You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Confused by the Mid-Engined Chevy C8 Corvette? Here's What "Mid-Engined" Means and Why It Matters

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 4/16/2019 Andrew Wendler
a car parked on the side of a road: It's not just a generational change but a message to the world: What the mid-engined layout of the C8 Corvette is all about.© Chevrolet - Car and Driver It's not just a generational change but a message to the world: What the mid-engined layout of the C8 Corvette is all about.

Since its inception, the Chevrolet Corvette-in production form, at least-has never deviated from three core attributes: front engine, rear-wheel drive, fiberglass bodywork. From its 1953 debut with the Blue Flame inline six-cylinder to the thundering 755-hp 2019 Corvette ZR1, the basic formula has been set in stone.

That all changes now. Chevy is officially moving the engine to the middle, behind the passenger seats.

Research the Chevrolet Corvette on MSN Autos | Find a Chevrolet Corvette near you

With this move, Chevrolet is shooting a flare into international waters, putting on notice the major players in the mid-engine-performance space including the Ferrari 488, Lamborghini Huracán, and Audi R8 as well as its crosstown rival, the Ford GT, and letting them know that the General can still cut and run when the accountants provide a long enough leash.

So what does "mid-engined" mean? Technically, it means that a car's engine is located in the middle of the vehicle, somewhere between the front and rear axles. But the typical location in a sports car or supercar is behind the driver and in front of the rear axle.

a close up of text on a white background: What "Mid-Engined" Means and Why It Matters© Car and Driver What "Mid-Engined" Means and Why It Matters

Engine placement matters for many reasons when it comes to high-performance cars, but mainly it's all about braking and handling. Shifting the engine rearward puts more weight on the rear axle, which means more rear-end traction and the ability to put down more power and accelerate more quickly. A mid-engine layout also improves braking, because the additional weight lets the rear brakes do more of the stopping. Mid-engined cars have a lower polar moment of inertia, which is a technical term that means that the mass of a mid-engined car is more centralized in the vehicle. This allows the car to change direction more easily and therefore more rapidly. (To experience this phenomenon, get someone to spin you in an office chair and compare the speed you feel with your legs fully extended versus tucked in.) The downside is that, should the rear end break loose and swing wide at speed, it's much harder for a novice driver to recover.

Aside from performance, a mid-engined car looks different because of not having to package an engine up front. It can have a much steeper hoodline and improved forward visibility. The proportions of a mid-engined car can give it an exotic look-but then, the short list of mid-engined vehicles is made up of one exceptional name after another.

It's not that GM hasn't kicked around the mid-engine layout before; the company's archives are filled with drawings and concepts utilizing the engine-behind-the-driver layout. But its realization in the 2020 Corvette validates the efforts and fulfills the promises made by in-house Corvette gurus such as Bill Mitchell, Larry Shinoda, Pete Brock, Zora Arkus-Duntov, and Tadge Juechter, both now and back in the day when automobiles were an agent of progress and the future seemed limitless. Critically, it also serves as a rolling indicator that GM still has a pulse and wishes to wring every last drop of potential and excitement from the automobile as we currently know it. In changing times, that's the kind of reassurance we need.

Related Gallery: 15 times we got really excited about the new mid-engined Corvette (Provided by Car & Driver)

We've been feverishly covering Chevrolet's development (both real and imagined) of a next-level mid-engined Corvette for decades. When in 2014 C/D first got wind that the mid-engined Corvette (the so-called C8) was finally, probably happening, our manic focus on the super-Vette kicked into overdrive. In the years since, we've furiously covered a steady stream of spy photos of the C8 Corvette testing under the secretive watch of General Motors' engineers, intriguing GM patent filings, and data leaks about the car. Through it all, Chevrolet has never officially confirmed the car's existence or that it was even working on such a thing, even though we knew it was happening. Now that the C8 Corvette no longer is speculative-GM has officially confirmed it!-here's a look back at our fevered, borderline unhinged coverage of major highlights in the C8's progress:

Research the Chevrolet Corvette on MSN Autos | Find a Chevrolet Corvette near you


More From Car and Driver

Car and Driver
Car and Driver

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon