Chevrolet has experimented with a mid-engine layout for its Corvette sports car since the Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle-I (CERV-I) of 1960, but even while the company took its time moving to those configurations, it has needed to explain the engineering rationale and performance benefits of doing so, because customers have become very accustomed to the car's front-engine layout that has been employed since its 1953 debut.
Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter outlines the case for the change from front engine to mid-engine.
The eighth-generation 2020 Corvette (C8) carries over the familiar small block, overhead valve V8 engine that we know from the outgoing car, but with important modifications. One of the biggest changes is a switch to a dry-sump oiling system. This is the type of oil distribution used by race cars, because it ensures oil delivery under high-g conditions and it also helps lower the mass of the engine in the car, reports Assistant Chief Engineer Mike Kociba.
The 2020 Corvette does not offer a traditional H-pattern manual transmission with a clutch pedal. Instead, Chevy has turned to Tremec for a brand-new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission that delivers performance that isn't possible with a manual gearbox.
The Corvette sends power from the DCT to an electronic limited slip differential. According to Performance Engineer Jason Kolk, the system can even adjust the power distribution to the rear wheels depending on tire temperature.
Magnetically adjustable shock absorbers are a long-time feature of Corvettes and Cadillacs, but the C8 Corvette features the fourth generation of the technology for the ideal combination of comfort and handling, reports Vehicle Performance Engineer Mike Hurley.
Corvette designers face the daunting task of creating bodywork that simultaneously reduces drag, increases downforce, provides for cooling and retains some traditional Corvette cues so fans can distinguish the car from competitors.
"When I come in and see the sculptors and designers and engineers working around the clay model, stepping back, it is like watching a symphony orchestra," enthused Exterior Design Director Tom Peters.
The 2020 'Vette's sheetmetal, er, fiberglass is available in a dozen different colors, up from 10 colors for the 2019 car, each shade selected and adjusted with specific purposes in mind. "The way I always look at color is that it always has to have an opinion," explained Color and Trim Design Manager Brett Golliff.
For 2020, Corvette supplements the existing Tour, Sport, Track and Weather driving modes with two more choices of personalized settings that let drivers pick their own blend of steering, suspension and drivetrain responses.
Having all the right hardware in place is only 80 percent of the battle, according to Lead Development Engineer Mike Petrucci. The last 20 percent comes from the hard work of calibrating the electronics so the parts work as well as they possibly can. That's where the countless hours of track testing of prototypes come in.
With that, the car is finished and ready for delivery to customers. "About a month ago, we were at the track and I thought, 'When I get out of this car in 45 minutes, this is going to be the Corvette. It's not going to be the new Corvette. It is going to be the Corvette,'" concluded Vehicle Performance Manager Alex MacDonald.
Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.
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