There's a lot to like about the new Chevrolet Corvette. It's stupid quick, for one. With the Z51 package, you can hit 60 miles per hour in as little as 2.9 seconds. And it's pretty comfortable, too. The swaths of leather and carbon fiber make the Corvette's cabin inarguably Chevy's best interior yet, as I noted in my first drive. That said, the C8 has issues – some more serious than others.
After spending time with the car, both on the road and on the track at Spring Mountain Raceway, I found one thing particularly concerning: the ergonomics. Yes, the Corvette's cabin is very good, but it's also extremely cramped and oddly laid out. As your six-foot author found out firsthand, there's very little room to rotate the steering wheel comfortably, especially on the track. And that's not what you want from a mid-engined sports car.
In order to understand why the new Corvette's ergonomics are such an issue, first you have to look at the numbers. The C8 has one of the tightest cabins in its class. Hip room and shoulder room are exceptionally narrow, our real-world measurements from the door panel to the center console show the former is just 22 to 23 inches on the driver's side at the compartment's narrowest point. And even on paper, the C8's total shoulder room (54.2 inches) is down nearly an inch on its next-narrowest competitor, the Audi R8 (55.1 inches). Legroom isn't best-in-class either, but more offensive is the lack of space in either of the footwells; we couldn't fathom three pedals on the driver's side – there's simply no room.
|Headroom||Legroom||Shoulder Room||Hiproom||Total Passenger Volume|
|Acura NSX||38.3 Inches||42.8 Inches||57.6 Inches||54.5 Inches||44.0 Cubic Feet|
|Audi R8||38.5 Inches||40.9 Inches||55.1 Inches||N/A||N/A|
|Chevy Corvette (C8)||38.0 Inches||42.8 Inches||54.2 Inches||52.0 Inches||44.0 Cubic Feet|
|Chevy Corvette (C7)||38.0 Inches||43.0 Inches||55.0 Inches||54.0 Inches||52.0 Cubic Feet|
Blame the "driver-focused" cockpit. A lot of companies market their interiors this way, but Chevy has gone overboard. The angles at which the transmission tunnel and portions of the left-side door panel angle inward, around the driver, reduce usable space significantly. But that bulky center console is by far the most egregious offender.
Chevy doesn't provide measurements on the console width, but in our test, we note that it rises well above the driver's knee, sits almost parallel with the driver's belly button at its highest point, and as mentioned in the previous paragraph, flares out from the center towards the front of the vehicle, limiting movement in the footwell. Of its competitors, the NSX probably has the second tallest and widest center feature we've tested, but it doesn't extend outward as far nor sit as high as the Corvette’s. For the record, we had little issues with the NSX's ergonomics when driving it, both on the road and on track.
Other center consoles, like those in the Porsche 911, Cayman, and Audi R8, sit much lower, while the consoles in the Ferrari 488 Pista (like the one in the video here) and McLaren 570S are almost parallel with the bottom seat bolsters. None of the aforementioned center consoles feel as invasive as the one in the Corvette does.
Strange Steering Wheel
Only second to the heft of the center console is the odd steering wheel design. Sure, the two-spoke, rectangular look is definitely unique, but function comes into question. Chevy touts development input from its racing drivers, as this wheel is supposed to be both functional on the road and capable of accepting quick inputs on the track. But in our test, only one of those things is true.
The two-spoke steering wheel makes a ton of sense on the road. The ability to cruise with both hands on the bottom spoke, no extra spokes getting in the way, makes it very comfortable and easy to use. And, in this case, the height of the transmission tunnel is perfect; the centerpiece acts as a perfectly positioned armrest. But the styling of the steering wheel is less successful for its intended purpose: on the track.
The squared-off top and the downward slope of the spokes makes the C8's steering wheel an ergonomics nightmare for track use. Because the spokes of the steering wheel land closer to eight and four (using the old-school clock methodology), rather than the traditional nine and three, it limits the driver's ability to rotate the wheel as fully as they might otherwise. Add to that a comparably sluggish steering ratio of 15.7:1, and a full 90-degree rotation feels almost impossible. By comparison, the Acura NSX has a steering ratio of 12.9:1. The video above shows me struggling with it on the track, and even throwing my hands up in frustration.
Trying to move your hands higher up on the steering wheel doesn't help. Because of its odd, squared-off shape, there isn't a comfortable place to position your hands closer to ten and two. Steering wheels in competitors like the NSX, 911, R8, etc., have more traditional rounded tops that offer better grip points, even higher up. Not to mention each one offers more flat spokes that position your hands at nine-and-three more naturally, rather than closer to the eight-and-four setup in the Corvette.
Bottom line: the traditional rounded-top steering wheel offers more versatility and better grip points, so it's odd that Chevy decided on the racing-inspired rectangular shape. The rounder steering wheel makes keeping hands at nine and three (or even at ten and two, in some cases) more comfortable.
What Can Be Done?
Chevy needs to offer a different steering wheel. Simple as that. While visually, the rectangular wheel is a unique selling point for customers wanting something "sportier," it's one of the least-functional wheel options currently out there. Innovation and functionality aren't mutually exclusive, Chevy.
Also, something needs to be done about that center console. It's the bulkiest, most invasive element of any car we've ever tested. We're not really sure of the engineering behind it (meaning, how much of it is necessary)… but it needs to go. As it stands, the Corvette isn’t the track weapon it could be because of these issues, and they will equally harm future models with even more performance until Chevy fixes them.