SCOOP: The Mid-Engine Corvette Will Likely Be Confirmed in 2016
Look, we know what you’re thinking.
But after decades of rumors, speculation, and concepts, we have it on good authority from an unnamed source that GM is poised to pull the trigger on a mid-engine Corvette.
While there’s been chatter that any mid-engine supercar project could be branded a Cadillac, we don’t think that idea will pass muster. Corvette godfather Zora Arkus-Duntov long dreamed of a mid-engine version of America’s Sports Car, and generations of protracted teasing seems to ensure that GM will make good, and brand the next-gen car a Corvette.
Expect GM to be selective among Chevy stores authorized to sell and service a mid-engine Corvette. The company will select dealers based on the familiar metrics of location, sales volume, relationship, quality of facilities, and customer service record. Ultimately, the production quantity will be so low that neither the Chevy badge, nor the Chevy retail experience will prevent them from selling out.
Our source says the automaker is already several years into the mid-engine Corvette project, and is nipping at the point of no return. Barring some dramatic developments, we’ll see something from Chevy targeted against the Ford GT sooner rather than later. The car is likely in validation now.
Of course, GM has flirted with mid-engine Corvettes for years. But until recently it has been America’s finest sports car, and the company did not feel the need to radically alter its winning front-engine, rear-drive formula.
Moreover, the company’s conservative, risk-averse culture has historically resisted change—but with the arrival of the Ford GT in 2005, the Corvette unequivocally ceded its claim to being America’s performance king.
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Obviously, the Ford GT and Chevrolet Corvette are not direct competitors. That said, neither the old GM, nor the new GM enjoys being upstaged by its cross-town rival. And given that halo cars are rarely financial winners, there was little it could do during or immediately following the great recession.
Given the simmering anger regarding its billion-dollar bailout, even post-bankruptcy GM couldn’t justify the development of a new halo car. But the company is now back in private control, its products are competitive, and the General can once again afford to allocate resources to more speculative projects. But as it stands today, Chevy’s current halo car—the Z06—sits squarely in the shadow of the Blue Oval’s Le Mans competitor.
And the reinvigorated GM seems unlikely to let that stand.
The Mid-Engine Corvette Plan
For motivation, look for an advanced adaptation of the Corvette’s peak offerings.
GM will employ a sophisticated derivative of the LT1/LT4 engine family with gasoline direct injection and two turbochargers. It will produce in excess of 700 horsepower.
Obviously, the amidships engine location presents packaging challenges for the incumbent gear boxes.
And as with any new product program, GM is working to minimize development costs on the mid-engine ‘Vette, which is likely exacerbated by the excessive overruns on the C7. Internal estimates initially put that figure at $500 million, but it eventually ballooned to $1 billion, and its impact on transmission development is not entirely clear.
But it appears likely they will attempt to capitalize on the mechanical bits presently available, with changes focused on packaging and weight-saving opportunities, in conjunction with gearing optimization and advanced tuning solutions.
So we anticipate the new car will get a seven-speed manual because offering a standard manual transmission doesn’t prevent the development of a more exotic, sector-competitive solution, and will help differentiate the car from other high-dollar exotics that have forsaken them.
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While the C7 cost GM $1 billion to develop, it has sold well, finding about 35,000 customers in each of its last two years. So the current Corvette will remain. When the mid-engine car is released, GM will split the Corvette nameplate into separate cars sold side-by-side.
Of course, engine placement is not the only factor that will differentiate the front- and mid-engine models. The mid-engine Corvette will slot well above the C7, which will continue to be offered in the $55,000 to $120,000 price range.
The new mid-engine model will be priced higher—much higher. Our best guess is a sticker well above the $160,000 to $200,000 range that Audi and Acura are asking for the R8 and NSX offerings. Expect a price point closer to the $400,000 Ford GT and Lamborghini Aventador.
So if you have to ask how much the mid-engine ‘Vette will cost, you can’t afford it.
And when the C7 comes due for a complete redesign, GM will analyze the programs, and then decide if room remains for a mid-engine range-topper.
Look for an announcement to trump the new Ford GT as early as the L.A. Auto Show late this year.
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