Orlando, FL – The Chevrolet Corvette has been the stuff of dreams since its very debut in 1953. It status as the Great American Sports Car even led to a connection with the golden age of space travel. Older folks might recall astronauts being handed the keys to a brand-new Corvette… in exchange for some valuable publicity of course!
As the story goes, the owner of a Chevrolet dealership in Florida, Jim Rathmann, negotiated a one-year lease of the Corvettes with the astronauts, in exchange for a measly $1 – and that for any model in the Chevy lineup. Can we be surprised that most of these hearty American boys chose the Corvette? Its performance capabilities were hard to resist, especially the C2 and C3 versions with their big engines under the hood.
It was in the spirit of those times that Chevrolet invited the automotive press to participate in the official launch of the 2020 Corvette Stingray Convertible at the Kennedy Space Center’s Rocket Garden, which contains several of the rockets and other important vessels that marked NASA history. For the occasion, a few American astronauts were on hand to share their anecdotes to do with the Corvette, a car that, needless to say, changed dramatically this year with the introduction of the next-gen C8.
Dramatically, indeed. The carmaker finally took the plunge after years of speculation and made of the new 2020 Corvette Stingray a mid-engined car, in order for the model to be able to compete with the best sport models built elsewhere in the world.
16 seconds later
The C8 made its official debut in July, and now it was the turn of the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible to parade under the spotlight. It didn’t take long for the event’s organizers to get the ball rolling, as they brought out two versions of the removable-top C8, which by the way becomes the first Corvette convertible to be fitted with a removable hard top - and of course the first Corvette convertible with a central engine!
The two Corvette Convertibles made their entrance with the roof in full action, effectively demonstrating that it’s possible to open up or close that roof while in motion – a feature that is increasingly widespread among modern convertibles. Chevrolet also confirmed that the operation, which takes all of 16 seconds, can be done when moving at a speed of up to 48 km/h (30 mph).
The roof is controlled by six electric motors, a solution deemed to be more reliable than past hydraulic systems. My first impression on seeing the convertible version is how the hard top makes the shape of the car more youthful and modern in comparison with older-generation Corvettes with a soft top.
As of now, Chevrolet has not divulged the pricing for the options available with the model, but the company says it will be possible to order the roof and the pods (behind the occupants) in a metallic carbon colour. The container that houses the roof when occupants prefer the open air has in its rear section a grill to help ventilate the engine compartment, which, like in the coupe version, gets its needed dose of oxygen from the lateral slots on the sides of the car.
Between the two pods behind the occupants, engineers also focused on the comfort of those occupants by inserting a retractable window. Once raised, it greatly reduces the air flow disturbances inside the cabin.
The same beating heart
Unsurprisingly, this convertible version uses the same powertrain as the Corvette Stingray coupe. The naturally aspirated 6.2L LT2 V8 engine (good for 495 hp and 470 lb-ft when with the optional exhaust system) works with the company’s new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Chevrolet promises a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of right around three seconds for the convertible (it was under three seconds for the coupe), which indicates a slightly heavier overall weight. To equal the performance capabilities of the coupe, the convertible also received some adjustments to its suspension. On that point, we’ll have to wait until later this year to have anything to say about its capabilities.
Same level of practicality
Quite often, choosing a convertible means making a few sacrifices in terms of practicality. Cargo space, for example, often takes a hit to make way for the roof’s mechanism. Chevrolet has managed to avoid these issues with the Corvette Convertible, since the small trunk in front is still in place as in the coupe, while the second, larger trunk can still swallow up two golf bags – a criterion the engineers specifically set out to meet at the start of the C8 project. This might seem banal, but for the consumer who intends to use their car every day, reasonable cargo capacity is a big selling point.
The designers even found an original way to design the functioning of the hard top. Instead of adding an additional command inside the cabin, the button for opening or closing the top has been included with those for opening the windows, on the left-side door.
Not too long a wait
The automaker confirmed that production of the Corvette Convertible will get underway early in 2020, with the first units being delivered in the spring. Even better, in Canada the convertible variant will cost buyers a mere $9,000 extra in comparison with the coupe. That version costs $69,998, making the starting price for the convertible $78,998, preparation fees included.
So unless the new Corvette proves a disaster to drive, it’s safe to say that the C8 represents a mighty good bargain, given the performance potential of the model.