The first uncontrollable “wow” I uttered from my encounter with Chevrolet’s new Corvette C8—which was unveiled yesterday in Orange County— wasn’t when I saw the clever hidden door handles, or the detailed design of the engine. It was when I opened the driver’s side door.
What I saw wasn’t an amalgamation of plasticy knobs and switches from the GM parts bin. There wasn’t a whiff of Camaro or Impala. The cabin felt downright luxurious, as if I was looking at an Audi or a Lexus or—if you squint harder—an Aston Martin’s. Practically bespoke.
Sure, the engine is a naturally aspirated, 495 horsepower beast that can roar out a sub-three-second zero-to-60 time for under $ 60,000. This alone makes the Corvette C8 one of the car world’s greatest values. But its buttery interior with enough suede-like surfaces to make a Bentley jealous? It makes the Corvette an exotic, luxury steal.
When I meet Tristan Murphy, the Interior Design Manager for Chevrolet, I tell him that you’d never guess it was a GM interior. He laughs, and says, “I’ll take that as a compliment. That was the goal.”
Murphy and I sit in the Vette equipped with the top-level 3LT trim. What you notice immediately: You are no longer looking over the long expanse of the hood. To many, this is what made a Vette, a Vette. I prefer the new one. And Chevrolet does too.
“We really wanted to take advantage of having the engine behind you,” explains Murphy. “That’s a big shift not only from the exterior perspective, but from the interior point of view. Now you no longer have to look over this hood. You have great sightlines, very aggressive downvision. And we pushed the dashboard as low as we possibly could to increase that.”
In addition from being able to see the road better, the new Corvette does what rare great interiors do: most of the things you touch are the real thing. Leather is leather. Metal is metal. Carbon fiber is carbon fiber. There is very little plastic trying to be something it’s not.
Murphy points out the door pull area. Everything is either leather or suede or carbon fiber or real aluminum. “Normally, even in some expensive cars, this area is just molded out of plastic,” he says. “We wanted to make sure that almost everything you touched wasn’t fake. A premium material that’s hand wrapped.”
But the sleeper detail of the car? It might have the most interesting dashboard in a car today. Typically, when you look at the way a dashboard is built, it’s just these layers of plastic where it’s easy to hide uneven ends. In the C8, there’s nothing to hide. Just beautiful, hand wrapped, organic cantilevered shapes and real perforated metal, which you can see from all sides. It’s something you can admire from the inside and the outside of the car. It’s a truly complex design for what is typically an afterthought.
“We worked with suppliers so they could come up with sews and patterns in much the same way you would do luggage, where the seams are functional,” he explains. “They had to think of it as luggage or furniture as opposed to typical automotive design.”
Not to mention, there’s the most controversial element of the interior—the yardstick of buttons separating the driver from the passenger atop a waterfall of leather. Or what Murphy calls, the climate control strip. What’s this about?
“This was just us trying to have fun with trying to make it like a fighter jet,” he says. “And it’s functional. When people are driving fast, you don’t wanna dive through menus. It’s not just a typical row that you would see under the screen.”
When you’re in the car, you see how it works. It’ll make you a fan of buttons again. Where a lot of the industry is trying to get away from them in favor of big-ass floating screens, they’ve embraced buttons in a cool, thought-out way.
One last thing: Why the square wheel? It frames the instrument cluster display nicely, and it gives you an even better full uninterrupted grip. After all, this is still—even when decked out in plush leathers—a sports car.
“This car is about delivering on an exotic experience that’s more attainable, says Murphy. “We’re now offering a total experience.”