The infamous mid-engine Corvette has been the stuff of lore for decades. Yeah, prototypes and concept cars have snaked their way through the Corvette’s history, but we’ve never seen more commitment than now. With the new Ford GT in town, GM can no longer ignore the call for true supercar status in the form of a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive Corvette. This isn’t to say that the Corvette will leave its blue collars behind, as the traditional front-engine format we see now is expected to continue, but the mid-engine “Zora” is likely to become Chevrolet’s new halo car.
“But isn’t the Z06 already a supercar beater?” Well, yes, it’s always punched a few weight classes higher than its MSRP would suggest, but the Corvette has been the every-man’s sports car, and the design has always restrained itself to stay there. So, with the opportunity for a lower, leaner, meaner Corvette — here’s what you need to know.
WHEN IS IT COMING?
Detroit News reported last August that the Zora is slotted in the product line-up for 2018, while the C7 as we know it will continue until 2021. Motor Trend also expects the front-engine Corvette to be sold alongside the Zora to retain the brand’s affordable world-beater, as the mid-engine package will likely jump well above the sacred $100,000 pricepoint.
WHAT IS IT?
This is Chevrolet’s answer to the Ford GT, in short. With no natural competition on the homefront, and with the front-engine Corvette placing itself firmly as the affordable world-beating sports car, GM never found a reason to commit to a production mid-engine platform — despite the decades of test mules and concepts starting in the 1960s with Zora Arukus-Duntov’s CERV program. With the Ford GT rolling into the streets next year, which utilizes the mid-engine packaging for its incredible aerodynamic efficiency and light-weight construction, GM can’t let their neighbors one-up the Corvette’s domestic status as the top-dog American performance car.
WHAT’S THE ADVANTAGE?
A front-engine layout is not ideal for creating an aerodynamic shape due to the long nose-to-windshield distance needed, and overall weight can be reduced with the tighter mid-engine packaging. Analysts also theorize that the mid-engine layout opens the Corvette up to the option of using an all-wheel-drive drivetrain, possibly hybrid-electric driven, with the newly liberated front space — but at this point that’s pure speculation.
Additionally, moving the Corvette up a slot in price point allows for a wealth of new materials and technology to be used in the chassis itself. This isn’t to say that the Corvette hasn’t been on the bleeding edge of material science for GM, but with a higher pricepoint, the current aluminum space-frame can be dropped for a single-piece monocoque design for instance, resulting in better packaging with less weight. Additionally, a mid-engine platform makes it easier for engineers to play with 50/50 weight balance, which brings a wealth of handling advantages.
WHAT’S THE POWERPLANT?
It’s expected that an LT-based V8 engine will sit behind the front seats, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the rumored twin-turbo mill making an appearance here, too.
Not entirely, as Cadillac may also split the costs of development to introduce their own mid-engine supercar. Who remembers the Cien concept? Cadillac’s Johan De Nysschen has hinted many times that the proposal is up for review, and a mid-engine Cadillac could theoretically demand a higher price than the Zora and help offset the costs of the new platform.