We May Have Proof of a Mid-Engine Corvette with AWD
Corvette fans have been talking about the possibility of an all-wheel-drive Corvette for decades. Over the years, the level of speculation about this ‘Vette variant has remained steady. In fact, it rivals the well-established guessing game about Chevy producing a mid-engine Corvette that is finally becoming a reality with the unveiling of the 2020 mid-engine Corvette C8 on July 18, 2019, in Tustin, California.
We know that the C8 is going to be very different from the C7. But we also feel confident that an AWD is not going to be offered as the base model for the eighth-generation Corvette. And now that the C8 is almost within reach, the chance of Chevy offering an AWD variant a few years from now has become more likely. And we’ve come up with some evidence to prove it.
Early Hints from Detroit
The first indication that AWD could become a viable option for the next-gen Corvette came up back in August 2016.
Brian Silvestro and Chris Perkins of Road and Track referenced the possibility of an all-wheel-drive hybrid Corvette from a report in The Detroit News. Official Chevy sources remained mum on the topic. ButBob Lutz, former head of product development at GM, claimed that Chevy was concerned about the Corvette’s graying demographic. Chevy’s leadership believed that a mid-engine version might appeal to younger buyers.
Designing a mid-engine Corvette gave Chevy the opportunity to build an all-wheel-drive hybrid. Because the gas motor is positioned in the middle of the car, this design would provide enough space in the front trunk for an electric motor to drive the front wheels. The hybrid, Lutz predicted, would have a 10-to-15-mile plug-in capability, requiring only a lithium-ion battery no larger than 5-kWh.
In developing this model GM would put the Corvette in direct competition with innovative mid-engine hybrid performance cars such as the Acura NSX and the Porsche 918 Spyder—but at a more affordable price.
A Clue in a Patent
The report from The Detroit News provided plenty of speculative grist for the mill for fans and the media. Until September 2018 when GM filed a patent application to trademark something called a “Sport Control AWD.” On the GM Authority website, Aaron Brzozowski reported that the trademark would be used for goods and services related to all-wheel drive, electronic stability, traction control, steering, suspension, and braking systems for vehicles.
Brzozowski had a hunch that the trademark would probably be used for an existing or new GM AWD system. But this could apply to any GM vehicle. So the writer took his hunch a step further and suggested that “Sport Control AWD” might be used for the 2020 AWD mid-engine Corvette hybrid that was the subject of so many rumors.
More details about the rumored AWD Corvette had already emerged in an article published earlier, in May 2018. Daniel Pund of Car and Driver mentioned that the C8 hybrid could be powered by a twin-turbo, 800-hp V8 engine lodged between the car’s occupants and the rear wheel. A 200-hp electric motor in the front trunk would drive the front axle.
An Inkling from the Fanbase
Another piece of evidence may come from Corvette fans, who have been conducting their own investigation. A commenter on an early July 2019 discussion in the Corvette Forum shared a few leaked photos of an alleged C8 tire temperature display that had two differentials. If this photo is real, two differentials on this C8 could mean that it is an all-wheel-drive vehicle: one differential in the front and one in the back.
Even though the photos look credible, this bit of evidence was still subject to speculation among fans. Some forum participants believed this display to be from an AWD Corvette. Others were more skeptical and thought that the display was recycled from another vehicle, possibly another Chevy model. The photos, while inconclusive, do give weight to the idea of an AWD ‘Vette.
Putting the Pieces Together
After looking at the evidence, we now know there’s a reasonable chance that an AWD Corvette will be produced. We also know that an all-wheel-drive Corvette in this generation will be teched up as a hybrid. It still might take a few years for it to roll out of the Bowling Green factory since the base model of the 2020 C8 won’t be available in U.S. dealerships until late 2019. But while we wait for the reveal of the C8 base model, we’ll keep looking for more clues and hope that Chevy produces a Corvette with an AWD configuration in the near future.