Behind the wheel of the long-awaited mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Page 2 of 4

There's a lot more to the C8 Corvette's technology inventory than just the relocated engine.
(Image source: General Motors Co.)

In addition to shifting the car’s weight balance rearward over the driving wheels, another important benefit of the redesign is that the new car’s torsional rigidity is 40 percent better than that of the old car, thanks to the engine and transaxle bolting rigidly to the chassis to anchor the rear suspension. Reducing the uncontrolled movement of the frame lets the suspension work more accurately, making Hurley’s job easier and more effective when tuning the BWI Magnaride shock absorbers.

Those shocks are unchanged from the ones on the 2019 Corvette, but now they benefit from a new, more powerful electronic controller and from the replacement of the old mechanical suspension position sensors with accelerometers. The mechanical sensors themselves are accurate enough, said Hurley, but the linkage that attaches them to the moving parts introduces play that makes small movements impossible to capture properly. 

As a result, engineers couldn’t calibrate the old car to filter out the buzz from small motions as when driving over gravel, because the signal of the bumps was lost in the noise of the play within the linkage, Hurley explained. Using accelerometers at each corner (plus another one in the control unit) to measure motion directly provides much more useful data that let Hurley’s team provide a smoother ride in those conditions.

(Image source: General Motors Co.)

Driving on the smooth roads outside Phoenix provided no opportunity to experience the car’s ability to deal with coarse surfaces, but switching between the Touring, Sport, and Track modes did demonstrate obvious differences in the car’s response.

Touring mode makes the suspension softer and more comfortable, as advertised, while Sport sharpens responses to make the handling crisper with a slight degradation in ride quality. Track mode is sharper still, but without a track testing opportunity with this prototype we will have to postpone judgement on its effectiveness until later.

Interestingly, Hurley reports that because the Corvette was his team’s first experience with a mid-engine car with a rearward weight bias, often the familiar solutions to common problems no longer applied. When they might have softened the front shocks in response to an issue previously, now the answer might be to tighten the rear instead, he explained. Testing, trial and error and continuous refinement of the algorithms resulted in a car that exhibits well-executed responses to input from the road and the driver.

In a mid-engine car, obviously, the engine is now behind the passenger cabin rather than ahead of it, and this move has a noticeable effect on engine noise. Just as jetliners leave the thunder of jet exhaust in the plane’s wake, with little effect on passengers, so does the Corvette driver ride along ahead of the noise produced behind and exiting out the back.

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