Cars

The Real Hero of the New Corvette C8 Is Its Luxe, Cockpit Interior

Exotic design for the people. Can you say butter?
IMAGE CHEVROLET
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The first uncontrollable “wow” I uttered from my encounter with Chevrolet’s new Corvette C8—which was unveiled yesterday in Orange County— wasn’t when I saw the clever hidden door handles, or the detailed design of the engine. It was when I opened the driver’s side door.

What I saw wasn’t an amalgamation of plastic knobs and switches from the GM parts bin. There wasn’t a whiff of Camaro or Impala. The cabin felt downright luxurious, as if I was looking at an Audi or a Lexus or—if you squint harder—an Aston Martin’s. Practically bespoke.

Sure, the engine is a naturally aspirated, 495 horsepower beast that can roar out a sub-three-second zero-to-60 time for under $60,000. This alone makes the Corvette C8 one of the car world’s greatest values. But its buttery interior with enough suede-like surfaces to make a Bentley jealous? It makes the Corvette an exotic, luxury steal.

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The new Corvette does what rare great interiors do: most of the things you touch are the real thing. Leather is leather. Metal is metal. Carbon fiber is carbon fiber. There is very little plastic trying to be something it’s not.
Photo by Chevrolet.
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When I meet Tristan Murphy, the Interior Design Manager for Chevrolet, I tell him that you'd never guess it was a GM interior. He laughs, and says, "I'll take that as a compliment. That was the goal."

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Murphy and I sit in the Vette equipped with the top-level 3LT trim. What you notice immediately: You are no longer looking over the long expanse of the hood. To many, this is what made a Vette, a Vette. I prefer the new one. And Chevrolet does too.

It’s a truly complex design for what is typically an afterthought.

We really wanted to take advantage of having the engine behind you,” explains Murphy. “That’s a big shift not only from the exterior perspective, but from the interior point of view. Now you no longer have to look over this hood. You have great sightlines, very aggressive downvision. And we pushed the dashboard as low as we possibly could to increase that.”

In addition to being able to see the road better, the new Corvette does what rare great interiors do: most of the things you touch are the real thing. Leather is leather. Metal is metal. Carbon fiber is carbon fiber. There is very little plastic trying to be something it’s not.

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Murphy points out the door pull area. Everything is either leather or suede or carbon fiber or real aluminum. “Normally, even in some expensive cars, this area is just molded out of plastic," he says. "We wanted to make sure that almost everything you touched wasn’t fake. A premium material that’s hand wrapped.”

See the New 2020 Chevy Corvette from Every Angle

And such are the heat-dissipation and performance requirements and the packaging challenges of a mid-engined sports car that the stylists would just have to find ways to make the functional solutions beautiful. The result is, well, something of a wild adolescent fantasy nonetheless.Tucking a V-8 between the occupants and the rear-wheel centerlines meant that the driver’s compartment moved forward 16.5 inches compared with the C7’s, hard up against the front wheel wells. Chevy claims (and we can confirm) that it’s much easier to enter and exit the C8 than most other mid-engined sports cars
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
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From a front-three-quarters view, you can really see how much the rear bodywork flares out. “You’d be amazed at the size of the heat exchangers packed in there. There are twin fuel tanks, too, one on each side. It’s a packaging miracle,” says Juechter.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
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Like many Corvettes past, the C8’s upper body tapers to a near point, accentuating the superwide rear fenders.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
The exhaust tips are double-walled to deal with the extreme heat. Juechter says the LT2 V-8, which is standard in the C8, expels exhaust just as hot as that of the 755-hp C7 ZR1. Down at the bottom of the rear fascia is a heat-exhausting metal-mesh panel, behind which sits a muffler.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
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Low-profile, horizontally oriented projectors allowed the fast angle of the headlights.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
The jagged cutline at the front of the frunklid looks like a self-conscious copy of the radar-foiling cutlines on an F-117 stealth fighter from decades ago. Corvette exterior design manager Kirk Bennion says that, because of the deep contours on the hood, when the Corvette is viewed from the right angle, the zigzag becomes a nice clean line. Improbably, almost inconceivably, he’s right.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
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The jagged cutline at the front of the frunklid looks like a self-conscious copy of the radar-foiling cutlines on an F-117 stealth fighter from decades ago. Corvette exterior design manager Kirk Bennion says that, because of the deep contours on the hood, when the Corvette is viewed from the right angle, the zigzag becomes a nice clean line. Improbably, almost inconceivably, he’s right.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
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According to Juechter, “Design had to come to the party to solve technical problems.” Case in point: The large side scoops perform multiple functions, incorporating fans and radiators. The engine inhales from the top portion of the opening, where the air is coolest. The leading edge of the scoop also hides the door release. The black edge, which serves to visually break up the longish wheelbase, will be available in body color as well.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
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You can just go ahead and forget about round taillights. They’re two generations gone now. Says Juechter, “Someday we’ll go back to them and everyone will be pissed off.”
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
The rear window is flanked by heat-exhausting vents, and the trailing edge of the glass hovers about a quarter-inch over the bodywork. There’s a distinct Lamborghini-like look to this bit of the design. Chevy did not respond to that observation.
Photo by CHEVROLET.
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The rear cargo hold is large enough to fit the C8’s standard removable roof panel. Locating that directly behind the engine meant that Chevy couldn’t do what many supercar makers do and devote the whole rear end to evacuating heat.
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
This is one of two wheel designs to be offered on the C8. This five-split-spoke wheel is joined by what Chevy calls the “trident spoke” wheel seen on many of the camouflaged prototypes. There are six available wheel finishes, and Juechter proudly notes that “none of them are chrome.” On that news, tens of thousands of men in Tommy Bahama shirts just cried out in disgust
Photo by GREG PAJO/CAR AND DRIVER.
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If a flat-bottomed steering wheel is cool, shouldn’t a steering wheel with both a flat bottom and a flat top be doubly cool? The engineering side was initially skeptical about the shape. But interior designers note that it doesn’t obstruct the view of the standard digital instrument screen as much as a round wheel would
Photo by GREG PAJOCAR AND DRIVER.
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The center console is not so much a center console as it is a cube wall, one with a row of tiny buttons on top. It’s part of an extreme makeover of the Corvette interior that also includes cupholders where a manual shifter would (should?) be.
Photo by CHEVROLET.
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Compared with those of previous Corvettes, more of the C8’s innards are visible from the outside. The large, fast windshield puts the interior on display, and the engine can be seen through the rear glass. The LT2 6.2-liter V-8’s valve covers get a coat of deep-red paint standard. Buyers will be able to have their brake calipers painted the same color.
Photo by CHEVROLET.
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Compared with those of previous Corvettes, more of the C8’s innards are visible from the outside. The large, fast windshield puts the interior on display, and the engine can be seen through the rear glass. The LT2 6.2-liter V-8’s valve covers get a coat of deep-red paint standard. Buyers will be able to have their brake calipers painted the same color.
Photo by CHEVROLET.
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“We have a lot of equity in our brand. We don’t want to be seen as someone else. So, you see cues from earlier Corvettes, like the peaked fender,” says Bennion. Adds Juechter, “We try to respect our past but always move the ball downfield.”
Photo by CHEVROLET.

But the sleeper detail of the car? It might have the most interesting dashboard in a car today. Typically, when you look at the way a dashboard is built, it’s just these layers of plastic where it’s easy to hide uneven ends. In the C8, there’s nothing to hide. Just beautiful, hand wrapped, organic cantilevered shapes and real perforated metal, which you can see from all sides. It’s something you can admire from the inside and the outside of the car. It’s a truly complex design for what is typically an afterthought.

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“We worked with suppliers so they could come up with sews and patterns in much the same way you would do luggage, where the seams are functional,” he explains. “They had to think of it as luggage or furniture as opposed to typical automotive design.”

Why the square wheel? It frames the instrument cluster display nicely, and it gives you an even better full uninterrupted grip. After all, this is still—even when decked out in plush leathers—a sports car.
Photo by Chevrolet.
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Not to mention, there’s the most controversial element of the interior—the yardstick of buttons separating the driver from the passenger atop a waterfall of leather. Or what Murphy calls, the climate control strip. What’s this about?

“This was just us trying to have fun with trying to make it like a fighter jet,” he says. “And it’s functional. When people are driving fast, you don’t wanna dive through menus. It’s not just a typical row that you would see under the screen.”

When you’re in the car, you see how it works. It’ll make you a fan of buttons again. Where a lot of the industry is trying to get away from them in favor of big-ass floating screens, they’ve embraced buttons in a cool, thought-out way.

One last thing: Why the square wheel? It frames the instrument cluster display nicely, and it gives you an even better full uninterrupted grip. After all, this is still—even when decked out in plush leathers—a sports car.

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“This car is about delivering on an exotic experience that’s more attainable, says Murphy. “We’re now offering a total experience.”

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Kevin Sintumuang
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