2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray | PH Review

The electric 'Vette is shockingly good

By Mike Duff / Friday, 13 October 2023 / Loading comments

There will be plenty of time to deal with the intricacies of how the first hybridised Corvette works its magic. But let me start with an example of how it manages to be somehow more than the sum of its new parts.

The cleverest Corvette has been transformed by an electrically powered front axle, a change that is at least as significant to the way the E-Ray drives as the generational switch to a mid-engined configuration was for the base C8 back in 2019. In effect this has given what often feels close to a dynamic ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, one that subtly alters the way the new car drives on road, and transforms it on track.

Because the real revelation comes when it is possible to push hard enough to get to the edge of the E-Ray’s toweringly high lateral limits. In the regular C8 Stingray, and even the hardcore Z06, rear-end breakaway effectively marks the point at which all but the most skilful – or most foolhardy – will back off. Neither of those variants wants to drift, or encourages a driver to try and play beyond the limits of adhesion.

Yet not in the E-Ray, where the unmistakeable sensation of impending oversteer is just the beginning of a new chapter, the front axle starting to pull harder as the rear starts to slide. It’s possible to push hard enough to experience this in the punchier dynamic modes, all while the stability control keeps watch. Even with everything switched off – not a decision taken lightly in most cars that combine 655hp with 1,800kg – the breakaway is so progressive and gentle it feels almost as if it’s happening in slow motion. It’s properly addictive; in one stint on the shortest configuration of California’s tricky Thunderhill Raceway I experienced more oversteer than the combined total of every other Corvette I’ve ever driven.

Sideways hoonery isn’t the reason the E-Ray was developed, nor will most owners seek to deliberately experience it. But it does serve as proof of how well the petrol and electric sides of the powertrain work together. The idea of a split hybrid system, one that uses different power sources for each axle, isn’t new – the BMW i8 previewed a much less potent version of the same configuration nearly 10 years ago. But I don’t think it’s ever been done better than this.

The mild surprise on studying the E-Ray’s specification is to discover how little has actually been changed. Behind the passenger compartment sits an effectively identical 495hp LT2 pushrod V8 to the one that powers the regular Stingray, this turning the rear axle through the same eight-speed twin-clutch transmission. At the front is a single AC electric motor, producing 160hp and a maximum of 125 lb ft and drawing energy from a small 1.1kWh battery pack in the tunnel between the seats. Chevrolet says the total weight difference over the Stingray is  commendably slight 105kg.

The E-Ray isn’t a plug-in and electric-only range is miniscule – less than five miles. The electric-only Stealth mode is also limited to no more than 45mph; it really is intended for sneaking away without disturbing the neighbours. The motor can only add assistance up to 150mph, with the E-Ray’s top speed of 180mph coming under pure combustion power.

The E-Ray shares the widened bodywork of the Z06, this being 90mm broader in the beam, the change necessary to accommodate its gargantuan tyres. At the back these are 345/25ZR21s – the same width and even lower profile than the ones on the new Lamborghini Revuelto. The 275/30R20s up front are even fatter than the Lambo’s. Because of American tastes, and Chevrolet’s prediction buyers are looking for an AWD ‘Vette they can drive throughout snowy winters, all-season Michelin Pilot Sports will be standard. But the two cars I drove were both riding on the optional summer-spec Pilot Sport 4S tyres, along with extra-cost carbonfibre wheels. Carbon-ceramic brakes are standard on all E-Rays, too. Beyond tiny E-Ray badges at the base of the panel behind the doors, it just looks like a well-specced C8 Corvette. It even keeps the tiny frunk luggage compartment, as well as the unchanged golf bag sized one behind the engine.

It’s a similar story inside, the E-Ray’s cabin being barely altered over the standard Corvette. That means the same ergonomic foibles, with a too-high seating position and the cockpit divided by the huge leather-wrapped centre console with a distant ridge of tiny switches pretty much next to the passenger seat. The gearbox controls and circular drive mode selector are unchanged and the new Stealth mode has to be selected with the ignition switched to its first stage but without the engine running, which is a faff. There are new displays for the digital instrument pack, including the chance to see the amount of torque being sent to the front axle. But the only significant difference to the controls is a small button next to a driver’s right knee which controls the Charge Plus mode.

In the Track dynamic mode, or using the Z setting which brings individual control of different functions, the battery will discharge to maximise performance. Selecting Charge Plus will replenish the battery, something that can be done in less than three minutes or on a typical cooldown lap. Alternatively, lapping hard in Charge Plus mode will result in slightly less electrical power, but a slower rate of consumption which will allow up to half an hour from a fully charged battery, although at the cost of lap times being about four per cent slower.

Other than the amusement of watching the battery’s power gauge moving, there seemed to be little reason using Charge Plus on road: opportunities to keep the E-Ray’s throttle pinned for more than a few seconds will be limited anywhere with speed limits or corners. Under gentle use the E-Ray runs combustion only, but firmer pressure on the accelerator immediately brings the electric motor into play. To show this is happening the Corvette plays a nicely judged (but synthesised) futuristic whirring noise through its front speakers, one that supplements but doesn’t try to compete with the entirely organic noise being made by the V8 at the back. Okay, so the 6,500rpm redline feels a little restrictive – especially compared to the 8,500rpm ceiling of the Z06’s flat plane crank engine – but it is hugely, effortlessly quick.

On road the E-Ray’s chassis feels like a turned-up Stingray rather than a turned-down Z06. The standard adaptive dampers give a respectably plush ride in the gentlest Tour mode, and it cruises with reasonable refinement for something so potent at freeway speeds. The fast geared steering couldn’t deliver much in the way of feel at road velocities, and hard acceleration over bumpy roads did bring the occasional sense that there was torque sharing the front wheels. But even at real-world pace the benefits of increased traction were obvious in the way the E-Ray could stabilise itself in tighter corners and then punch out of them with minimal drama. On anything other than wide roads it still feels like a big car, especially given the limited sense of where the extremities line when sitting in the driver’s seat. But it still feels more agile than physics suggest it should.

It is on track that the E-Ray feels truly special, pretty much every part of it getting better as speeds rise. The steering acquires some dialled-in sensation as the forces passing through the front tyres increase, and stays faithful even as slip angles build. The brake pedal, which feels reassuringly solid on road, acquires impressive finesse under harder loads. While the Corvette’s mass was obvious when stopping from higher speeds, the carbon-ceramics took huge thermal loads without any complaint. It is also blisteringly fast, with the car reporting it had dispatched 0-60mph in just 2.4-seconds using its launch control mode on track; U.S. testers have confirmed it is only about a tenth of a second behind the Z06 through the quarter-mile benchmark.

There are many ways to look at the E-Ray. For some the appeal is as an all-wheel-drive Corvette, a car that will be able to keep going through a Midwest winter when regular C8s normally hibernate. For others, including the younger buyers Chevrolet is keen to attract, it will be a higher-tech alternative to the regular Stingray, a seriously smart piece of performance engineering. For all potential buyers it will be a bargain, certainly in relative terms, with the $106,595 U.S. base price meaning it is $20,000 less than a basic 911 Carrera 4, less than half the price of a McLaren Artura and under one third as much as a Ferrari 296 GTB. (We will have to wait for details on European introduction and pricing.)

But, most intriguingly, the E-Ray almost certainly won’t be the last hybrid Corvette, with reports that the electric front axle will ultimately be combined with a twin-turbo version of the Z06’s flat-plane engine to create what is currently known as the Zora. If it happens, that will combine all-wheel drive with a power output around the 1,000hp, a Corvette equivalent to the Ferrari SF90 or Lamborghini Revuelto. How exciting is that prospect?


Engine: 6,207cc V8, 1.1kWh battery, electric front motor
Transmission: Eight-speed twin-clutch, rear-wheel drive (combustion), front-wheel drive (electric)
Power (hp): 655 (total peak)
Torque (lb ft): 595 (total peak)
0-60mph: 2.5 seconds
Top speed: 180mph
Weight: 1,712kg (dry)
Price: $106,595 (base)

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