Get ready for an all-new Chevrolet Corvette. On July 18, General Motors will reveal the latest version of “America’s sports car.”
It’s big news anytime a new Corvette is unveiled, but this one will represent, arguably, the biggest change for the Corvette since the model was first introduced in 1953.
The Corvette has changed a lot over the past 66 years, but it has always remained a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car. The new 2020 Corvette will have its engine behind the seats. It’s a design idea that was pioneered in the Lamborghini Miura in 1966, and has since become the standard for extreme high-performance sports car.
Putting the engine behind the driver and passenger — called a rear mid-engined layout — places the heaviest single part of the car as close as possible to the vehicle’s absolute center. This way, the car is balanced in its handling, being neither especially heavy at the front or at the back. Having the engine more toward the rear also helps during hard acceleration since there is more weight to hold down the rear wheels that power the car.
The Corvette has long been a legitimate performance competitor, especially considering its relatively low price. While it’s far from cheap — the entry level Corvette starts at almost $60,000 — its performance rivals that of cars costing six figures. But there is a limit to the capabilities of any car with a front-engined design and, evidently, GM engineers decided that it was finally time to make that change.
“There’s more potential in the mid-engined platform in terms of performance applications than there is in a front-engined car, that’s for sure,” said Travis Okulski, editor-in-chief of Road & Track magazine.
It’s not the first time GM () has considered it. The company even built mid-engined research cars called CERV I and CERV II (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) in the 1960s and the CERV III in 1990.