Competition Sport seats. Rigid, narrow, unyielding bolsters certainly do a great job of holding you still while exploring the Corvette’s cornering grip. Still, anyone who is carrying a little extra weight around their middle will find them unpleasant.

Thanks to its active exhaust system, you can run the car quieter or louder, depending on your preference. Either way, despite the engine’s location immediately behind the seats, noise is more evident when standing outside of a Corvette than when sitting inside it.

Equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, and heated and ventilated front seats, the test car’s climate system adequately combatted high temperatures during a late summer heatwave. The Corvette Coupe feels nearly as open to the elements as the Corvette Convertible with the roof panel removed. 

Driving Feel

There aren’t enough superlatives to characterize the new Corvette’s handling capabilities. Equipped with a lower center of gravity, better weight distribution, immediate steering response, and braking ability that, during one sampling, activated my smartphone’s emergency notification system due to the sudden and substantial deceleration force, the 2020 Corvette is a legitimate supercar.

Better yet, it won’t beat you up in exchange for its world-class performance. The available next-generation Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 adaptive damping suspension softens up in Tour mode, giving the car an unexpectedly smooth ride and making it suitable for daily driving or long road trips alike. 

Steering effort levels are also variable depending on the driving mode setting. Though both offer superior performance at higher speeds, neither the steering nor the braking response is too touchy when you’re driving the car in the city or on the highway. Once you’re accustomed to the Corvette’s low seating position and view forward, it can, at times, seem just as comfortable and easy to drive as a typical 4-door sedan.

Final Impressions - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

With the 2020 Corvette, Chevrolet has built the best example of America’s sports car yet. Teased through various concept cars dating back to the mid-1960s, the mid-engine layout is finally a reality. And while some traditional Corvette buyers might decide that the C7 is the last new one they’ll ever get, a new crew of enthusiastic fans will no doubt recognize the C8 as the revolutionary automobile that it is.

Especially if they get a chance to drive it.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2020 J.D. Power

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