Drove a 2017 Vette over the weekend

Since I can remember I’ve always liked Corvettes. I was a huge Chevrolet fan until the 80’s when they started making complete crap vehicles…but I still always liked the Vette.

A guy at work owns a 2017 Corvette Stingray Coup 2LT. He was having his garage floor epoxied this past weekend and didn’t want his car left out in the rain. This car has never been in the rain or snow.

So I offered to store it in my garage. He agreed and allowed me to drive it when it wasn’t raining.

I probably drove it 50 miles. It is one beautiful machine. Handles better then anything I’ve ever driven. More power then anything I’ve ever driven. Chevrolet put a lot of thought into the design and seemed to do everything just right. I couldn’t find one flaw with the vehicle - except that I didn’t own it.

Even though this was still the front engine Corvette - Chevrolet did a great job balancing the weight by having the tranny in the back. The ride wasn’t harsh. Not as comfortable as my wife’s Lexus, but still very comfortable.

I may get one when I retire. For the money - I don’t think you can get a better sports car. Around here you can buy a used C7 (2014 - 2019) with under 10k miles for about $40k. That’s cheap for what you get.


I’m actually not entirely sure why they went to mid-engine in the Vette beyond just being able to say that it’s mid-engine. The weight distribution is 50/50 for the c7. The c8 is 40/60. Great for launch traction, but enough of an advantage for handling to make it worthwhile. Sure, accel is better on the c8, but if I only cared about straight line acceleration I’d get a very lightly used Tesla with Ludicrous-mode (or whatever they’re calling it now) and be faster than the c8.

There’s this myth about mid-engine where people think it’s God’s gift to handling, which can be true if you’re coming from a front-heavy car to a mid-engined one. But as the owner of a mid-engine myself, for me the handling has to be dramatically improved to make the compromises worth it. Working on a midship car is a lot harder and more annoying than a front engine one. And it’s more expensive if you have a pro do it, because he isn’t any more excited about contorting himself into that engine bay than you are.

C&D did a head to head with the c7 and the c8 on a race track, and the c8 gained a second per lap, which is very impressive but I suspect it’d have gained just about as much if they’d kept the engine in the front. The car already had excellent handling, and from what they wrote, it sounds like a lot of the gains came from acceleration out of corners. They mentioned the c7 gained some time over the c8 in some places. They weren’t specific about where, but considering they said the c8 was braking later in turns and accelerating faster out of turns, there aren’t many places for the c7 to gain other than holding more speed through the turns.

And considering they had cooling issues with the c7 when it first came out, and that was without having to cool an engine that’s blocked by the passenger cabin, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have the same problems with the c8.

Not that I’ll ever have a Vette, but if were buying one today and money were no object, I’d get a used c7 over the new c8 any day. Especially since my days of running cars on race tracks are, sadly, probably behind me, so I’m more interested in how it performs at (mostly) legal speeds on public roads.

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It has been a very long time since I even tried to sit in a Vette, but I recall that the last one in which I tried to sit had an incredibly wide gap between the door opening and the very low seat. I recall wrenching my back as I maneuvered to get across the gap/lower myself into the seat. I think that this was likely to have been an '80s-vintage Vette.

Are they still like that?

It wasn’t bad. Only issue I had was it sits low to the ground, so it was like doing leg squats getting in and out. I’m 6’3 and didn’t have any issues.

Not anywhere near as bad as the offerings from Lotus. You almost have to be a contortionist to get in those things.

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It isn’t a myth, it is science. Proven science. About the mid 1960’s race cars of all types went mid-engine and rarely looked back. Porsche was way ahead in that they offered a mid-engine competition car, the 550, in 1953. Not rear engine, mid engine. Porsche has won LeMans 19 times, all with mid-engine cars.

Mid engine give better braking since the distribution is about 55/45 front/rear, and acceleration traction is better from the 40/60 weight distribution. Low polar moment of inertia allows the car to be far more nimble than a front-engine-rear-transaxle car. A medicine ball rotates with less effort than a barbell of equal weights. Much easier to package larger rear tires, since they don’t turn much and smaller fronts to balance the handling.

LeMans was won for the 1st time with a mid-engine Ferrari in 1965. The same for the Indy 500. The first win for a mid-engine car in modern Formula 1 was in 1958 while the first championship for that type was in 1959.

The market has been waiting for a mid-engine Corvette since Zora Arkus Duntov built the CERV II in 1964.

It’s not because of where the engine is, it’s because of the weight distribution. If you manage to achieve the same weight distribution with the engine in front of the driver, then you get the same advantage.

True! And that’s one of the reasons that a mid engine car would need to significantly outperform a front-engine variant for me to want it. I learned that lesson good and solid with my MR2. Rotate tires? Nope, sorry, can’t. Just gonna have to prematurely wear 'em out. Best I can do is have them unmounted, swap sides, and re-mount/balance.

BTW, it should be noted that I never said mid-engine cars don’t handle better. I said they don’t handle better enough to make them desirable, to me, in a street car. Maybe the confusion is over what was meant by the “God’s gift” remark, which for me would be either an improvement in handling without adding a lot of inconvenience and expense on the backside, or a very dramatic improvement in handling if the inconvenience can’t be avoided. Obviously the first option is a non-starter, so for me, that car has to be a fighter jet compared to a Cessna for me to find the inconveniences worth it.

I love my MR2 a lot, but every time it needs work (which is more and more frequently as it approaches 30 years old) I wish I’d gone for an S2000 instead.

I agree with this. Older Vettes where you had a normal front engine setup with the engine in front and a tranny connected directly to engine put the significant amount of weight forward. But the C7 vette with engine in front and tranny in back really distributes the weight nicely.

Is mid-engine better? I don’t really know. I do know is the C7 did a lot of things real right. If the C8 is better, it’s for those who take it to the extreme. I’m not one of them, so I would never know.

This was taken to extremes with the Bill Thomas Cheetah:

The driver’s legs were next to the engine (better hope it doesn’t throw a rod). The transmission was connected to the differential via a U-joint. No driveshaft because there wasn’t room. It was basically a front-mid-engined car and it had the weight distribution to match. I’ve seen one race a few times at vintage festivals, and the thing is an absolute beast. Weighs less than a Miata, has 500 hp, and it can squirt around the corners like nobody’s business.

But, again, compromises. Your right leg feels like it’s on fire after awhile because of the engine heat, the rest of you doesn’t feel much better with that mill cooking the interior, and it’s hard to cool an engine that’s basically inside the cabin, so a lot of tacked-on aero and radiator mods had to happen just to get them to the end of the race.

Actually, the C5 was technically a mid-engine car because the engine was behind the front wheels. The transmission was also moved to the rear to distribute the weight as well. This continued on the C6 and C7, going to the mid-engine behind the driver design on the C8.

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But that isn’t physically possible. It has been tried. The engine is the single biggest mass in the car. The transmission or fuel tank is the 2nd biggest. All of the greatest race cars from the 1930’s were rear weight biased, front engine, rear drive cars with 45/55 to 40/60 weight distribution. Basically they were mid-front engine cars. They were competitive until the mid-engined cars replaced them. Even Enzo Ferrari did NOT believe mid engined cars were the right answer. Until the 250 LM, that is.

You don’t say what “significant” would be for you but in a comparison test the new C8 out performed the C7 in all measures.

Now I get that working on a mid engine car is a royal pain! Take the trunk lid off and sit in the trunk to do any engine work? Or worse… DROP the engine out to repair something normally accessible on a front engine car?? Yeah, serviceability takes a hit.

The tire part… well, every Corvette has had larger rear tires (and wheel diameter) since the C5 was introduced in 1997. With the directional wheels you couldn’t cross-rotate starting with 1984. There are reasons you might like the S2000 over an MR2 but tire rotation is not one of them. The rears are larger than the fronts for all model years… and it eats rear tires like nothing I’ve ever seen or owned! When it needs tires, you order 6 new tires, 2 fronts and 4 rears.

Corvette did this to attract a younger buyer who sees the front engine Corvette as dated. I’m old, I still LIKE front engine, rear drive cars… hence the screen name and avatar. But I am not their customer.

That was true for every Corvette ever made. Even the C1 had the engine behind the front axle. The early cars were very well balanced with a slight front weight bias that works well with 4 equal sized tires.

I am not sure about that definition. Seeming to recall looking in the engine compartment and being able to see the front wheels and assemblies.

It is correct to define that as a mid-engine car. Referred to as an FMR - Front-Mid-Rear drive

A number of cars have done that, and for me, anyway, unless you plan to race it competitively, it’s the way to go. You get most of the advantages of a “true” midship configuration with none of the maddening inconveniences.

That Cheeetah was 48/52 front/rear. It can be done, but, yeah, with lots of compromises.

I referenced that article in my previous post. It didn’t outperform it in all measures. As the article said, there were places where the c7 gained on the c8. Unfortunately they did not say where those places were, but given other clues in the article, I would guess mid-corner - they said the C8 braked later, accelerated harder out of corners, and has a significant acceleration advantage so that takes care of the straights. Not too many other places to make up time except better grip in the actual corner.

And yeah, I did say what significant means to me. “fighter jet vs Cessna.” For me, with a street driven vehicle that, being what it is, I will only drive in the summer and then only on nice days, the performance gains have to be pretty jaw dropping to make it worth the hassle of dealing with a true mid-mount engine.

The Motorweek episode last Saturday had a road test of the C8, and compared it to the C7. Both were excellent on the track, and the C8 did the circuit one second faster than the C7. The test staff all said the C8 handled better than the C7.

But it isn’t just weight distribution. The 1930’s cars had 40/60 weight distribution in a mid-front layout. The driver’s position in a mid-front means the fuel tank’s weight is behind the axle. On a mid-engine car, the fuel tank is inside the wheelbase in front of the driver. This means the polar moment of inertia is smaller with a mid-engined rear drive car than a mid-front layout.

The Cheeta, while fun, was uncompetitive by 1965. Same could be said of the Scarab.

That’s pretty nuanced. It was never all that competitive due to the overheating problems. They were working on that, and making plans for a Super Cheetah, but then the race series rules changed. Instead of only having to have a 100 unit production run, now you had to have 1,000, and GM wasn’t interested in making 900 more of the things for street use. So, it never really got the chance to be competitive.

My opinion is the C8 probably is a better handling car. And I love the looks. That’s one thing that I was so impressed about the C7…while it wasn’t a mid-engine like the C8 - the C7 still did a great job in balancing the weight. Really well thought out design.

And for those of you who don’t know my views on GM/Ford or Chryco…for my every day vehicle where I need reliable drive for usually over 300k miles…the Big-3 won’t be my choice.

But the Vette - YES.

But not until at least 2022, unless @mustangman has positive updates from his friend with the inside scoop.