This Just In: The 2016 Corvette Will Be Mid-Engine…Just Like The 1977, 1984, 1997, 2005…

March 18, 2010

I picked up my copy of Autoweek from the mailbox today and noticed that the most frequently wrong prediction has once again reared its ugly head. Right there in bold type on the cover: “Deep Secrets — Mid-Engine C8 Chevy Corvette”.

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but the mid-engine Corvette rumor has been around longer (and with less traction) than Ringo Starr’s solo career. I must have at least ten magazines with similar claims, dating back to a 1970’s copy of Road & Track. The common thread is that all of these claims have proven false — unless you consider the Fiero a Corvette in disguise.

Like in the past, the claim comes from an unidentified GM executive who says that this generation will be the last for the traditional front-engine V8 configuration. As in stories of old, the rationale is the need to reinvent the brand to go head-to-head in the supercar ranks with more performance and more efficiency. This time the rumor is a high output twin-turbo six-cylinder and a modern monocoque tub. After all, how is Corvette going to compete when the Feds are forcing 35 mpg CAFE standards and the Lamborghini Gallardo and Ferrari Italia are already out there with mid-engine placement…

or the Porsche Boxster, Acura NSX, Porsche 911 Turbo, Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari 246 GT, Lambo Miura? Exactly…it has never had any problems competing. It didn’t need the mid-mounted engine, or the Wankel rotary engine pipe dream from the early 1970s or turbocharged-enhanced small displacement units claimed around the corner throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

At the end of the day, GM always comes back to the same rationale for the traditional layout. Front engine placement still allows 50/50 weight balance, but also maintains large amounts of room for six-foot humans and their luggage. (The C5 Corvette Convertible has 13 cubic feet of luggage capacity, for god’s sake!) It also is cheaper to build, allows for more parts sharing with the likes of the Camaro. Then there’s the ease of service of the current design…and that when matched to the six-speed manual the V8 already can deliver 32-plus MPG.

Given GM’s bent towards not offending the purists, there is no way in hell they are going to risk putting off the traditional Corvette buyers — you know, the ones who have been buying front-engine, V8-powered cars with great performance and surprising occupant and luggage room at an annual rate of nearly more than all the mid-engine sports cars available here combined? It never makes sense to build a more expensive car that in the end is not as profitable, or popular, for that matter.

So don’t hold your breath — for if you believe the 2016 C8 Corvette will be mid engine, you probably also believe that nobody will be using gas propulsion by then, because hydrogen and all-electric will be the standards. The magazines have claimed those for fifty years.