Chevy’s resident supercar squares off with more expensive models - does it stand a chance?

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Chevy quite literally redefined what the Corvette name means when it unveiled the all-new, mid-engined C8 Corvette – a model that was decades in the making. Finally bringing the mid-engine configuration to the Corvette was no easy undertaking, but in the end, the new Corvette looked like a supercar, performed like a high-end sportscar, and created quite a stir in the automotive community thanks to its attractive low price. It seems impossible that a car like the C8 Corvette could retail for less than $60,000, but as promised it does ($59,995 as of the time of this writing). This makes the C8 Corvette come off as a much-cheaper alternative to many exotic cars, so how does it hold up? We spent a week with the 2021 C8 Corvette 3LT with the Z51 performance package to find out.

Chevy C8 Corvette – Powertrain and Performance

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Drivetrain
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The Chevy Corvette is endowed with a 6.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-8 and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that transmits power exclusively to the rear wheels. The engine sits, essentially, in the middle of the vehicle, which gives the Corvette exceptional handling that’s on par with cars generally twice its price. Does it live up to the Corvette name, though? We’ll expand more on that later. The real issue here is trying to determine exactly what cars the C8 Vette competes against. The C8 is designed as and looks like an exotic, but its price and power output falls far short. It really sits in a niche all it’s own, so be prepared from some controversial comparison ahead!

How Much Power Does the Chevy C8 Corvette Have?

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Drivetrain
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The 6.2-liter V-8 that powers the C8 Corvette delivers 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque in all three trim levels – 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT. If you opt for the $5,995 Z51 package, that output jumps up to 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. As of the time of this writing there are no other performance upgrades for the Stingray, so what you see here is what you get. In comparison, we’ve decided to look at the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Carrera S. The former is, of course, a mid-engined car just like the C8 but the 911 is rear-engined. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close enough for comparison.

When compared to the Audi R8, the Corvette Z51 falls short almost 40 horsepower and downright dominates in the torque department. Compared to the much more expensive Porsche 911 Carrera S, the C8 Corvette reigns supreme by 80 pound-feet of torque and more than 50 horsepower. In terms of power alone, the C8 is definitely a better a bang for your buck, but we’re just getting started, so don’t make a decision just yet!

How Fast is the Chevy C8 Corvette?

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Exterior
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Without the Z51 package, the C8 Corvette will make the sprint to 60 mph in around three seconds. Tack on the Z51 package, and those extra 5 ponies make a big difference – you’ll be looking at a sprint time in the 2.67 – 2.8-second range depending on the day and conditions. In comparison, the Audi R8 makes the same sprint in 3.6 seconds while the Porsche 911 Carrera S will get there in 3.5 seconds. In terms of top speed, however, the C8 is going to lose every time after it tops out at 184 mph. The Audi R8 comes out on top with 201 mph while the 911 Carrera S maxes out at 191 mph.

Is The C8 Corvette AWD?

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Exterior
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As of the time of this writing, the C8 Corvette is only offered with a RWD configuration. In the future, however, Chevy could implement a hybrid system that would give the Stingray some level of AWD with the hybrid system powering the front wheels. The Porsche 911 Carrera S is also RWD only, but the Audi R8 is dominantly AWD unless your get your hands on a V-10 RWD model.

Can You Get The C8 Corvette With a Manual Transmission?

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Interior
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Like a lot of cool and fun cars in the industry, the C8 Corvette isn’t available with a manual transmission. As of the time of this writing, your only option is the eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission that Chevy says offers the “driving engagement of a manual with the speed and smoothness of an automatic.” The Audi R8 also comes standard with a dual-clutch automatic, however, it’s only a seven-cog unit while you can get the 911 Carrera S with a six-speed manual or Porsche’s PDK automatic. We’d recommend the manual, but that’s just our take on it.

What Does the Z51 Package Include?

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Exterior
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For $5,995, the Z51 package is fairly attractive but is also required if you plan to take your C8 to the track. Along with the Brembo performance brakes and a different rear axle ratio, you’ll also get performance exhaust, performance suspension, and an electronic limited slip differential. Here’s a list of everything you get with the Z51 package:

  • Brembo brakes
  • Performance suspension
  • Performacne exhaust
  • Performance rear axle ratio
  • Electronic LSD
  • Z51-specific front splitter
  • Z51-specific rear spoiler
  • Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires
  • Heavy Duty cooling system

2021 Chevy C8 Corvette Interior Design

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Interior
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The interior of the C8 Corvette is, well, infinitely different when compared to any Corvette that came before it. The cockpit is clearly driver-focused, with the eight-inch touchscreen display angled toward the driver in such a way that the passenger would struggle to reach it. The large line of buttons on the center console…ummm… we’ll call it a wing…. Does take some getting used to, but it also aids in preventing the passenger from doing anything but riding and playing with the window switch. Overall, the C8’s cabin is pretty comfortable for its price point and design, and the 3LT trim that rolled into TopSpeed’s garage included the GT2 seats for added support, and lots of extra fine materials over the lesser trims.

What’s Included in the C8 Corvette 3LT Interior Package?

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• Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Premium System with Navigation and 8" diagonal HD color touchscreen
• Bose® Performance Series 14-speaker audio system
• HD Radio
• SiriusXM® All Access Trial Subscription
• Wireless Apple CarPlay/Wireless Android Auto capability for compatible phones
• 4G LTE Wi-Fi® hotspot capable
• Performance data and video recorder
• Antenna, integral front and rear
• GT2 bucket seats
• Black seat belt color
• 8-way power driver seat
• 8-way power passenger seat
• Power driver seat lumbar control
• Power passenger seat lumbar control
• Power driver seatback bolster
• Power passenger seatback bolster
• Heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats
• Napa leather seating surfaces with perforated inserts
• Custom Leather Wrapped Interior Package
• Sueded Microfiber-Wrapped Upper Interior Trim Package
• Floor console with covered storage
• Carpeted floor mats
• Power tilt and telescoping steering column
• Leather-wrapped steering wheel
• Heated steering wheel
• Steering-wheel mounted controls
• 12" diagonal color Driver Information Center
• Head-Up Display
• Vehicle health management
• Oil-life monitoring system
• Power door locks
• Keyless Open and Start
• Power windows
• Remote Start
• Cruise control
• Memory Driver and Passenger Convenience Package
• Universal Home Remote
• Theft-deterrent system
• Inclination sensor
• Interior movement sensor
• Hatch release
• Wireless Charging
• Dual-zone automatic climate control
• Air filtration system
• Rear window defogger
• Rear Camera Mirror
• Driver and passenger visors with illuminated mirrors
• Interior lighting
• Cargo nets
• Chevrolet Connected Access capable

How Much Cargo Room The C8 Corvette Have?

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The 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette offers up a total of 12.6 cubic-feet of cargo room, which is quite impressive considering the Audi R8 offers just eight cubic-feet wile the Porsche 911 offers just 4.6 cubic-feet.

How Much Interior Space Does the C8 Corvette Have?

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Interior
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According to Chevy, the C8 corvette has 37.9 inches of headroom, 54.4 inches of shoulder room, and 42.8 inches of leg room. The Audi R8 has about half an inch more headroom and nearly an inches more shoulder room, but the Corvette beats it by nearly two inches in legroom. Porsche doesn’t published interior dimensions for its vehicles, so we can’t compare them on paper, but it does feel to be just as spacious if not a little more so.

Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 vs competition interior room
Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 Audi R8 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Front Headroom 37.9 38.5 NA
Front Shoulder Room 54.4 55.1 NA
Front Leg Room 42.8 40.9 NA

Does The C8 Corvette Have Really Bad Blind Spots

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One of the C8 Corvette’s biggest faults outside of the controversial climate control button layout is the massive rear blind spots. The rear pillars block a big chunk of the rearward view. Chevy added a camera-based rear-view mirror display to help make up for this, but it isn’t the perfect solution.

2020 Chevy C8 Corvette Exterior Design

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The Chevy C8 Corvette has an almost timeless design that pushed the Corvette name into the world of exotics and high-priced ego boosters – a segment that neither the Corvette nor Chevy as a company has ever had to compete before. The Corvette might not have jaw-breaking performance comparable to that of 1800-horsepower Bugattis or ability to turn heads quite as fast as something like a Ferrari, but it sure does look the part of a supercar or exotic through and through. We’d argue that it’s one of Chevy’s best designs, and it would generally compete with something like the Ford GT, but it looks this good at a quarter of the price and there is no limited availability as long as you’re willing to wait.

What is probably the most intriguing design aspect happens in the rear where the sleek arrow taillights blend in so nicely with the short rear end and low-profile spoiler (optional). Overall, the C8 does turn heads based on looks alone and, while it’s a huge departure from the Corvette we’ve always known, it’s certainly the best thing Chevy has going for it today.

How Big Is the C8 Corvette?

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The C8 Corvette is 182.3 inches long, 76.1 inches wide, and 48.6 inches tall. This makes it longer than both the Porsche 911 and Audi A8 (177.9 inches and 174.4 inches, respectively) but not quite as wide. It’s also shorter in terms of height than both of these competitors. It also rides on a 107.2-inch wheelbase, which is nearly three inches short of the Audi R8 and nearly a foot shorter than the 911! In terms of garagability (you’re going to garage this thing, right?), you’ll need, at the very least, a 1.5-car garage with a deeper two-car garage more ideal. The C8 doesn’t deserve, nor will it fit in a one-car garage, so don’t even think about it. [a/]

Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 vs competition exterior dimensions
Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 Audi R8 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Length 182.3 174.4 177.9
Width 76.1 76.4 79.7
Height 48.6 48.7 51.1
Wheelbase 107.2 104.3 96.5
Ground Clearance 5.3 6.2 4.9
Front Track 64.9 64.8 62.5
Rear Track 62.4 63 61.2
Curb Weight 3,467 3,571 3,298

What Colors Are Available for the C8 Corvette?

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The C8 Corvette has a rich color pallete for the 2021 model year. There are eight standard colors that are no-cost options, including:

  • Arctic White
  • Black
  • Torch Red
  • Ceramic Matrix Gray Metallic
  • Elkhard Lake Blue Metallic
  • Shadow Gray Metallic
  • Silver Flare Metallic
  • Zeus Bronze Metallic

There are also four more optional colors that might be worth paying for if you’re into exotic colors:

  • Accelerate Yellow Metallic - $500
  • Rapid Blue - $500
  • Sebring Orange Tintcoat - $995
  • Red Mist Metallic Tintcoat - $995

How Much Does the Chevy C8 Corvette Cost?

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Exterior
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The Chevy C8 Corvette Starts out at $59,995 in coupe form or $67,495 in Convertible 1LT trim Move up to the 2LT trim and you’ll be asked to pay up $67,295 for the coupe or $74,295 for the convertible. 3LT comes in at $71,945 for the coupe and $78,945 for the convertible. To put into perspective just how reasonable this pricing is, the Audi R8 starts out at $144,790, so you can literally buy two C8s for the same price. Meanwhile, the Porsche 911 Carrera S comes in at $115,100.

Chevy C8 Corvette Competition

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Exterior
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Chevy and Ford have been duking it out for years, so in a perfect world, the new C8 Corvette would actually compete with the Ford GT, but the GT is way too expensive, way to limited, and well, they just play in different leagues altogether. With the impressively low price of the C8 and the mild performance figures, we’ve had to look a little outside of the box to find real competitors. Sadly, both the model we’re about to discuss are much more expensive, but they are both special in their own way, so let’s get to it.

Is the Chevy C8 Corvette Better Than The Audi R8?

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The Audi R8 is a fine, mid-engined sports car that shares the two-seat configuration found in the C8 corvette, but it has one huge thing holding it back – it’s been on the market since 2006. The second-gen model was presented in 2015, but it was more of a facelift than the true generational evolution that we’ve come to expect, with the biggest change being the introduction of Audi’s new shorter and wider grille design. That said, the R8 that competes with the C8 comes with a 5.2-liter V-8 that’s good for 532 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. That’s a big jump over the C8 in terms of horsepower but quite the deficit in terms of torque. Getting to 60 mph takes 3.6 seconds, so it’s 0.8-seconds slower to the benchmark, but it does top out at 201 mph, so it’ll always win when it comes to top-end speed.

The exterior design is similar to all other mid-engined cars out there with an Audi twist, so there’s nothing special to note there. The R8 is more spacious inside in terms of both headroom and shoulder room, but the will win here is that the cabin is more passenger friendly without the annoying overly tall center console. The weird thing here is that the R8 doesn’t exactly have an infotainment screen. Well, it does, but it’s integrated with the 12.3-inch display ahead of the steering wheel – something that makes it as driver-oriented as the C8 Corvette with a much cleaner center stack. As of the time of this writing, the Audi R8 V10 RWD starts out at $142,700 while the V-10 Performance comes in at $196,700, so it’s a lot more expensive than even the best, fully optioned C8 Corvette.

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Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 vs Audi R8
Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 Audi R8
Engine LT2 6.2L V8 VVT with direct injection and Active Fuel Management 5.2-liter V10
Transmission M1L 8-speed dual clutch (DCT) Seven-speed S tronic® dual-clutch automatic
Horsepower 495 @ 6450 rpm 532 HP
Torque 470@ 5150 rpm 398 lb-ft
Driveline RWD AWD
Fuel Premium Premium
Fuel Economy 15/27/19 13/20/16
Suspension Short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone Double wishbone
Steering variable-ratio rack-and-pinion with electric power assist; Electromechanical power steering
Turning Circle 36.4 36.7
Front Tire Size 245/35ZR19 245/30 R20
Rear Tire Size 305/30ZR20 305/30 R20
0-60 MPH 2.8 seconds 3.6 seconds
Top Speed 184 mph 201 mph

Read our full review on the Audi R8

Is The C8 Corvette Better Than The Porsche 911

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To be quite honest, we’re a little on the fence about comparing the 911 to the C8 as they are two different cars. The C8 is a mid-engined sports car while the 911 is rear engined, which means it offers up different driving dynamics. Be that as it may, both cars are geared toward the same crop of enthusiasts, so there’s at least some comparison to be made. Where the C8 has a 6.2-liter V-8, the 911 Carrera S, the closest model you can get, comes with a 3.0-liter six-cylinder Boxer engine that’s good for 443 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. There are faster 911s out there by far, but with a starting price already in the six-figure range, this is about as close as you’ll get. In this configuration, the 911 gets to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, so it’s a little over a half-second slower to 60 mph. Like the R8, however, it’ll win in a top-end race as it tops out at 191 mph, 7 mph faster than the C8 at 184 mph.

The tradeoff here is that the 911 is rooted in iconic history that dates back decades. The mid-engined corvette is also rooted in Corvette history, but it wasn’t manifested into something tangible until just recently. The 911 is, quite literally, timeless and all that heritage and DNA makes the 911 a natural status symbol of which no explanation is needed. Pricing for the 911 Carrera S comes in at $115,100, so it’s a little more affordable than the R8 (by almost $30,000), but it’s still quite a bit more expensive than the C8 Corvette LT3 with the Z51 package at $78,945.

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Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 vs Porsche 911 Carrera S
Chevy C8 Corvette Z51 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Engine LT2 6.2L V8 VVT with direct injection and Active Fuel Management 3.0-liter Twin-turbocharged boxer 6
Transmission M1L 8-speed dual clutch (DCT) manual/PDK
Horsepower 495 @ 6450 rpm 443 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 470@ 5150 rpm 390 lb-ft @ 2,300 - 5,000 rpm
Driveline RWD RWD
Fuel Premium Premium
Fuel Economy 15/27/19 18/24/20
Suspension Short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone "Strut (front)/Multi-Link (rear)"
Steering variable-ratio rack-and-pinion with electric power assist; Rack-Pinion
Turning Circle 36.4 36.8
Front Tire Size 245/35ZR19 P245/35YR20
Rear Tire Size 305/30ZR20 P305/30YR21
0-60 MPH 2.8 seconds 3.5 seconds
Top Speed 184 mph 191 mph

Read our full review on the Porsche 911

Final Thoughts

2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z51 - Driven Exterior
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Overall and controversy aside, the C8 Corvette is a homerun for Chevy. It might not be as fast or as powerful as it looks on the outside, but it’s a damn good performer that – in the short run – can take down cars like the Audi R8 and 911 without breaking a sweat. Of course, the C8 does have its flaws, like that funky center console, but if you’ve wanted something that looks exotic without paying divorce-inducing money to get it, the C8 Corvette is a find option.

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
About the author

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