Our friend Don Sherman of Car and Driver is back talking about the near-future of the Chevrolet and what the next 18 months should bring. 07/08/17
As the technical editor for C&D, the long-time 1967 Corvette owner has many friendships and sources inside GM and the Corvette team. That doesn’t mean Don is 100% up on what’s going on with both the launch of the 2018 Corvette ZR1 or the c8 mid-engine Corvette. No one is. But we like to think of Sherman’s articles on Corvettes like a modern-day EF Hutton commercial. When he speaks, we need to shut up and listen!
Don recently posted about the future of the Corvette on Hagerty.com and he had some interesting takes after visiting the Bowling Green Assembly Plant and taking part of the public tours before they recently closed them down.
Don was the guy who first put out there that the 2018 Corvette ZR1 will be introduced on August 6th at Road America during an IMSA race. He still believes that’s where the public will first see the latest C7 Corvette for the first time:
My educated guess is that the 2018 ZR1 will break cover at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America race track in conjunction with the August 6 Continental Tire Road Race event. The photo op of the street ZR1s juxtaposed with Corvette C7.R racers is too golden an opportunity for Chevy to squander.
He believes that the 2018 ZR1 will be powered by a version of the Corvette Z06’s 6.2L LT4 V8 engine. The ZR1’s engine will have a larger Eaton twin-rotor supercharger and higher capacity intercoolers to boost power up to 750 hp but it will still retain the same direct injection and variable valve timing setup as the LT4. But Don isn’t so sure it will be called the LT5 as many have speculated and believes the LT5 document leak was either a smoke screen or document error.
One of the features of the ZR1 that Don is excited to see will be an active aero dynamics system that was published in a patent application by GM:
This year’s ZR1 will also be armed with special features to optimize its aero performance: a means of accurately controlling each corner’s ride height to take maximum advantage of a variable front splitter and an active rear wing flying high and wide. In March of this year, GM applied for a patent that describes this equipment in intimate detail.
So what is all this going to cost? After all, the 2013 ZR1 MSRP began around $112,000. Don thinks the 2018 Corvette ZR1’s price point will be around $135,000.
From there, he shifts into the future of Corvette and the C8 mid-engine. Will the Corvette shift to being a mid-engine car moving forward or will Chevrolet offer both a front-engine and mid-engine models and let the market decide?
Considering that Chevy currently owns more than 40 percent of the $50-100,000 sports car market, flipping the switch from C7 to a radically different and more-expensive C8 would be insanity. Instead, building both Corvettes concurrently will allow the faithful to decide which best suits their fantasies.
Don refers to the C8 mid-engine Corvettes at a 2020 model year. A year ago, he suggested the C8 Corvette would debut at the 2018 NAIAS in Detroit with an LT1 V8 and an MSRP of $80,000. So it’s worth noting the Corvette expert’s time-line change as the 2019 C8 is pushed back a year. However Don has lowered his expected MSRP of the 2020 C8 mid-engine base model to below $70,000 – that would be a real trick for the Corvette team to pull off and would remove the expected higher price point for customers to make the mid-engine jump at a price that is relatively the same as the front-engine C7 Corvette Grand Sport.
With 500 or so horsepower on tap and a base price below $70,000, the 2020 C8 should revolutionize the supercar category. As this new platform matures, Chevy will add alternatives to today’s LT-1 including an all-wheel-drive hybrid (possibly called E-Ray) and a twin-turbo DOHC V-8 hammering out a remarkable 1,000 horsepower.
Don offers a new rumor that is new to us, saying that the word on the street is that a North Carolina shop will upfit Bowling-Green C8s with a custom interior and exterior trim. We’re not so sure about that as the upgrades the plant will undergo in the next four months should make it easier for Chevrolet to provide all that in-house at the plant. We don’t see the company spending nearly $775 million on plant upgrades to outsource the installation of interiors to another vendor.
Finally, Don offers a tip when it comes to viewing the camouflaged C8 mules saying that certain prototypes are being constructed by Pratt & Miller engineering utilizing Daytona Prototype panels for subterfuge, saying “When your task is nurturing wild Corvette dreams, chicanery is to be expected.”