– Fountain, Colorado
Painted on the wall of Pikes Peak International Raceway in big numbers is a sign that reads “5,360 Feet.” Located high in the mountains of Fountain, Colorado, people used to call this track the “fastest one-mile paved oval anywhere.” But PPIR hasn’t hosted a professional race since 2005, and the only signs of life these days are prairie dogs occupying the planned-but-unbuilt bleacher footings.
Typically, this type of altitude has a major effect on vehicles. Rough numbers suggest your standard combustion engine loses about 3 percent of its power for every 1,000 feet of elevation gained, which would mean pretty significant losses for naturally aspirated engines this high in the Rockies. But the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray isn’t afraid of a little elevation.
Hidden beneath the center tunnel and shoehorned between the front seats is an axle-mounted electric motor – the first of its kind on a Corvette. It gives the E-Ray an extra 160 horsepower and 125 pound-feet over the standard C8 regardless of elevation, resulting in a combined output of 655 hp and 595 lb-ft. For those of you keeping count at home, that’s nearly as much power as the Corvette Z06 and more torque than the McLaren Artura.
|Quick Specs||2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray|
|Engine||6.2-Liter V8 Hybrid|
|Output||655 Horsepower / 595 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||2.5 Seconds|
|Base Price||$104,900 + $1,695 Destination|
|On-Sale Date||Late 2023|
The technical details of the E-Ray’s in-house electrified setup are mind-numbingly complex. But if it were an excerpt in the book “Engineering For Dummies,” it’d boil down to a single electric motor powered by a 1.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack (small, by EV and hybrid standards) and paired with Chevy’s ubiquitous 6.2-liter V8 engine. Power is sent to all four wheels – another first for the Corvette – and an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox manages it all.
While I figured this car would be quick based on the numbers, I had no idea how quick. Down the makeshift drag strip at PPIR (basically, pit lane in reverse) the E-Ray accelerates with enough brutality to pulverize my face and send the butterflies in my stomach fluttering. It has the type of neck-snapping acceleration typically reserved for performance EVs from Tesla or Lucid.
The E-Ray has a hypercar-rivalling 2.5 seconds to 60 mph time, and continues onto a blistering quarter-mile time of 10.5 seconds. Both of those figures, again, are better than the Z06 (even though this version is around 300 pounds heavier), and the E-Ray reaches 60 quicker still than the Ferrari 296 GTB, McLaren Artura, and Acura NSX Type S. Hell, it’s only two-tenths of a second shy of the Bugatti Chiron.
It has the type of neck-snapping acceleration typically reserved for performance EVs from Tesla or Lucid.
The secret to that absurd straight-line speed is a clever electrified launch control system that yanks on the front tires at a rate of 1,020 lb-ft of torque the second you press the go pedal. The electric motor works in unison with the V8 engine, which kicks on quickly post-launch to help keep the momentum going up to 150 miles per hour. At that point, the electric motor disengages and drivers have to rely exclusively on the V8. Chevy says most customers won’t be hitting those speeds, anyway.
I certainly wasn’t touching 150 in the E-Ray even down the fastest straight of PPIR. But the mighty duo of a torquey electric motor and Chevy’s sumptuous 6.2-liter V8 engine were still powerful at speeds of 110, with the brake-based torque vectoring system (there’s no clutch on the front axle) doling out power with deliberate precision in corners. You can feel the electric all-wheel-drive system helping the car out of slower corners with an instant jolt of electric torque.
Standard six-piston front and four-piston rear carbon ceramic brakes – same as on the Z06 – bring the E-Ray down to speed as I hurl it into the first corner off the front straight. A touch of regenerative braking (in the right drive mode) also helps slow the supercar while recharging the battery at the same time; the E-Ray recharges the same way as any traditional hybrid, so no need to plug in. And it’s not just speed that makes the E-Ray so good.
Although the Z06 is still very much the track sheep of the family, the E-Ray comes pretty damn close. The standard Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 affords this Corvette impeccable balance, helping keep its relative heft tidy and controlled in even the tightest corners. The stability and grip from the ultra-wide Michelin Pilot Sport All-Season tires (275 front and 345 rear) are other-worldly good. These are the widest all-season tires ever fit to a production car and yield one full G of lateral grip.
But even though this Corvette is an ultra-grippy, all-wheel drive machine, the decoupled front and rear axle means you can indeed set this car up with a bias that makes it feel genuinely like a rear-wheel-drive sports car. Disengaging the traction control system entirely even allows for some sweet controlled drifts; yes, you can still hoon the hybrid , all-wheel-drive ‘Vette.
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Rocky Mountain High
High in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is where I’m able to get my first taste of the electrified sports car on public roads, and it’s also exactly where Chevy engineers tested the E-Ray prior to launch. Granted, the weather is much nicer in September than it was when Chevy was out in the valley doing snow drifts, but the twisty mountain roads still make for an excellent proof of concept for what this car can do.
The E-Ray is an absolute sweetheart on winding paths. Chevrolet casually calls it the “Grand Touring” Corvette – a perfect intermediary between the base C8 and the hardcore Z06. And when you’re not in the most aggressive Track setting, that GT spirit is obvious as it glides along the pavement with an easygoing attitude. The ride is smooth and the chassis is balanced, while the electric motor doles up some nice additional torque for mid-range passing and the all-wheel-drive system offers extra assurance when grip is sparse, like in the wet.
And there are a few different drive modes beyond the tamest Tour and the most extreme Track, a few that are exclusive to E-Ray. The Charge+ feature, for example, allows for sustained lapping by offering power and regen at the same time; I sampled it on an autocross course and witnessed in awe aggressive driving and braking actually recouped energy. Stealth mode, meanwhile, offers an EV-only experience for around 3 miles at up to 45 miles per hour.
The E-Ray is an absolute sweetheart on winding paths.
Annoyingly though, Stealth is only accessible before you set off. You have to cycle through the drive modes and activate Stealth prior to hitting the ignition, which is fine for leaving your neighborhood early in the morning so as not to wake the neighbors, but sort of irritating if you simply want to tick over to EV mode while driving around town.
Driving a Corvette in complete silence is a strange sensation, but an appealing one. Silent cruising in a C8 – even over a short distance – offers a glimpse into the Corvette’s electric future. The downside, though, is that Chevy didn’t add any additional sound deadening here to quash the C8’s excessive road noise issue. It’s made worse by the extra-wide tires, which kick up rocks to the underside of the vehicle at an aggressive rate.
Most of the interior bits of the E-Ray go unchanged from the standard C8, too. If you like the coffin-like cockpit, the huge bank of buttons, and the overly rakish windshield, then you should feel right at home. The 12.0-inch touchscreen from the carries over as well, but it adopts a newer version of Chevy’s infotainment system, complete with advanced Google Maps. The Google navigation alone is worth the upgrade.
Visually, even with the track-capable performance to back it up, the E-Ray doesn’t look all that racy. While it offers the same wide stance as the Z06, the E-Ray lacks most of the exterior frills; think of it as Chevy’s 911 GT3 Touring. There’s a bit of extra detailing on the front bumper that keen eyes should pick up on additional vents in the rear, plus a few unique color and wheel options, with Cacti green (pictured here) being the best among the group.
Corvette Summer (And Winter)
The E-Ray does cost six figures, though. The electrified Corvette starts at $106,595 for the coupe (with the $1,695 destination feet included), which is only a few thousand off the Z06. But compared to the alternatives, the E-Ray does feel like a relative bargain; the Artura costs $237,500, the 296 GTB goes for $333,355, and the now-discontinued Acura NSX Type S was $171,495.
A shade over 100 grand is a relatively small price to pay for hypercar speed, on-track poise, and a more refined driving experience than either the base C8 or the Z06. Plus the introduction of all-wheel drive means customers who live in inclement weather can play, too. So even while electrification bears down on our beloved sports cars, the Corvette E-Ray offers a preview of what’s possible.
Photos: Jeff Perez For Motor1.com