What do Jimi Hendrix, Farrah Fawcett, John Wayne, Michael Jordan, Steve McQueen, Cindy Crawford, Paul McCartney, and Joe Biden have in common?
They’re all past or present Corvette owners.
Introduced in 1953, the Chevy Corvette is the world’s longest-running continuously produced passenger car. And the C8 generation that began in 2020 is a pinnacle of its lineage. Driving it is a mix of private thrills and unavoidable public interactions.
LIFE THROUGH CORVETTE EYES
I got a parking ticket on my first day driving the 2021 Corvette Stingray. Normally I would bust a forehead vein in anger, but not this time. I just pocketed the ticket with a smile and thought, “Yeah, I’d probably ticket this guy, too.” I had that meter timed on my phone. The only way I got a ticket was if the Day-Glo-vested day-ruiner stood there and waited for it to run out. I didn’t care. I was about to drive the Corvette again. Everything else felt small.
Before I could leave, a man stopped on the sidewalk to ask if it was a Ferrari. Then a woman asked me for spare change, and when I apologized for not having any (with guilt piled on by the Corvette) she replied: “Well, can I get a ride in your sweet Vette?” Later, the guy holding the spare-change sign at the freeway off-ramp yelled, “Sweeeeeet Riiiiiiide,” as I cowered in my bucket seat with hopes of avoiding a repeat of the same social guilt loop.
Every middle-aged man on the road in a V6 or higher tried to race me at stoplights. A cop pulled up next to me just to tell me how much he dug the Stingray, and then suggested a private airport that might let me take it on the tarmac. When I pulled over once to snap a picture of the car, a nearby stranger abandoned a picnic with friends to come ask me if she could pose for pictures on the hood for Instagram.
Suffice it to say, this car is not for those who crave anonymity. I live in a city where luxury cars abound, but there’s something about this Corvette that draws fans out of the woodwork. As someone who appreciates anonymity, I was happiest driving alone, moving too fast to be spoken to or waved down. And with a zero-to-sixty time of under three seconds, that was easily done.
DESIGN AND PERFORMANCE
The most beautiful Corvettes of the past were distinguished by their fender flares and side coves. And the C8’s aggressive and unapologetic interpretation of these design elements gives it an in-your-face elegance. The window onto the engine, with its carbon fiber and reptilian spine, puts its mechanical beauty on vivid display. Overall, it is as stunning to look at as it is to drive.
When 1960s NASA astronauts wanted a taste of adrenaline on land, they drove around in their Corvettes. It’s a raw legacy you feel immediately when you put the 6.2-liter V8 into Sport mode and give it some juice. But the magic in the way this car drives is not just what the engine is, but WHERE it is—right behind the driver.
The mid-engine positioning puts 60% of the weight in the rear, so as the driver, you’re sitting right in front of the car’s center of gravity, and just behind the front axle. So you’re essentially at a fulcrum point of maximum agility. You feel it in every turn, and you feel it in the quick acceleration—you’re sitting right in the sweet spot of this machine-in-motion.
For an extra $6,000, the Z51 performance package gives you a slew of upgrades to the traction, suspension, and cooling—so you can drive faster, better, and longer around a track. The engine noise is so uniquely American. It’s not as shrill as a Japanese car, not as brash as a German car, and not as boastful as an Italian car; it has a nice baritone vroom that feels like it belongs in a Mellencamp song.
I found my happy place driving fast, alone, listening to classic rock. Particularly AC/DC. This is too fast for The Eagles. There is no Peaceful, Easy Feeling, this car is Thunderstruck. I have driven faster cars, but I’m not sure I’ve driven cars faster. This thing is a dare on wheels. I wanted to pack an overnight bag and set off across the country.
The cockpit is exquisite: the contoured and perforated Nappa leather bucket seats, the way all the buttons and displays are angled around the driver’s POV makes you feel like you’ve slipped into a fighter jet. And the square steering wheel is a revelation that made me wonder why all steering wheels aren’t made that way.
After days of rain driving and testing the limits of traction control, I finally got some sunshine and took the top off, and it suddenly had a completely different personality. Driving, top down, across a 200-foot-high bridge over Charleston Harbor, I had a grin stuck to my face all the way. It’s also very easy for one person to remove the top and stow it in the trunk.
I did, however, learn that the rearview mirror screen, a must due to the engine blocking your view, is better than an actual mirror for night driving, but poorer on a sunny day.
Nothing else delivers this kind of supercar experience for the money. The $58,900 Corvette Stingray’s starting price is $10,000 less than a BMW M3, and $163,000 less than an “entry-level” Ferrari Roma.
It seems disingenuous to call any car that can easily cost the better part of a hundred grand “affordable,” but the C8 delivers all the strangers' stares and hell-for-leather performance of a supercar without putting you at risk of the guillotine. In fact, it may be the only supercar out there that’s actually reading the room.
Redneck Ferrari? No. More like smart man’s Ferrari.