Chevrolet officials recently offered members of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury a chance to drive the 2020 Corvette on public roads in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The test drives lasted around 40 minutes or so. The route was designed to let drivers experience the eighth-generation Corvette on a few twisty roads west of the city and get an impression of the car's general demeanor.
Since the car's unveiling in July, there has been a lot of news about the midengine Corvette's performance capabilities (0 to 60 mph in under three seconds; a top speed of 184 mph), the mechanical layout and especially the $59,995 starting price.
But one thing Chevrolet has not shared many details about may be the car's biggest selling point: its refinement, comfort and civility. It's as easy to drive as an Impala.
The 2020 Corvette is exceedingly quiet (on the inside) and docile when driven with a light foot. There's nearly no noise -- wind, mechanical or otherwise -- from the cabin forward. And the noises you do hear emanating from behind you are mostly the guttural bark of the exhaust system when the engine is winding up the RPMs. The eight-speed transaxle is likely to win high praise for its seamless shifts. Only the tachometer's abrupt movements signal a change of gears has taken place.
With the engine off the front axle and relocated to behind the driver, the 2020 Corvette turns with a feeling of lightness and agility that it never had before. Despite a 38-foot turning radius, the car feels maneuverable. It proved easy to turn into a tight parking spot in a crowded lot.
The small rear window above the engine offers reasonable visibility. But the rearview mirror can be turned into a camera that projects in real time the area behind the car. The long row of buttons between the driver and passenger looks confusing at first, but those buttons are clearly labeled and easy to reach and use.
Because of the UAW strike of General Motors, the first customers for the 2020 Corvette are likely going to have to wait a little longer than planned to take delivery, perhaps an extra month or so. Chevrolet is still phasing out production of the current-generation Corvette. The added downtime allows engineers to continue piling on real-world test miles on its fleet of preproduction engineering cars to ensure there are no major mechanical glitches in GM's first midengine car in more than three decades.