Car Review: 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Testing notes from northern Ontario
I didn’t want to like driving the Corvette C8 as much as I did.
As a long-time Dodge Viper fanatic and two-time owner, I spent a lot of time smack-talking my Corvette-loving buddies over the years. They all wanted to see the new C8. If I liked it, I’d never live it down.
So, a confession from a hot-blooded Mopar enthusiast: the new Corvette C8 is a brilliant car, and mainly, that’s because it strongly draws upon GM’s technological gene-pool to equip features and functions that give drivers the best experience possible, in the widest range of driving situations possible.
At 5’10 and 195 lbs., your writer was wearing the Corvette. Entry and exit can require some flexibility, and occupants sit deep and low within the cabin. Entering and exiting the C8 is now a little more labor intensive — a must-have part of the exotic car experience. Nearby, there’s decent storage for smaller items, but not much stretch-out space. The driver gets a tremendous cockpit effect with the tall, curved center console separating them from the passenger, literally encircling them with the Vette’s controls and displays. Much of the layout, down to the sculpted upper dash-pad that visually flows into the fenders outside, signal to the driver that they’re the star of the show.
Beneath it all? My tester’s Magnetic Selective Ride suspension system, and what I’d call a must-have feature. This optional suspension system equips computer-controlled shocks that basically become one of the C8’s vital organs. The relationship between the C8’s wheels and body is constantly monitored in real time by a computer system. Based on this information, the dampers can be controlled individually, with millisecond changes to damping force that manipulate how the Corvette rides, handles, and responds to uneven surfaces in the road. The control process is continuous, and so fast-acting that the car just absorbs most bumps and dips, rather than bouncing over them. The effect, from the driver’s seat, is one of gliding smoothly down the highway, while sitting just above it, all while surrounded by a futuristic-looking cockpit with a great forward view.
Though tire noise can increase significantly on certain surfaces, the Corvette is a comfortable and laid-back cruiser that’s more than suitable for hours-long road tripping while driver and occupant relax and socialize.
On my highway-intensive test-drive through central and northern Ontario, I especially appreciated the C8’s highway driving experience in the dark. After hours of nighttime and early-morning driving, I noted excellent performance from the lighting system, with strong reach and peripheral illumination inspiring confidence and reducing eye strain. Notably, the high-beams offer strong engagement of reflective surfaces, even at a great distance, for early warning of possible hazards up the road. A strong lighting system is a must-have on the often-unlit highways of northern Ontario, and my tester covered me nicely for the trip. But there’s more.
Dim the instrument panel fully, and the forward dash goes blackout. All displays and lighting go dark, leaving only a minimized digital readout for speed, fuel and temperature, and the faintly-lit gearshift pattern on the console. Here, there’s nothing to look at other than the beautifully-lit road ahead. This combination of a blackout lighting mode, and excellent forward lighting up the road, make it easier to see comfortably after dark, and drivers can expect significant benefits to after-dark eye fatigue and focus.
Though comfortable for cruising and spectacular after dark, more passionate pursuits are what draw C8 shoppers in for a closer look. On one hand, you could drive your grandmother to church on Sunday in the C8. If you like, it’s stealthily quiet, rides comfortably, and can ooze smoothly through traffic without breaking 1,500 revs. Driven like this, there’s virtually no feedback from the engine, transmission or driveline. In traffic, or while you’re not in a rush, this engine needs hilariously low revs to rocket you from a city traffic light while hardly making a peep.