The new right-hand drive Chevrolet Corvette Convertible is a class act, inside and out
4.5 out of 5
There are several key things you should know about the new Chevrolet Corvette Convertible. One, it’s available in right-hand drive for the first time ever. Two, it’s mid-engined and at £79,200 costs an awful lot less than most similarly configured rivals from Europe. Three, it’s a damn good car to drive compared with any European rival, at any price point. And four, unlike previous Corvettes, it’s also well made and feels like a class act inside, in this case featuring a cleverly engineered, fully electric hardtop roof and more space for your luggage than the coupe, not less. So, form a queue here if you’re interested, but be quick; on this evidence you won’t be the only one in that queue.
Until now, the idea of owning and driving a Corvette in the UK hasn’t held much appeal among the masses because it’s only ever been available in left-hand drive. Step forward the new eighth-generation C8 Corvette, which has just gone on sale in the UK for a whisker over 74 grand in coupe form – or £79k as a Convertible as tested here – and which is at last going to be made in right-hand drive.
Ignore the layout of the car you see in these pictures because, as of next month, you’ll be able to buy a C8 Corvette from the UK’s only main dealer in Virginia Water, Surrey, with a steering wheel on the right and a thumping 6.2-litre V8 engine sitting behind its two seats but in front of the rear axle.
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Just like the Audi R8 and the lower end cars from McLaren, Ferrari and Lamborghini with which it seeks to compete, the other big news about the new Corvette is that it is mid, not front-engined, as has previously been the case.
It also boasts a clever new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, with no manual available, even as an option. It does have launch control, and as such can hit 62mph in just 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 184mph thanks primarily to the fact that its big V8 thumps out 475bhp and 613Nm of torque.
As standard, all UK Corvettes also get the ‘Z51 Performance Package’, which includes beefier-than-normal Brembo brakes, a limited-slip differential, a shorter final drive ratio for the best acceleration, a sports exhaust system, what Chevrolet describes as the ‘Level 1’ aero package, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.
The first UK cars will be specified in to two trim levels; 2LT and 3LT. You can then add numerous options to improve the dynamics – such Chevrolet’s excellent Magnetic Ride adaptive suspension for £1,920 – or to enhance the styling and interior spec.
The 3LT test car we drove had just about everything you could wish for on it, including the adaptive dampers, carbon fibre trim inside and out and £1,780 of Amplify Orange paintwork, but its all-up price reflected this, at £93,090.
But then it’s still pretty special to drive, particularly in Convertible form, which successfully marries proper alfresco motoring with seemingly zero dynamic compromises compared with the excellent coupe.
This is because Chevrolet designed the car to be both a convertible and a coupe right from the word go, hence the Convertible actually has a more practical boot. The Coupe’s targa-style roof section eats into luggage space when stored behind the seats, whereas in the Convertible boot space stays the same, electric roof up or down.
It’s hard to say which is the more impressive aspect of the new Corvette Convertible dynamically, the straight-line performance it has or the way steers, stops and goes around corners. Truth is, it is immensely capable at pretty much everything it does on the move. Not just compared with its more archaic predecessors but beside the best sports cars in Europe right now, too.
No, it doesn’t have anything like the same surreal level of thrust as a McLaren GT or a Ferrari F8 Tributo, both of which cost more than two times as much and, crucially, have a lot more power and a fair bit less weight to carry. The Corvette is no lightweight at 1,775kg, but it’s not that far off these cars for subjective performance, even if on price it’s more closely aligned with the Porsche 718 Boxster GTS.
You get a refined but still delicious V8 soundtrack to listen to at all times, which is more than can be said for most turbocharged European rivals, with the exception of Audi’s now all-but extinct R8 V10 and, of course, the 4.0-litre atmospheric flat-six unit of the aforementioned Porsche.
The new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox also works a treat, up or down its ratios, snapping from one cog to the next with Porsche PDK-like speed and efficiency. Its shift speeds alter as you scroll through the various drive modes via a rotational control within the centre console, of which there are six to choose from; wet weather, touring, sport, track, personal and Z, the latter being similar to BMW’s M-button, allowing you to dial up the main control responses and tone down the traction control at the press of just one wheel-mounted button.
It even rides well thanks to a chassis that’s clearly been set up to be as practical as it is precise, aided in this case by the optional Magnetic Ride adaptive suspension, which manages to provide great body control and almost zero roll in the Convertible while smoothing out rough roads with real precision.
The cabin will also be a big selling point, not least because it feels great to sit in with a proper fighter jet-style wraparound cockpit design and a big central 12-inch touchscreen control system.
In 3LT guise it has all the goodies you could wish for, including full Apple CarPlay integration. And if it doesn’t quite feel like a million dollars’ worth inside, then it certainly seems like an awful lot of car for a (relatively) mere £82,150.
In Convertible guise, especially, it’s just a great car, is the new Corvette, even though it’s undeniably heavy compared with the similarly priced, and therefore similarly rapid Porsche Boxster GTS. No question, the European sports car industry has a brand-new contender to deal with. On this evidence rivals should take it very seriously indeed.
|Model:||Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 3LT|
|Engine:||6.2-litre V8, petrol|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive|
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