Chevrolet Corvette C8 convertible 2021 review – American icon driven in EU-specification
The EU-spec Corvette is heavier and less powerful than we were led to believe, but is still a fantastic modern sports car with a distinct American flare
Almost an entire decade after it was first conceived, and most of a global pandemic later, the all-new Corvette Stingray C8 is here, finally, in Europe. To refresh, this new eighth generation Corvette has a brand new dry-sumped 6.2-litre V8 at its core and is mid, rather than front-engined as has been the case for the last 68 years. Its all-new all-aluminium chassis is suspended by double unequal length wishbones at all four corners and, yes, they’re making it in right hand drive for the very first time.
During the 110 months (that's not a typo) that have elapsed since the initial C8 sketches appeared, the world has gone a little bit bonkers ecologically, and electric vehicles have become a go-to solution for mainstream mobility. Which means the resolutely atmospheric new V8 Corvette can be viewed in one of two ways: either as an instant relic or, maybe, as a much-needed blast of fresh air, delivered unashamedly up both nostrils via a quartet of square-jawed, brass-coloured exhaust pipes.
The fact that it’s available in right hand drive will ensure it of vastly wider appeal in the UK, that much isn’t in doubt, no what kind of engine it’s powered by (there’s a hybrid version under way, too, and a more nutcase Z06 with a flat-crank V8, just in case you were wondering). But when you realise that the top-spec Convertible model we’re driving here costs just £82,150 (or £6000 less than the coupe) its increased popularity seems all but assured. Even in our increasingly eco-conscious world.
In Europe, the V8 generates a bit less power and torque than it does in the US (thanks to different emissions regs) with 475bhp at 6450rpm and 452lb ft at 4500rpm. That’s a shame, yes, but there’s a somewhat bigger elephant in the room that also can’t be ignored; at 1775kg the C8 Convertible is quite a lot heavier than we were originally led to believe, Corvette first quoting a dry weight of 1530kg for the US cars.
Has this spoiled its overall appeal? No. Has it removed the edge from its ultimate ability to entertain? Yes, a little bit, because in simple terms the Euro-spec ‘Vette has less power and torque than we thought it would, yet weighs a fair bit more than we expected. So it can’t help but not be as quick – or as agile – as we first thought.
Thankfully, this hasn’t impacted too much on the enjoyment factor it delivers on the move. It’s still a major amount of mid-engined sports car for the money, and to compensate costs a little bit less in the UK than initially expected. It still has the same great driving position, the same driver-focused cabin design, the same ability to paint a very big smile across your chops. And on the move it still steers, stops, rides and handles almost as well as we thought it did in the states. It still feels correct in most of the things it does on the move.
Certainly it’s a lot more delicate in its dynamic approach than any previous Corvette, with a precision to the controls and a deftness to its responses that traditional front-engined Corvette drivers would struggle to recognise. From its steering to its brake feel (which can be adjusted via six different drive modes) to its ride – controlled on our test car by £1940 of Magnetic Ride adaptive dampers – it just works. Even over the notoriously tough roads around the Nürburgring, where we drove it recently for a couple of days.
The gearbox is especially good, with a PDK-like snap to its response that will go a long way towards compensating for the fact that there is no manual available. As for the V8, it’s a very good engine, a charismatic one to listen to for sure, but not quite one of the all-time greats. It percolates with power and torque and sounds peachy between 4000-6000rpm, but it never quite sends shivers up your spine somehow.
The raw performance is similar in that it’s strong, but never quite heroically so. Zero to 62mph takes 3.5sec but this time is helped by a full launch control system. The top speed is 184mph, almost exactly the same as that quoted for a Cayman/Boxster GTS, and just guessing I’d say the 0-100mph time might be in the mid to high eight second bracket. So not down in the sixes or even sub-sixes, which is where the bigger hitting mid-engined cars from Europe sit nowadays.
Maybe (hopefully) the more potent Z06 version that’s in the post will adjust this situation somewhat. Not that the all-new Corvette is anything other than a very good sports car in its current form. It’s just not quite as much of a rule breaker as we first thought it was.
Price and rivals
Either way, in the here and now the new £82,150 Corvette Convertible still looks like seriously good value beside its more established European rivals. It costs broadly the same as a Porsche Boxster GTS once a few choice options have been added to the GTS, yet it very nearly has the dynamic clout of a 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, which costs tens of thousands more once specified like-for-like. But an Audi R8 Spyder it is not. Not yet, at any rate.