Are you ready to sacrifice some power and the badge for a manual gearbox?

The 2020 Chevy C8 Corvette is the first Corvette offered without a manual transmission. This is bad news for old-school enthusiasts, but Chevy has solid arguments for the drop. The C8 Corvette would need a bespoke transmission that’s not worth the hassle given that sales of manual Corvettes dropped dramatically in recent years. But if you can’t stand the idea of an automatic Corvette, the Saleen S1 is an alternative you should consider.

What is the Saleen S1?

No Manual Chevy C8 Corvette Means Spending $100,000 on the American-Built 2020 Saleen S1 Might Not Be a Bad Proposition Exterior
- image 749008
Unlike Saleens from the past, the S1 isn't powered by a V-8, but a turbocharged four-cylinder engine

The Saleen S1 is the first car developed entirely by the American company since the iconic Saleen S7 ended production in 2007. Unveiled at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, the S1 is also the company’s first vehicle since it formed a partnership with Jiangsu Saleen Automotive Technology to produce and sell cars in China. The S1 will be produced in Jiangsu, China, as Saleen’s first vehicle to be assembled overseas. Although the S1 wasn’t yet launched for customers, it will happen later this year.

The S1 rides on an aluminum tub, while the body panels are made from lightweight carbon-fiber. Unlike Saleens from the past, the S1 isn’t powered by a V-8, but a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The 2.5-liter unit, reportedly built in-house, cranks out 450 horsepower and 350 pound-feet. It features a six-speed manual transmission and needs only 3.5 seconds to hit 60 mph. Its top speed is rated at 180 mph. Saleen estimates that the S1 will cost $100,000 before options.

Chevy C8 Corvette vs. Saleen S1

left right
The Corvette wins the output battle by a significant margin

While these cars may not look the same, they do share the midship architecture. Chevrolet put the Corvette through a radical redesign in which the front-engined layout was dropped in favor of mid-engined architecture. The Corvette was thus transferred into a new segment, one that also includes the Saleen S1.

Things look a bit different under the hood though. While the C8 Corvette retains the traditional naturally aspirated V-8, the S1 features a twin-turbocharged, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The C8 Corvette’s 6.2-liter mill cranks out 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque in standard guise and 495 horses and 470 pound-feet with the optional Z51 Performance Package, which adds a sport exhaust system. The S1 benefits from 450 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

Corvette C8 vs Saleen S1
Chevrolet Corvette C8 Chevrolet Corvette C8 with Z51 Package Saleen S1
Engine 6.2-liter V-6 6.2-liter V-6 2.5-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 490 hp 495 hp 450 hp
Torque 465 lb-ft 470 lb-ft 350 lb-ft
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray gallery
- image 850648
No matter the final 0-to-60 mph figure, the C8 Corvette will be at least a half-second quicker

Needless to say, the Corvette wins the output battle by a significant margin. When equipped with eh sports exhaust, the C8 delivers an extra 45 horsepower and 120 pound-feet of torque. The extra oomph also results in better performance. While the Saleen S1 charges to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, the C8 Corvette will hit the benchmark in "less than three" seconds. No matter the final figure, the C8 Corvette will be at least a half-second quicker.

When it comes to top speed, Chevy might win the battle as well. The Saleen S1 is officially rated at 180 mph, and the Corvette might do better. Chevy has yet to test its top speed as of July 2019, but the C8 should be faster than its predecessor. The outgoing C7 Corvette is rated at 187 mph, seven mph more than the Saleen S1.

As mentioned above, the C8 Corvette doesn’t have a manual transmission. An eight-speed dual-clutch is the only unit available, as Chevy thinks that a manual-equipped Corvette is no longer feasible. The Saleen S1, on the other hand, remains true to the old-school manual transmission and three-pedal layout. The coupe comes equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox so you can row your own. Good news, right?

Is the Saleen S1 the better choice?

No Manual Chevy C8 Corvette Means Spending $100,000 on the American-Built 2020 Saleen S1 Might Not Be a Bad Proposition Exterior
- image 749016

Well, it depends on what you want. If you’re into manual transmission sports cars, the S1 is definitely the good option here. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the C8 Corvette, it doesn’t have a V-8, and it costs a lot more, but you can row your own, an option that’s no longer available with the Corvette. On top of that, the Saleen S1 also features a carbon-fiber body, so it should be lighter than the C8 Corvette. Needless to say, the Saleen doesn’t benefit from the same brand heritage as the Corvette, but if you MUST have that manual transmission, it’s a sacrifice you must be willing to make.

Further reading

No Manual Chevy C8 Corvette Means Spending $100,000 on the American-Built 2020 Saleen S1 Might Not Be a Bad Proposition Exterior
- image 749011

Read our full review on the 2020 Saleen S1.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray gallery
- image 850629

Wait, the All-New 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 is Priced How Much?!

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: