By Colin Ryan
The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette is the latest iteration of an American icon. Pardon the hype, but the Corvette is as much part of modern culture as it is an exceptionally fine sports car. This is the second year of the Corvette’s eighth generation, which is why it’s called the C8 for short.
Although not every generation has been exceptionally fine, they’ve all been special. The C8 Corvette is both. After 67 years of having an engine up front, this model’s V8 is mid-mounted, just like those archetypal Ferrari /zigman2/quotes/208128355/composite RACE +0.59% and Lamborghini supercars. And similarly exotic machines like the Acura NSX, Audi R8, and McLaren 570.
The 2021 Corvette doesn’t just have a supercar’s configuration; it also has the power, handling, and stunning exterior styling to compete with any of them. Even though the previous C7 was great, its suspension included leaf springs. This new Corvette has coil springs.
Driving this car is a real revelation. With the Z51 performer package, Chevy claims that it takes less than three seconds to sprint from standstill to 60 mph. That’s breathtaking.
Another aspect that might prompt gasps is the starting price, which Chevrolet has not raised this year. With the destination charge, it’s $59,995. Anything else with this combination of talents would demand six figures.
What’s new for 2021?
Wireless Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.51% CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration is added as standard throughout. The Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers are now available as an individual option, removing the requirement to splash out on the Z51 performance package as well. There are also some new racing stripe options.
What we like
Radically improved handling
A supercar that’s an everyday driver
Sub-3-second sprint to 60 mph with the Z51 package
$59,995 starting price
What we don’t
Hard-to-appreciate steering wheel design
$59,995 to $78,945
Positioned just behind the occupants’ seats are a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 developing 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. This considerable amount of muscle (the most of any entry-level ’Vette) goes solely to the rear wheels through an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There’s not even the option of a manual transmission. Drivers seeking the most engagement can use the paddle shifters mounted beneath the steering wheel.
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The optional Z51 Performance Package boosts output to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
Fuel economy estimates from the EPA are 15 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg in combined driving. These figures are from 2020, but we expect the 2021’s to be the same.
Standard features and options
The 2-seater 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray comes as a coupe with a removable roof panel or a convertible with a retractable folding hardtop. Trim levels for both are 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT.
Car prices include a destination charge of $1,095.
The Corvette 1LT (coupe: $59,995, convertible: $67,495) comes with Brembo anti-lock brakes with black-painted calipers, mechanical limited-slip differential, clear engine compartment cover, alloy wheels (19-in front/20-in rear), LED headlights, keyless entry/ignition, remote start, selectable driving modes, 12-in configurable driver information display, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery with perforated inserts, 8-way power-adjustable seats, leather-wrapped/power-adjustable steering wheel, Teen Driver parental controls, rear parking sensors, OnStar connected services, 8-in infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Wi-Fi, HD/satellite radio, and a 10-speaker Bose audio system.
The 2LT (coupe: $67,295, convertible: $74,295) adds a performance data recorder, heated/self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors, heated/ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, memory settings, powered lumbar/bolstering, cargo nets, a head-up display, inclination sensor, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, antitheft system, upgraded infotainment system with navigation, Rearview Camera Mirror, front-facing camera, wireless charging, and a 14-speaker Bose audio system.
The 3LT (coupe: $71,945, convertible: $78,945) brings sportier GT2 seats, Nappa leather upholstery with perforated inserts, and a simulated-suede microfiber/custom leather interior package.
Among the main options is the Z51 package ($5,995), boosting engine output with a performance exhaust system, adding grippier tires, stronger brakes, extra cooling, more aerodynamic parts, a retuned suspension, and an electronic limited-slip differential.
Magnetic Ride Control ($1,895) adds adaptive dampers for a broader spectrum of ride comfort and taut handling. This year, it’s no longer necessary to purchase the Z51 package to obtain Magnetic Ride Control.
The 2LT and 3LT versions are eligible for a nose-lifting feature ($1,995), which is highly recommended to save scraping the front lip spoiler on speed bumps, entries, and exits of gas stations, etc. Its built-in memory can store 1,000 locations.
Other options include a body-colored dual roof, carbon-fiber roof, and a transparent roof panel. There are also plenty of customizing touches, like different colors for the brake calipers and seat belts, racing stripes, exterior accents, interior accents, and red seating.
The 2021 Corvette has the usual safety features like four airbags, stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. Also standard across the range is a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and a Teen Driver feature (although it’s a brave owner who lets their teen drive this 490-hp supercar).
In addition, the 2LT and 3LT versions have blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a front-facing camera, and the Rearview Camera Mirror that shows an image that’s clear of rear pillars.
There has been no independent crash-testing of this C8 Corvette to date.
Behind the wheel
A Corvette is all about the driving experience. Compared with the C7 ’Vette, this C8 generation’s mid-engined arrangement distributes weight more evenly between the front and rear, and the engine sits lower for a more advantageous center of gravity.
Chevy endowed its latest Corvette with greater rigidity, which enables a finer calibration of the suspension. The car feels exceptionally planted and predictable, bringing a great feeling of control.
The happy result of 470 hp and a relatively light curb weight of 3,500 pounds is breathtaking acceleration. Standstill to 60 mph happens in around three seconds, or less if the Z51 package is installed. Top speed is 194 mph. Not only does the 2021 Corvette look like an exotic supercar, it behaves like one as well.
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There are four driver modes — Tour, Sport, Track and Weather — to dial in performance that suits the conditions. There’s also another setting for the driver to customize settings according to personal taste.
The seats are set ultralow and the oddly shaped steering wheel is more of a rectangle than a circle. But the cabin’s layout is most definitely focused on the person behind that wheel, surrounding the driver on three sides with controls and switches. Somewhere on the other side of that huge central tunnel might be a passenger, but the Corvette is not exactly a car for socializing.
Most owners of sports cars tend to have another car that’s more sensible, so cargo space isn’t necessarily a major consideration. Even so, the Corvette can take a couple of golf bags in the trunk and a piece of carry-on luggage up front.
Whether cruising along the freeway or attacking curves, the 2021 Corvette is a complete supercar. And still a performance bargain.
Other cars to consider
2021 Acura NSX — Yes, the NSX is a hybrid, but it’s also a mid-engined performance machine with impressive acceleration and excellent handling.
2021 Audi R8 — The R8 is a terrific car. With a glorious 562-hp V10 engine, it performs as well as it looks.
2021 Porsche 718 Cayman — This mid-engined Porsche is the closest in price to a 2021 Corvette, starting in the low 60s. It looks arguably wonderful and handles undeniably well, but has almost 200 fewer horses.
Questions you may ask
Where is the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette made?
As with prior Corvettes, the 2021 C8 is made in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Is the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette reliable?
It has a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. The previous generation, which only ended in 2019, earned high reliability ratings from JD Power. It’s reasonable to expect the same or better from this 2021 Corvette.
Does the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette offer all-wheel drive?
There are some great supercars with all-wheel drive — like the Acura NSX, Nissan GT-R, Audi R8 and variants of the Porsche 911. But true to Corvette form, this latest C8 generation sticks with rear-wheel drive exclusively. And a big V-8 engine.
Supercars allow design and aerodynamics to take precedence over outward vision, so it’s worth stretching to the 2LT version for the blind spot monitoring and other useful features. After that, it’s a case of adding ingredients to taste.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com .