Yes, the 2024 Corvette E-Ray is quick. And, of course, it’s the first gas-electric hybrid Corvette and the first to feature all-wheel drive. Those are, duh, the things that make it distinct and new. But the E-Ray is also so much still a Corvette, and that’s special, too.
The E-Ray doesn’t erupt when it’s started like a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Instead, it turns over like it’s getting out of bed and settles into a gurgling, low alto, idle. It’s not “on edge,” or “nervy” or even “eager.” It’s confident and low-key. Save for maybe the original Acura NSX, this may be the least temperamental mid-engine car yet produced. Yes, even more relaxed than the easygoing Sting Ray model with which it shares its structure, internal combustion engine and so much other substance. It’s got a “dude, just chill” vibe.
“I can’t believe I was afraid of this big old puppy dog,” noted Mack Hogan after track lapping the E-Ray during the Performance Car of the Year event. “It’s easy, friendly and fast. But it isn’t as exciting as its brother, the Z06. It’s definitely more of a road car.”
On any track, the zingy and somewhat raw Z06 is more amusing than the E-Ray. The Z06’s “LT6” 5.5-liter, DOHC, 32-valve, flat-plane crank V-8 has a heady 8600 rpm redline and screams with a fervor to get up there. It’s an adrenal gland re-engineered as a mid-engine car. In contrast, the E-Ray is several vital organs working together – liver, spleen and pituitary systems all coordinated to deal with any situation that arises. There’s never been Corvette that’s easier to go fast in than the E-Ray. But there’s never been a Corvette that’s better at horizon chasing than the E-Ray, either.
It's the E-Ray’s spread of talents that are so firmly in the Corvette tradition. During 2023, GM built 53,785 Corvettes. That's a staggeringly large number for a mid-engine near-supercar. (Porsche delivered 11,035 718 Boxtsers and Caymans worldwide in the same time, for comparison.) But the best-selling year for the Corvette remains 1979 when 53,785 were produced. And, sorry, the 1979 Corvette was trash.
“(W)e're stuck in the middle at Car and Driver,” wrote our colleagues at that other Hearst media outlet back in their December 1978 issue, “not quite sure what to make of the hordes outbidding each other for an obsolete sports car. On the one hand, we'd love to be at the head of the line with a fistful of money to spend on America's one and only two-seater. On the other, we'd feel guilty about casting another vote of approval for the Corvette in its present, out-of-date form. About all we can do is wring our editorials hands in despair, and appeal to all the true friends of the Corvette not to buy, in the hope that GM will get the message and invest in a redesign.” That wouldn’t come for another five years with the introduction of the 1984 “C4” Corvette.
Here's what the old 1979 C3 Corvette had going for it: style. It was still handsome, still rode very well compared to other sports cars, could be had with an automatic transmission and air conditioning, and was serviceable at any Chevy dealer. The Corvette, back then, sucked at the sports part of sports car, but was pretty good at looking good.
And while the E-Ray is vastly better at being a sports car than the old C3, it’s even better at looking good, being comfortable and coddling its owners than ever. The E-Ray is the best Corvette ever at touring, looking awesome and being accessible to drivers of any age. Also, it is, by far, the best Corvette ever for driving in sloppy weather.
One big thing for 1979 was the introduction of an electric fan that freed up enough power that the Corvette's“L82” 5.7-liter V-8 got rated up at 225-horsepower. For 2024, the E-Ray’s hybrid system electrifies the whole shebang. The addition of the electric motor in front and the battery pack in the spine of the car supplements the “LT2” 6.2-liter pushrod V-8’s 495-horsepower to a total output of 655-horsepower. To launch effectively doesn’t mean much more than throwing an item of sufficient mass at the accelerator pedal, saying a short prayer, and hanging on.
“It feels big and a bit heavy,” wrote our newly installed Editor-in-Chief Dan Pund about the E-Ray. “But it is very competent. Excellent transitional responses, nice transmission even in full auto mode, and the electric power blends smoothly and makes a wicked sound. Like the screeching of the Valkyries as they take you home to Valhalla.”
The 670-horsepower, rear drive Z06 has more thump, but it can’t put the power down as efficiently as the E-Ray does. So, the Z06 needs 2.6-seconds to reach 60 mph while the E-Ray does the trick in 2.5 seconds. That 1/10th of a second difference is more impressive when consideration is given to the fact that the E-Ray runs on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ZP all-season tires while the Z06 is on radical Pilot Sport Cup 2R ZP near-race rubber.
“The electrification feels like a bonus and not a complication,” concluded Mike Duff. “Although the overall experience is digitized and this is not the purist’s choice,” adds Matt Farah, “I absolutely understand the appeal of all-wheel drive and the extra power.”
No Corvette is cheap. But at $106,595 to start for an E-Ray coupe, it is dang-near affordable. Particularly when compared to what euro-made cars of similar specification go for.
The E-Ray can knock through a quarter-mile in 10.5-seconds, then hit the highways for a six-hour cruise in comfort that simply can’t be matched by other mid-engine machines. It may not have the raw erotic appeal of the Z06, but it’s a better all-rounder for anyone who plans to use it on actual roads. And many of those buyers are likely old enough to remember why, in its time, the 1979 Corvette was attractive, too.
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