America’s Sports Car has come a long way since 1953. Built to take on the smaller and more nimble British examples that were being constructed across the pond, the original two-seater featured a fibreglass body, a 235 cubic-inch straight-six engine and a two-speed transmission – if you can believe it. Its fibreglass body was not only lighter than steel, but it allowed for the bold, seductive lines to be sculpted without a traditional metal press. Sales were initially slow out of the gate, but as we all know now, that did not continue to be the case.
Over the years, the Corvette (named after a small, manoeuvrable gun boat) evolved from a boulevard cruiser into a legitimate sports car. For a time, the Corvette was the preferred choice of astronauts and road racers – the benchmark upon which to measure a competitor’s success or failure. Carrol Shelby knew his Cobra wouldn’t stand a chance if it couldn’t beat, or at least compete, with the mighty Corvette.
Many advancements were made over the following years as General Motors used the Corvette as a testbed for new technology. There were many ups and downs throughout the 1970s and '80s, largely due to economic factors, a fuel shortage, and government emissions regulations, but subsequent generations have made great leaps in quality, refinement, and performance.
The C7 bowed out as the final front-engine Corvette, having once again become a legitimate sports car one could aspire to owning. It was curious then, that after years of consistent, painstaking development, Chevrolet finally got the car to a place it could be proud of, it started with a clean slate for the eighth generation (C8) – effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
After driving the 2021 Corvette 3LT Convertible, I have my own thoughts on the mid-engine layout and dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT), but we wanted to hear from the true-blue Corvette enthusiasts who have lived through it all. We reached out to the Corvette Club of Ontario, who were only too happy to assemble a group of owners (and their cars) ranging in age to get a close look at the C8 – including a founding member. Their first-hand accounts of the C8 are as follows.
2017 Corvette Grand Sport 3LT Convertible (seven-speed manual)
"It is very exotic looking. It appears to be much more expensive than its price suggests. Although it isn’t wider than my C7, it certainly appears that way. The mid-engine layout allows all 495 hp to be put down. Although it is only 30 horsepower more than my C7, it definitely pulls much harder from a standstill or lower speeds. I still prefer my M7 transmission, but the dual-clutch shifts very fast with no delay. The styling will no doubt appeal to a younger audience as it looks like an Italian exotic rather than a muscle car.
It has a very nice sound with a good 'bark' when shifting gears. It sounds quieter than my C7. I think they should amplify the sound, particularly in Sport or Track modes. The interior is definitely a step up. It is very refined and rich-looking. I like the long row of cockpit buttons as a driver, but it felt a bit claustrophobic as a passenger.
It has exotic looks and amazing acceleration. The hardtop convertible provides decent trunk space front and rear. I am very happy with my 2017 Grand Sport. When I decide to sell, I would definitely consider the purchase of a C8."
2008 Corvette Coupe
"The new look – love it! Sleek and head-turning, feels like the new next generation of Corvette.
The interior checks every box. 10/10 all around for style, quality, comfort, and ergonomics. As for the passenger side, it felt a little cramped. Also – where am I supposed to put my purse? The smartphone charging pad/holder is a great idea. The layout is good, and it doesn’t feel like much interior space was sacrificed. Amazing customization options both inside and out.
I wasn’t sure about the mid-engine, but after my test drives, I fully approve – very impressed by the power. It really opens up and sounds amazing in Track mode. Holy smokes, does it ever purr and growl! The 14-speaker sound system has rich audio too – loud and crisp. I’m fine without a manual transmission due to the automatic and manual modes with paddle shift.
Power, styling, handling, sound, and price – I would trade in my C6 today if I could. I have many years to enjoy Corvettes and currently have other life priorities."
Robert Beder (Corvette Club of Ontario Founding member)
1964 Corvette Roadster (original owner), 2000 Corvette Coupe
"Amazing design, outstanding performance, and wonderful value. The availability of a manual transmission would be nice. I am 'old school.'
The mid-engine layout offers greater performance and eye appeal. It is beautifully styled – a true exotic look. I think it sounds very good – almost perfect.
Build quality appears very good. Cockpit with wraparound feels very snug and secure in the seats. The ergonomics are excellent and very appealing. It has very poor side and rear visibility. The cameras don’t do it for me. It has limited storage space – very impractical. I’m not likely to purchase one. I’m 81 years old and not exactly the correct demographic/target market."
1971 Corvette 454
"It still retains the Corvette style but looks like a European exotic. I miss the manual transmission, but the DCT makes sense. It sounded better than I had expected. It has a very comfortable ride – I love the suspension options. Acceleration was simply awesome. I like the classic C2 and C3 Corvettes, not sure what the insurance would be like to move up to the C8 for a younger guy."
1976, 1985, 2001, and 2021 Corvette Coupe
"It is an unbelievable car. It is unlike any Corvette I have owned, but still unmistakably a Corvette. I was initially hesitant about the need for a mid-engine, but now see the error in my thinking. The DCT makes any manual pointless. It is gorgeous, and I am sure will continue to evolve. The sound is good, although a bit muffled by the insulation with the roof on, but no complaints. It offers world-class luxury in a ferocious GT beast. I like everything about the C8 and dislike nothing. So much so, that I bought one."
C5 Corvette Convertible
"It’s a fantastic vehicle – great value for the money. I have always lived in the city. I have owned a number of standard vehicles, and am not a lover of standard transmissions, so I don’t miss the stick.
As far as the mid-engine layout, in my mind, it has become a vehicle for a single person, with virtually no opportunity to do any kind of overnight or long-distance driving due to the lack of luggage and storage space. Generally, the Corvette has been a vehicle for couples, but with this new configuration, it’s going to be hard to even do an overnight cruise with a partner. This is already an issue with most coupes now, let alone the new layout. The new styling is great. I love the sharp lines and colour. It is very futuristic and looks like it could fly just standing still.
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The new interior styling gets 100 per cent. The upholstery is a work of art. The ergonomics of the cockpit are good, but the passenger side is a little confining and awkward for the passenger – particularly for long distances.
The sound could use some improvement. It doesn’t sound like the muscle car that it is. Needs more of a 'throaty' sound.
Hopefully when you buy a C8, the dealership has a dedicated individual who knows all the bells, whistles, knobs, and buttons who can give you free lessons on how to get the most out of it.
Suspension is very stiff. Steering, handling in the corners and power are excellent. Being married, the storage areas and passenger space outweigh the likes as a purchase in the future."
James Krane (Corvette Club of Ontario President)
2011 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible
"The fit and finish get better every generation and the C8 is no exception. There is definitely a quality feel to it. I’m not sure about the Accelerate Yellow, but it sure attracts attention. It has gone high-tech. Lots of development and a huge departure from previous generations. Great features and ability to customize from road to track. I have been a Corvette fanatic for many years. My opinion has always been Corvettes are front engine and rear-wheel drive. They also have manual shift gearboxes for those who want them. Why mess with a formula that works?
When you really look at the similarities between the seventh and eighth generations, rather than the differences, it’s easy to see the natural progression of the styling. Having been exposed to the car a few times, I like it more now than I did when they first came out.
It sounds great. I know that different driving modes will have different exhaust sounds. When you get on it, it sounds like it is supposed to. It would take a long trip to really get the feel for functionality. Styling, performance, technological features – such as front lift with 1,000 memory points. Wow! I like the shape of the steering wheel. It’s called a 'squircle.'
There doesn’t seem to be anywhere for water to drain from the engine compartment cover. The lack of a manual transmission is a disappointment. The dual-clutch is amazing and shifts faster than I ever could, but I enjoy a stick shift."
The initial reactions were overwhelmingly enthusiastic and positive. Everyone seemed to agree that the styling and mid-engine layout were a bold departure, but that the design suitably pays homage to the Corvette's heritage. The interior quality impressed, but thoughts on the separation between driver and passenger were somewhat mixed. Opinions on the lack of a manual transmission were split, but opposition largely subsided once experiencing the DCT in person.
After spending the day going over the Accelerate Yellow C8 with scientific precision, the majority admitted that they were happy with their current car (or cars), but would consider purchasing the new model in the future. In fact, long-time Corvette owner Stephen McArthur already did, and he hasn't regretted the purchase for a second. I'd say the C8 passed with flying colours.