When I decided to sell my 2004 Z06 and order a C8, I wondered if the car would be everything I had read and heard it was: Incredibly quick 0-60 time, awesome chassis for track days and street performance, cutting-edge styling, and a new DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) that would make me forget about wanting a manual transmission. 

Is it REALLY that good?

To answer this question, I wanted to have a good comparison or benchmark for the car. Rather than just take it to an autocross or track day alone, I called Summit Racing customer and friend Danny Popp to see if he could join me for a small, local tune and test autocross. To make it even better, I asked if he would bring his 2019 C7 Grand Sport Corvette so we could compare back-to-back on the same course and same day. 

He jumped at the opportunity!

I consider myself a decent auto crosser, but I still have a LOT to learn. My biggest challenge is getting enough seat time to hone and improve my skills. Between my work schedule and family life, getting out three to four times is normally a pretty good year. 

I was curious to find out how the C8 would be with an “average guy” driving it, and then to see what would happen with Danny, an “alien, superhuman freak” of a driver, behind the wheel. 

Like I said, I’m a decent auto crosser. Danny on the other hand, is exceptional: 

  • Seven SCCA national championships
  • Five NASA national titles
  • Four wins in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, including three victories in a row after winning the 2016 event.
  • Three victories at the Goodguys Auto Crosser of the Year Shootout in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Two Holley LS Fest wins

Danny also aligned, lowered, and scaled my C8 when it arrived at McCluskey Chevrolet in Cincinnati, OH. He is a Corvette tech by day…when he’s not out racing, testing, or winning. In an ongoing partnership, he will be driving the C8 with me to develop and validate parts that will be available through Summit Racing.

A HUGE thank you goes out to the Akron Sports Car Club Team for allowing us to run the cars back-to-back throughout the day at their tune and test. The club is a great group of folks who are always very helpful and eager to see new cars run. I am thankful for their help!

The nice thing about the C8, compared to my C5Z, is that there really are no adjustments for the suspension, aside from turning the console-mounted dial to “Track” and then selecting the appropriate amount of traction control and electronic stability control. Rather than go “full send” on the first few runs, I left the traction and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) in normal mode. 

At first, I wasn’t used to the front end of the car, as the front overhang and width felt a lot different than the C5Z and the ’67 Camaro that I also run (affectionately called “Old Red”). I hit cones on the slalom on my first few runs, but as time went on, this became more intuitive, and I stopped abusing cones. 

My apologies to the course workers in the first slalom!

My first run was a slow and steady 60 flat. The car felt good, but the Traction control was a bit bothersome. The available modes in the Performance Traction Management are: Wet, Dry, Sport1, Sport2, and Race (each level reduces the Performance Traction Management and the ESC). 

In the normal Dry mode, when the car sensed the slightest bit of wheel spin, it immediately reacted, doing what it should and intervening to prevent me from oversteering the car on throttle exit of a corner. I made another run in this same mode, clipping into the high 59s, and then decided to change the driving mode to Sport2.  

That next run with the car in Sport2 was better; I got into the high 58s. 

We used the Performance Data recorder in both cars to compare runs between cars and drivers. I went back and watched my runs to see where I could go faster, slower, etc. (The great thing about the first outing is I clearly know where and how I need to improve.) 

Without the PDR, this would be a lot more difficult, as autocross is not intuitive for me. Some drivers, like Danny, can retrace their runs and visualize where they can go faster and pick up time. I can do that on an open track (Mid-Ohio, Nelson Ledges, etc.), but I really struggle to rethink an autocross run segment by segment. I believe that autocross happens so quickly you have to train yourself to think and analyze in fractions of a second. 

Now that I had a good benchmark, I asked Danny if he wanted to drive, and he was game. Danny’s first lap in the car was in the 57s (I told you the guy is good!). He came back, checked a few things, went back out, and got it in the 56s. Watching the PDR video of his runs, I could see where he was braking harder and later, as well as accelerating earlier on corner exit. 

I made a few adjustments and got into the low 58s. I continued to chip away and eventually got a 58 flat, but could not get faster. I could not get the last slalom on the course right, all day.  I KNOW what I was doing wrong from watching the PDR with Danny’s video and line, but my brain could not get my hands and feet right

Bad brain!  

Danny continued to make runs in the C8, and eventually got into the 55s. I was very appreciative of having the PDR files to review, and to see where I left time on the course. The PDR is a GREAT tool that Chevy has incorporated in the C7 and C8 Corvettes. Thanks, Chevy for doing your part to help make us all better drivers!

I made only one run in Danny’s C7 Grand Sport; I decided to leave the comparison of the two cars up to Danny. It was very fun to run back-to-back in each car. The C7 Grand Sport is a fantastic car. The turn in is sharp, the carbon brakes are amazing, and the manual transmission was great. The car could oversteer on corner exit, and was a ton of fun to drive.

The C8 is also fun, but very different. Where the C7 could oversteer on command, the C8 would exhibit a bit of mid-corner understeer when driven into the corner too deep and attempting to exit aggressively. My guess is a slightly larger front tire would help in this situation, but it is very manageable. 

In 0-60, the C8 is the clear winner, as it puts the power down. The C7 has great forward bite, but not as good as the C8. The DCT in the C8 is incredible—shifts are lightning fast and crisp, and the transmission never hesitated or gave me any concern.

My personal opinion is that I like the C8 better, even though Danny was slightly faster in the C7. Sticker price was higher on the C7 than the C8 due to the carbon package, carbon brakes, and other options it was loaded with, and the C7 clearly had a better tire and brake package. The interior of the C8 is state-of-the-art. I am incredibly impressed at how comfortable the car is to drive, and how quiet the cabin is, even with the LT2 singing along right behind the passenger compartment. 

To answer the question, “is the C8 THAT good?”

My answer is an emphatic YES!  It is all that and a bag of chips!

The C8, to its credit, had about 20 runs put on it over the day, and never whined or complained about the beating we gave it! The rotors now have that “seasoned color” but we had zero brake fade, and the car worked flawlessly all day. On my 45-minute drive home, it averaged 26 mpg! Once home, I gave “New Blue” a bath, and it was good as new. I am looking forward to many more autocrosses and track days as soon as possible!

In part 2 of our C7 vs C8 test, we’ll see how the two Corvettes stack up in Danny’s mind. Stay tuned…

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Author: Al Noe