Chevy shocked the world when, after years of speculation it delivered the first-ever midengine version of the Corvette. Now, it’s taking things a step further with the first “electrified” version of America’s sports car. And in the process, it means that the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray is not only the fastest ‘Vette ever, but the first to get all-wheel drive. Dare we say it, after spending a little time behind the wheel, Headlight.News discovers it’s also the easiest Corvette to drive.
It’s been seven decades since Chevrolet first introduced the Corvette, yet, there’ve been only eight generations of what has come to be called “America’s sports car.” True, there’ve also been a number of variants and special editions over the years. But it’s only been with the newest iteration of the ‘Vette that it’s really caught up to the global competition.
The latest generation, known to fans and foes as the C8, was the first to opt for a midengine layout and it’s been transformative. The latest Corvette is blisteringly fast, striking to look at, and offers truly on-rails handling. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, and the Z06 edition takes things up a notch. But one could argue that the latest variant, the Corvette E-Ray, is as dramatic a transformation as the C8 itself.
That “E,” as you might expect, stands for “electrification,” and it’s the first-ever hybrid version of the Chevy two-seater, the added motor also transforming the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray into the first model the bowtie brand has ever launched with all-wheel drive. “E” also could also stand for “excellent.” As Headlight.News discovered during an all-too-brief afternoon drive, the electrified drivetrain and other features like magnetic ride control not only add an adrenaline dose of instant torque but also make the sports car shockingly easy to drive.
You might be excused if you confuse the Corvette E-Ray and the more brutal Z06 edition. Both feature the same wider body that’s not only more intimidating to look at but gives it a broader and more planted stance.
Unlike the Z06, the exhaust pipes are mounted outboard on the E-Ray and there are a handful of other telltale clues that you’re looking at the hybrid model, such as the unique front splitter and body-colored air breathers just ahead of the E-Ray’s doors.
E-Ray also gets Michelin Pilot Sport all-season tires, a step short of the Pilot Cup rubber offered on the Z06. Surprisingly, if you look closely through the sport wheels, however, you’ll discover the electrified models comes standard with carbon-ceramic brakes, an optional feature on the Z06.
Electrifying the Vette
The real changes can be found up front, where Chevy engineers packed in a surprisingly compact electric motor delivering up to 160 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque to the front axle. It marks the first time a Corvette has ever been offered with all-wheel drive. Paired with the same, 6.2-liter V8 found in the “base” Stingray, the motor also replaces the starter. An auxiliary pump also has been added to assist when the E-Ray is shifted into one of its two all-electric modes.
Using a modified version of the driver mode rotary knob found in both Stingray and Z06, a driver can opt for Stealth Mode, briefly operating on battery power alone. Not for long, however. E-Ray has a modest 1.9 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery tucked inside its center tunnel. You might get three or four miles before the small block V8 automatically fires up. It’ll also kick in if you top 45 mph, or your right foot demands more power than the electric motor can provide. Shuttle Mode, meanwhile, is limited to 15 mph.
As with other C8 variants, you’re more likely to opt for normal or track modes. And that’s where it all comes together once you fire up the V8. The E-Ray makes a combined 495 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
Dusting the Z06
Those numbers are certainly better than the Stingray, even with the Z51 performance pack. But, at first glance, they’re dwarfed by the output of the Z06. With its 5.5-liter V8 featuring a flat-plane crankshaft, forged aluminum pistons and forged titanium connecting rods, it pumps out an astounding 670 ponies and 460 lb-ft.
But put Z06 and E-Ray side-by-side at a stoplight and you might be surprised by what happens. Thanks to the instantaneous torque of its electric motor, the Corvette hybrid will hit 60 in a mere 2.5 seconds, a tenth or two faster than its seemingly more muscular brother. And it will clear the traps at the end of a quarter mile in just 10.5 seconds, about the point at which the Z06 “will catch up,” suggested E-Ray’s lead development engineer, Keith Badgley, as he handed me the keys to the hybrid model.
Behind the wheel
I got my first chance to test the 2024 Corvette E-Ray during the annual NACTOY drive event last month. (I’m one of 50 jurors with the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year organization and we get together once a year to drive and compare several dozen contending verhicles.) My timing proved fortuitous, as there was no one signed up immediately afterward, allowing me to take a fairly lengthy run from Ann Arbor out towards my favorite driving roads in Hell, Michigan.
When Chevy brought the C8 series to market a few years back it delivered the most compleat version of the sports car ever seen. The looks were striking, and the new, midengine layout delivered not just neck-snapping power but the sort of on-road balance the Corvette had long needed. Suddenly, it posed a direct threat to the best of what European brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini could muster.
Where the Z06 sacrifices some of the Stingray’s refinement in the quest for raw power, E-Ray manages to deliver the best of both worlds. Put it in the Comfort Mode and it is an impressive grand tourer. In Sport or Track and you unleash the demons.
On the road
Turning onto I-94, I found a nearly empty road and decided to go for it. Foot glued to the floor, the V-8 responded with a menacing roar, the near-silent electric motor doing its best with a jolt of instant torque. Looking down, I realized I’d hit 132 mph by the time I merged onto the freeway. Those carbon-ceramic brakes came into play as I quickly toned things down to barely extra-legal numbers.
For the next few minutes I played with the Driver Mode selector, discovering just how much of a difference it makes. On the rough freeway pavement, the most obvious fact was how I could soften the jolt of Michigan’s damaged pavement, the ‘Vette’s magnetic ride control dampers surprisingly adept at absorbing each blow in the Comfort setting. The potholes and raised tar strips were far more jarring in Sport and Track modes.
Out on back roads was where those settings paid off, however. The stiffened suspension, along with additional bracing to the E-Ray’s body, allowed me to blast through tight corners at speeds that can best be described as thrilling. The hybrid handled everything I put it through without so much as a modest squeak from the tires.
Not all that long ago, were you to mention the word, “hybrid” it likely would have brought to mind an image of a gawky little machine, perhaps the original Toyota Prius, which willingly traded off any fun-to-drive factor for maximum mileage. Yes, the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray does deliver relatively good numbers in the EPA category — for a ‘Vette — at 16 mpg city, 24 highway. But here, engineers focused on the other advantages of electrification.
The new E-Ray is as close as you can come to an automotive Jekyll and Hyde. It can be surprisingly pleasant and easy to drive, in comfort mode transforming into the sort of grand tourer you could imagine driving cross country. And the addition of all-wheel-drive offers another benefit. I could see folks in Michigan and other Snowbelt regions using the Corvette E-Ray as a daily, all-season driver. In its more aggressive modes, however, the beast is awakened and you can all but match the performance of the Corvette Z06 without sacrifice.
As with the other Corvette variants, you get a surprisingly well-equipped vehicle, including a roomy cockpit and features like a head-up display and unique touchscreen display modes that help you closely track the vehicle’s performance.
All that comes at a starting price of $104,900 for the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray coupe. The convertible package comes in at $7,000 more. Add another $1,695 in delivery fees. Yes, that’s a fairly steep premium over the base Stingray coupe and convertible models, but it’s also a bit cheaper than what you’d pay for the Z06. And, compared to anything from Europe, this is almost pocket change.
All things considered, I think the E-Ray is the one to go for. In my mind, it is as close to perfect as any Corvette Chevy has ever delivered.