The new Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray could prove everything you thought you knew about hybrids is wrong.
Set to reach showrooms later this year, this hybrid version of “America’s sports car” does boost the ‘Vette’s fuel economy. But, at the same time, it will deliver neck-snapping performance, launching from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 2.5 seconds.
E-Ray also will become the first Corvette ever to offer all-wheel-drive capabilities which “provides an all-weather confidence we’ve never had” before, according to Scott Bell, the global vice president of the bowtie brand. And that transforms the E-Ray into an “all-season” vehicle that should appeal to potential buyers who’d like to have something they can drive all year,
Today’s debut of the Corvette E-Ray is no coincidence. It marks the 70th anniversary of the sports car’s original debut Jan. 17, 1953 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, part of the splashy General Motors Motorama. Production launched about five months later at GM’s big assembly plant in Flint, Michigan.
A baby step into electrification
Over the years, the Corvette has gone through plenty of changes, perhaps none so significant as the launch of the eighth-generation, or C8, Corvette in 2019. That saw Chevy adopt the long-sought switch to a mid-engine layout, more in line with its European supercar competition.
But the E-Ray takes things a step further, adopting an electrified drivetrain for the first time, a move that “represents what this vehicle is capable of going forward,” said Bell, during a media background briefing last week. With GM CEO Mary Barra saying the company is “on a path to an all-electric future,” one might call this just a baby step. But the implications, and the benefits, are significant.
The plan to introduce a hybrid Corvette comes as little surprise. As with the mid-engine layout of the original C8 Stingray, it’s been a subject of rumors for some time. The question was how Chevy engineers would accomplish the task for the debut electrified model: would they go with a slick multi-motor package with a downsized gas engine, a la the Acura NSX? Or might we get a plug-in hybrid capable of driving extended periods in all-electric mode?
As it turns out, E-Ray uses a relatively simple electrification package, with a single motor, drawing power from a 1.9 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack — hooked up to the same 6.2-liter V-8 used in the Stingray. That said, it will allow limited driving in all-electric mode, albeit for only 3 to 4 miles, and at speeds up to 45 mph.
As you’d expect of a hybrid driveline, it will be “very efficient,” according to Corvette Marketing Manager Harlan Charles, though final EPA mileage numbers won’t be available until later this year. Among the benefits, the E-Ray’s Active Fuel Management system will be able to keep the small-block V-8 operating in 4-cylinder mode more frequently.
But, let’s face it, “The mission of this car is performance, performance, performance,” said Brad Franz, the engineer overseeing development of the E-Ray system.
And E-Ray doesn’t disappoint. While the new all-wheel-drive system may be great for using the E-Ray in inclement weather, it has another purpose, helping maximize grip on even warm, dry pavement.
Fastest Corvette ever
The base Stingray makes 495 horsepower. The hybrid bumps that up to 665 ponies. It also adds another 125 pound-feet of torque to the “base” Corvette’s 470 lb-ft. More significantly, that torque comes on instantaneously, even as the V-8 is just revving up. Consider that the hybrid is 0.1 seconds faster off the line than the recently launched Corvette Z06. Even more impressive, it blows the doors off the last-generation “C7” ZR1 which, at 755 hp remains the most powerful Corvette ever. It needed about 2.9 seconds to hit 60.
Oh, and in case you’re planning a trip to the dragstrip, Chevy test drivers have been turning in 10.5-second quarter-miles, reaching 130 mph by the time they blew through the traps.
There’s a lot to like about the Corvette E-Ray, at least from what the Chevrolet team is telling us. While the hybrid system did add some mass to the two-seater, “Every kilogram and every gram had to earn its way in to this vehicle,” Franz stressed, noting the total weight gain is just 200 pounds. And, with the battery pack tucked down below the load floor, the E-Ray actually has the lowest center of gravity of the current Corvette line-up.
Digital tech galore
E-Ray has plenty of digital tech to help maximize performance and handling. That includes an electronically controlled limited-slip differential on the rear axle, as well as a magnetic ride control suspension. For tech buffs, the electronically controlled damping system uses what’s known as a magnetorheological fluid. Apply a varying electromagnetic force and each shock can be individually varied from stiff to soft in the distance it takes to travel about an inch at 60 mph.
A selectable driver mode control instantly adjusts key digital systems, including the hybrid drive, throttle, transmission and dampers. A motorist can choose between Tour, Sport, Track, Weather, My Mode and Z-Mode. There’s an additional Charge+ function to ensure that the lithium-ion battery pack remains fully charged. And then there’s the Stealth Mode which allows you to quietly slip into the garage without disturbing the neighbors late at night.
Exterior and interior design
Visually, E-Ray picks up many of the design cues found on the Corvette Z06. It’s 3.6 inches wider than the Stingray, for one thing, and adds detailing to enhance aerodynamics. It comes with unique front and rear fascia and badging. And you can opt for details like carbon fiber ground effects and black exhaust tips.
Staggered wheels measure 20 inches up front, 21 in back. The standard tires are Michelin Pilot Sport all-season rubber, though you can opt for Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires with the optional performance package.
A closer look reveals the E-Ray comes standard with Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes.
Exclusively available during the 2024 model year, E-Ray will be offered with an “Artemis Dipped Interior,” with deep green tones “on nearly every surface,” said a Chevy news release. The layout is Z06-like, but the digital gauge cluster features some unique read-outs specifically designed for the hybrid drivetrain.
Production and pricing
The 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray will go into production at the same Bowling Green, Kentucky plant that handles the Stingray and Z06 models. And the first of the hybrids will start rolling into showrooms later this year.
The E-Ray entry package, the 1LZ coupe, will start at $104,295 before delivery fees. That’s just short of the Z06 which has a starting price of $106,395 — that figure including destination fees.
The E-Ray convertible will follow the coupe into production. Expect it to carry a premium of around $7,000.
While the Chevy team wouldn’t talk about future plans during last week’s background briefing, they did reconfirm an earlier announcement that an all-electric Corvette is in the works. It’s widely expected to reach production by sometime in 2025.
There will be a number of differences when the EV model arrives. E-Ray retains the same, basic architecture as gas-powered C8 models. And it uses a different type of battery from what’s found in the newest GM all-electric models, such as the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq. That’s no surprise, as hybrid batteries face a very different duty cycle, constantly flipping from charge to discharge.
The all-electric Corvette is expected to use one of the new Ultium platforms developed solely for battery propulsion. And it will rely on the new EV-focused Ultium batteries that GM has just begun producing at a plant in Lordstown, Ohio. It should have several more battery plants open by then.
Where the Corvette EV will be assembled remains one of a number of questions we hope to start getting answers to in the months ahead.