Strapping into the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray to take turns at 1.3 Gs

We drove the C8, the most exciting new Corvette since the ’63 Split Window.

The 2020 Corvette Stingray.
Chevrolet

On the street, the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette Stingray—aka the C8— draws waves and shouts like no Corvette in memory. The vehicles also fulfills a long-explored switch to a mid-engine layout, like the configuration of exotic European supercars from Ferrari and Lamborghini.

At the track at Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Nevada, we were able to lap behind instructors from the Ron Fellows driving school who were in 2019 Corvette ZR1s. Before I slid into that seat, the Fellows crew hands me a black balaclava to line the white open-face helmet, while they lock the helmet into a chest-wrapping hybrid Head And Neck Support (HANS) device in anticipation of my high-speed laps. With the HANS cinched tight, I get in.

I power the seat all the way back with its electric adjuster. Then I pull the seat belt all the way out to activate the ratcheting adjuster, which in most cars is used for tightening the belt onto an infant seat. By locking the belt in place and then powering the seat forward into the correct position, it pulls the regular three-point seat belt tight, providing a quick alternative to a racing harness to help hold the driver in position.

The Corvette will pull 1.3 Gs of cornering force on this track, and while the car is equipped with competition seats, tightening the belts down like this helps hold the driver in position to focus on the steering, rather than using the steering wheel to hold on.

That ratcheted-down seat belt also helps better secure the HANS device, so it will be more effective in the event of a crash. Not that we’d crash Chevy’s $83,330 test car. That was the bottom line cost for our track vehicle, with its 3LT premium equipment package, Z51 performance package and magnetic ride adjustable shock absorbers.

Pressing the Start button brings the ‘Vette’s 495-horsepower, 470 lb.-ft., LT2 6.2-liter small block V8 to life. The engine’s sound is muscular and menacing at all speeds, with the rumbling threat of power to come at idle, and the ferocious blast of Nascar thunder as revs climb to the 6,500 rpm redline.

But some of this superbly inspiring soundtrack is, alas, actually electronically enhanced. Assistant chief engineer Mark Stheiner goes to lengths to explain that it isn’t really fake sound, because it is sound that the engine can and does make. However, the reality of requirements such as catalytic converters in the exhaust stream take a chunk out of the small block’s aural spectrum, producing a less satisfying voice at the exhaust pipes. So in the cabin, the car’s stereo system puts those frequencies back in place to produce a true V8 sound, but the sound of one without pollution-scrubbing catalysts.

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