Our 2021 Chevy Corvette Z51 Welcomes the Open Road

Chevrolet's mid-engine Corvette is proving to be a worthy and very rapid road-trip companion.

10,000-Mile Update

It's been pretty easy for our Chevy Corvette Z51 to win us over, with its attention-grabbing lines, agile handling, and blistering 2.9-second sprint to 60 mph. Not to mention the rowdy cold-start bark from its 495-hp 6.2-liter V-8 that Zora Arkus-Duntov probably can hear from the grave. As our long-term Corvette passes the quarter-way point of its 40,000-mile test, we're finding it difficult to dwell on its often-trivial shortcomings. Instead, we're growing increasingly impressed with how well this mid-engine sports car works as a road-trip companion.

Since it arrived at Car and Driver HQ, our Corvette's Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires have spent little time not in motion. On multiple occasions, it has ferried passengers and their luggage on weekend getaways with few complaints, venturing both to northern Michigan and well south of the state line. The frunk offers enough storage room for a carry-on suitcase and a duffle bag, and the rear trunk can house two carry-ons and whatever else you can stuff back there. Just remember that the trunk is located directly above the exhaust, meaning it gets extra toasty back there and the delicious fudge you've purchased on Mackinac Island will melt. "That my wife and I could go on a weekend road trip in the Corvette is perhaps the highest praise I could give it as a sports car," news editor Eric Stafford wrote in the Vette's logbook.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

Our extended highway drives have also revealed some welcome subtleties about life with the latest Corvette, such as its V-8's ability to hum along on just four cylinders, even at 80 mph. Though we've yet to have any tank of fuel meet the EPA's 27-mpg highway estimate, our recent excursions have boosted our average fuel economy by 1 mpg, to 18 mpg. What's more, the gauges—save for the speedometer and engine-temperature and fuel gauges—can be completely blacked out during dead-of-night driving, which greatly helps reduce eyestrain.

In terms of practicality, the Corvette also swallows golf clubs surprisingly well, as associate technical editor Connor Hoffman found when he loaded his in the trunk and headed to St. Louis for a few rounds. However, during a warm afternoon—and presumably to cool off after a weekend of shanking balls into woods—his urge to remove the targa top presented a dilemma: The top easily stows away in the rear trunk, but not with golf clubs or really anything else back there. Likewise, for the few of us who play ice hockey and have come to appreciate the frunks of Porsche's 718 and 911 models, seemingly engineered to perfectly fit a hockey bag, the Corvette's front cargo hold is considerably smaller. This has unfortunately led us to cram our wet hockey gear—with its stench—in the cabin. You apparently still can't have it all with a mid-engine sports car.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

Another minor gripe has centered on poor rear visibility, as there are two panes of glass to look through, and both require frequent cleaning to remove dust and water kicked up past the engine bay. Keeping a microfiber towel in the trunk is recommended, but we've also learned to bypass the issue by activating the rear-facing camera via a switch on the bottom of the rearview mirror. Though your brain will need to adjust to the camera's lower perspective relative to the physical mirror, the trade-off is clearer vision and a wider field of view.

Our Corvette has continued to be a reliable machine. The navigation issues that we previously experienced were remedied by a new SD card with the appropriate map data, which was installed during the car's first scheduled service at 6773 miles. That initial pit stop, which Chevy covers if the first 7500 miles occur within the first three years, includes an oil and filter change, replacing the transmission filter and topping off the fluid, and basic inspections. The second stop, at 15,091 miles, was more routine, requiring an oil and filter change and inspections. We also had the wipers replaced during that visit, bringing our service total to $153.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

While our Corvette continues to run smoothly, its biggest challenge may be yet to come as winter weather inundates Michigan. As with nearly all our other long-termers, we recently fitted the C8 with winter tires, OE-size Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4s, in preparation for our first snowy rodeo with a mid-engine Corvette. We'll report back with our findings in our next update.

Months in Fleet: 7 months Current Mileage: 15,120 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 18.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 330 miles
Service: $153 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0

Specifications

Specifications

2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51
Vehicle Type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door targa

PRICE
Base/As Tested: $65,990/$79,170
Options: 2LT equipment group, $7300; front axle lift, $1995; magnetorheological dampers, $1895; Carbon Flash wheels, $995; Red Mist paint, $995

ENGINE
pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 376 in3, 6162 cm3
Power: 495 hp @ 6450 rpm
Torque: 470 lb-ft @ 5150 rpm

TRANSMISSION
8-speed dual-clutch automatic

CHASSIS
Suspension, F/R: control arms/control arms
Brakes, F/R: 13.6-in vented disc/13.8-in vented disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ZP
F: 245/35ZR-19 (89Y) TPC Spec 3120
R: 305/30ZR-20 (99Y) TPC Spec 3121

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 107.2 in
Length: 182.3 in
Width: 76.1 in
Height: 48.6 in
Passenger Volume: 51 ft3
Cargo Volume: 13 ft3
Curb Weight: 3665 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS: NEW
60 mph: 2.9 sec
100 mph: 7.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 11.2 sec @ 122 mph
130 mph: 13.2 sec
150 mph: 19.8 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 3.5 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 1.8 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.5 sec
Top Speed (mfr's claim): 184 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 148 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 287 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.03 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 18 mpg
Unscheduled Oil Additions: 1 qt

EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 19/15/27 mpg

WARRANTY
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
6 years/100,000 miles corrosion protection
5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance
3 years/7500 miles scheduled maintenance

C/D TESTING EXPLAINED


Introduction

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

We've become familiar with the excellence of the eight-generation Chevrolet Corvette, now in its third year of production. It garnered our highest accolade by winning three consecutive 10Best awards, showed its stuff around Virginia International Raceway's 4.1-mile circuit at Lightning Lap, and narrowly lost a comparison test to arguably one of the greatest sport coupes of the modern era, Porsche's 718 Cayman GT4. But our exposure has been limited to short time frames, relatively speaking. So we ordered up a C8 for a 40,000-mile long-term test to get a real feel for what it's like to live with Chevrolet's mid-engine creation.

Like we often do, staffers butted heads during the order process. One faction argued that this was our one chance to experience a base 1LT Stingray equipped with only the essential go-fast parts that come with the $5995 Z51 package (larger brake rotors, racier suspension tune, dual-mode exhaust, shorter final-drive ratio, electronically controlled limited-slip differential, summer tires) and $1895 magnetorheological dampers for a total of $66,990, the price we always tout as the performance bargain of the century. But we'd be living with our decision for at least a year, and eventually, we settled on the mid-grade 2LT trim (a $7300 upcharge), which includes niceties such as a heated steering wheel and mirrors, heated and ventilated seats, a head-up display, a 360-degree camera, a Bose audio system, wireless charging, and a performance data and video recorder.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

While the camera system lends a hand to prevent the front splitter from kissing curbs, we also added the front-axle lift system ($1995) to keep its chin clear of speed humps and driveway entrances. The magnetorheological dampers, Carbon Flash wheels ($995), and enticing Red Mist paint ($995) pushed the as-tested price to a still-reasonable $79,170. We went with interior leather in the Natural tone, a no-cost option that pairs nicely with the deep red exterior.

The first 500 miles of Corvette ownership are subdued. Not by choice, but because of computerized limitations. The redline is reduced to 4500 rpm from 6500, and the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic short shifts whenever it can. This getting-to-know-you phase allows one to become accustomed to the buttons atop the curved wall that separates driver and passenger. At first their location seems odd, but they become easy to operate with more familiarity. With the 495-hp 6.2-liter V-8 in a state of relative dormancy, there's opportunity to appreciate the Corvette for qualities outside its performance realm. The standard seats are comfortable enough for extended stays yet plenty supportive when the road coils. The adaptive dampers provide a supple ride even over Michigan's broken pavement, and the Active Fuel Management's switch to fewer than eight cylinders goes largely undetected.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

Once the odometer has passed 500 clicks, the tach opens up and there's more freedom to explore the engine's robust power over short stints. After the 1500-mile break-in process, the Corvette sprinted to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and passed the quarter-mile mark in 11.2 seconds at 122 mph. That's supercar-level performance for a reasonably attainable price. Not to mention that with the Z51 package's Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, the car gripped the skidpad at 1.03 g's. The upgraded brakes stopped our 3665-pound Corvette from 70 mph in a scant 148 feet, and the halt from 100 mph needed just 287.

The miles have piled on quickly, and not surprisingly, the logbook is filling up with praise. "The mid-engine Corvette makes an average Joe feel like Tony Stark in an Iron Man suit," said buyer's guide editor Eric Stafford, who added, "Whether it's parked or in motion, it draws stares." One staffer loaded it full of hunting gear and took full advantage of the front-axle lift system by navigating a sandy, mile-long two-track back to his cabin. This was after we wisely removed the rear brake cooling ducts that were installed and should be fitted only for track use.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

Buyer's Guide deputy editor and Corvette aficionado Rich Ceppos wrote, "The successor to the original Acura NSX, the everyday supercar, isn't the current NSX. It's this Corvette." But it hasn't been all praise, although we're partially to blame by not heeding the warning on Chevrolet's configurator about windshield glare from the optional interior colors. Though an all-black interior wouldn't have the upscale appeal of our Natural leather, a black dashtop wouldn't create the three zebra stripes that reflect onto the windshield.

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♬ LIMITS THE SKY - Mpax

So far, the Corvette has been a paragon of reliability—with one exception: The navigation system quit working. For us, it's not a big deal, as we prefer the mapping apps accessible through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but it's something we'll have addressed when the car goes in for service. We've also added a quart of oil, which isn't a cause for concern as the pistons, rings, and cylinder walls find matrimony, but it's something we'll keep an eye on over the course of the 40,000-mile stay. Perhaps we'll find more grievances, but so far, Chevrolet’s Corvette has already won us over.

Months in Fleet: 3 months Current Mileage: 5929 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 17 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 18.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 310 miles
Service: $12 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0

Specifications

Specifications

2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51
Vehicle Type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door targa

PRICE
Base/As Tested: $65,990/$79,170
Options: 2LT equipment group, $7300; front axle lift, $1995; magnetorheological dampers, $1895; Carbon Flash wheels, $995; Red Mist paint, $995

ENGINE
pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 376 in3, 6162 cm3
Power: 495 hp @ 6450 rpm
Torque: 470 lb-ft @ 5150 rpm

TRANSMISSION
8-speed dual-clutch automatic

CHASSIS
Suspension, F/R: control arms/control arms
Brakes, F/R: 13.6-in vented disc/13.8-in vented disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ZP
F: 245/35ZR-19 (89Y) TPC Spec 3120
R: 305/30ZR-20 (99Y) TPC Spec 3121

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 107.2 in
Length: 182.3 in
Width: 76.1 in
Height: 48.6 in
Passenger Volume: 51 ft3
Cargo Volume: 13 ft3
Curb Weight: 3665 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS: NEW
60 mph: 2.9 sec
100 mph: 7.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 11.2 sec @ 122 mph
130 mph: 13.2 sec
150 mph: 19.8 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 3.5 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 1.8 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.5 sec
Top Speed (mfr's claim): 184 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 148 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 287 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.03 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 18 mpg
Unscheduled Oil Additions: 1 qt

EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 19/15/27 mpg

WARRANTY
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
6 years/100,000 miles corrosion protection
5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance
3 years/7500 miles scheduled maintenance

C/D TESTING EXPLAINED


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