The next Chevy, or Cadillac, Corvette?

Automotive News reports:

There’s another round of midengine Chevrolet Corvette spy photos, and they’re perhaps the best look at the long-rumored sports car yet.

Spy photographers spotted what appears to be a midengine Corvette at one of General Motors’ winter-testing facilities.

The photos indicate that the vehicle will have a lower hood line, a longer rear deck and a much shorter dash-to-axle ratio.

The midengine mule was spotted, at times, next to a pair of other Corvette prototypes that are likely next-gen ZR1 mules.

Despite being heavily camouflaged, some key design features such as taillights and the vehicle’s exhaust layout were visible.

The latest photos illustrate just how much of a departure, in terms of design and engineering, a midengine Corvette would be for GM.

It remains unclear where a midengine Corvette would stand in the Chevrolet performance lineup and whether it will replace the C7 Corvette outright or coexist with the current generation.

In August, The Detroit News, citing multiple sources, reported that GM plans to begin selling a midengine Corvette in early 2019.

The Corvette, one of GM’s oldest nameplates, continues to attract mostly older buyers, and the automaker is eager to switch to a midengine layout to attract younger consumers, the paper said.

There have been several reports in Car and Driver and other media outlets over the past three years speculating about revived plans for a midengine Corvette.

While the Corvette has been GM’s premier performance vehicle for decades, a switch to a midengine layout would entail a major overhaul of the current car, the C7.

Almost no parts could be carried over because nearly all of the major components on a midengine car would be in different locations.

Switching from a front to midengine layout would entail engineering a new chassis, creating a new transaxle — the transmission and axle — to drive the rear wheels, developing new cooling, air-conditioning and suspension systems, and designing an all-new body.

A midengine Corvette would give GM a true competitor to Ford’s GT supercar, which is midengined, as well as supercars from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.

In June 2016, GM disclosed plans to spend $290 million to retool the Bowling Green, Ky., assembly plant where the Corvette is assembled.

The factory’s assembly operations are set to be upgraded and modified for “technology upgrades and manufacturing process improvements.”

In 2015, GM said it would spend $439 million on a new paint shop at the Corvette-only plant. Work on the paint shop began in 2015 that year and will run until mid-2017.

Motor1 suggests that the mid-engine car will be in addition to, not in place of, the current Corvette:

Two of the most anticipated American sports cars are under development side by side.

The engineers in charge of the Chevrolet Corvette are keeping very busy this winter by developing several versions of the sports car at once, and these spy photos offer a fantastic look of the mid-engine model and future ZR1 testing together. This is our first opportunity to compare them next to each other.

With its short, sloping nose and long rear section, Chevy is taking a familiar supercar design approach for its mid-engine Corvette. The undulating camouflage on the bulging hood suggests there might be an intake there or the designers are going for a highly sculpted shape. Two bubbles in the roof give the driver and passenger more headroom while keeping the center section low.

Openings in the concealment along the rear fenders hint that there might be intakes there for feeding air to the engine. The camouflage at the tail hides the lights but keeps the taillights relatively unhidden. The quad exhausts and exposed muffler look good, but it’s surprising not to see a big diffuser or wing back there. These aerodynamic devices are largely the norm at the rear of many super cars today.

When not on the test track, these spy shots show that Chevy is keeping the mid-engine Corvette highly camouflaged. Not only does a massive covering completely hide the shape of the body, but the company also has a pair of pickups flanking the much-anticipated vehicle.

In comparison, the ZR1 appears to sit slightly higher than the mid-engine ‘Vette but still looks mean. These shots show it with two separate wings – an incredibly tall one with large end plates and a smaller example. The ZR1s here feature bulging hoods and aggressive front fascia designs.

We expect the ZR1 to arrive late in 2017 as a 2018 model year vehicle, and it might use Chevy’s new LT5 6.2-liter dual-overhead cam V8. The different wings hint that there might be an even hotter performance package.

The first question that comes to mind is: Is this actually a Corvette, or is this perhaps the next Cadillac XLR, which was based on the Corvette but with the NorthStar V-8 engine and more luxury accouterments.

There remains a certain illogic in replacing the rear-wheel-drive Corvette, of which Chevrolet sells every one it makes, with a mid-engine replacement using unproven technology (of which GM has a bad habit of sending into the marketplace before it’s really ready) and a list price likely to be far beyond $100,000.

CarGurus presents GM’s supposed rationale:

The average ‘Vette buyer is a 59-year-old male, but Chevrolet would love to start sending Corvettes home with guys and gals a decade or two younger. Certainly the C7 appeals to a younger crowd, but the Corvette brand has become associated with being a mid-life crisis purchase. When was the last time you saw someone driving a Corvette who didn’t have white hair?

Younger folks tend to buy the Camaro or Mustang.

Part of the reason is because older buyers are usually better-equipped to buy such an expensive car than their younger counterparts. In fact, more than 40 percent of Corvettes are purchased with cash.

There’s a new Corvette on the horizon, though, that might be enough to persuade younger folks with extra cash to jump on the Corvette train. …

It would also, GM hopes, make the car appeal to a younger crowd. Ferrari’s average buyer is 47, and Lamborghini’s is 48, while the average Porsche 911 buyer is 52.

The biggest problem, in my humble opinion, is that the Corvette was coolest when older people were young. The other brands require a deeper appreciation for quality cars, while the Corvette is a feel-good purchase that makes people reminiscent of when they were younger.

Happily, even at my advanced age I am younger than the average Corvette buyer. Does that explain why I don’t own one, or is it the manifest unfairness of life>

That rationale lacks logic. Comments on the Car Gurus post point out that you can spend $90,000 on the current Corvette. A mid-engined Corvette would be far more expensive than that. If younger buyers don’t buy Corvettes due to their price now, a more expensive Corvette won’t change that. And if you’re, say, 35 to 45 and rich, you seem more likely to buy a Ferrari or Porsche.

The current Corvette is a performance bargain for the price. I’m not certain why Chevy wants to screw that up, but it is GM we’re talking about.

 

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