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Chevrolet Corvette E‑Ray 2024 review – American icon goes hybrid and all-wheel drive

Is nothing sacred? The red-blooded Corvette can now be had with electric assistance and four-wheel drive. But is the new Corvette E‑Ray too complex for its own good?

Evo rating
Price
from £85,000
  • Hugely potent powertrain, excellent balance, luxurious cabin
  • Heavy, confusing drive modes, steering feel lacking

It’s hard not to admire Chevrolet and the team behind the Corvette. First they make the controversial switch to a mid-engine platform for the eighth-generation Stingray in search of greater performance and dynamic polish – a big gamble for a car that sells in vast numbers to a mostly conservative, traditionalist crowd. Next they set about tackling the Porsche 911 GT3 with the hardcore Z06 version by channelling the Ferrari 458 Speciale. Just like the Porsche, the Z06 benefits from a bespoke, motorsport-derived engine. However, this one is a 5.5-litre flat-plane-crank V8 modelled on the staggering Speciale engine and developing 670bhp at 8400rpm. Incredible. The car’s pretty good too, as John Barker discovered in issue 310, where he was moved to say ‘at times it feels like you’re driving a race car on the road, except few race cars have such absorbency’.

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And now there’s this, the Corvette E‑Ray – a four-wheel-drive supercar that takes elements of the relatively plush Stingray and the sharp, track-focused Z06 and combines them with a Porsche 918 Spyder-style hybrid system to deliver huge performance. Chevy claims 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds and independent sources have borne that out. Add two-tenths or so to account for the weird 1ft rollout used for US acceleration tests. Even so, it’s massively potent. 

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> The 2024 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 looks like it belongs on a Le Mans grid

Yet despite the potential of this car, its clever mixed-material chassis and the complexities of the hybrid system, the E‑Ray costs from just $106,595 in its home market. That’s less than the Z06. Or, indeed, a base-spec Porsche 911 Carrera with 380bhp. The E‑Ray features the same 6.2-litre V8 as the Stingray – good for 495bhp and 470lb ft here – and in combination with a single electric motor driving the front wheels, total output is 655bhp. Although it should be noted that the quoted kerb weight is 1765kg and US magazines have weighed the E‑Ray at just over 1800kg.

So, what exactly is this car? It has the wide body from the Z06 and hence huge 275- and 345-section tyres, there are standard-fit carbon-ceramic brakes and the hybrid system with its tiny 1.9kWh battery is designed to add performance, not efficiency. There’s no plug-in capability, although a Stealth mode does allow for silent progress for a short period at speeds of up to 45mph. The EV-ness almost seems like an afterthought. Perhaps the good folk at Chevy forgot they already had a Z06 and just reached the same end goal but in a different way. Or maybe they just can’t help themselves.

There may be some truth in that, but the fact that the E‑Ray comes as standard on those strangest of things that America alone is invested in – ‘all-season tires’ (sic) – and that the performance option is a Pilot Sport 4 S instead of the Cup 2 R available on the Z06, speaks volumes. This is a car that appears to supercharge the Stingray formula, retaining all the useability and refinement that makes the standard car so appealing on a daily basis, but elevating the performance to new heights. Adding all-weather capability, too. That’s a significant consideration in the home market, where large parts of the country have hard winters and many buyers insist on four-wheel drive. The E‑Ray suddenly makes those people potential customers.

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It may be officially winter in California but we’re not far above sea level and temperatures are comparable to those of a late spring day in the UK. Our E‑Ray is fitted with those optional Michelins, plus we have the ZER performance suspension with Magnetic Ride Control. Oh, and optional bare carbonfibre wheels that add $13,995 to the price and save 19kg of unsprung and rotational mass. I’m not a huge fan of the Corvette’s sharp-edged looks, but there’s no question that the E‑Ray has presence and the wide-body configuration borrowed from the Z06 adds plenty of supercar swagger. No wonder European manufacturers always cite the Corvette as almost unimaginable value for money when asked which cars impress them most. From Andreas Preuninger to Christian von Koenigsegg, there is plenty of respect for the Vette amongst people who really know.

Depress the rubber button tucked behind the leading edge of the side intake and the door feels lightweight and swings out for miles to grant easy access to the E‑Ray. You have to drop quite a way into the cabin, supercar-style, but the seats feel plush and the environment is the polar opposite to a minimalist McLaren’s, for example. Let’s call it ‘busy’. The almost completely square steering wheel is an odd touch, too. The whole interior has a plumpness about it. Mid-engined it may be, but the E‑Ray’s ambience is positively luxurious.

Even before you start the E‑Ray, it’s providing mode choices. This car has many modes – and plenty of configurability within them. In addition, a Performance Traction Management system offers various stability and traction control options to pair with the drive modes (which have their own default traction and stability settings). It’s all a bit intimidating and needlessly complex. Incidentally, PTM is a fantastic system that Chevy chooses to make almost impossible to access for reasons completely unknown. 

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So before you’ve even hit the starter button, just pressing the brake pedal awakens the dash and allows you to toggle to Stealth mode for a few miles of EV-only, front-drive Corvette action. I elect not to do this initially. Suffice to say Stealth mode is very, um, stealthy for those early-morning starts that might otherwise wake the neighbours. Instead I decide to enjoy the deep, comforting V8 beat of the 6.2-litre LT2 engine, and in the mildest Tour mode the E‑Ray lopes along rather beautifully. The magnetic dampers have a real polish and it’s easy to appreciate the benefits of a stiff chassis built around a strong central tunnel (which also houses the lithium-ion batteries in the E‑Ray), double-wishbone suspension at each corner and a very long wheelbase. 

At low and medium speeds the E‑Ray scores decisively over the Z06 due to its easily accessible torque. The 6.2-litre combustion engine already beats the peak output of the Z06’s 5.5-litre screamer by 20lb ft, but the additional 125lb ft provided by the permanent magnetic drive front motor dramatically increases the advantage. Whereas the Z06 can feel genuinely gutless when you request a little more speed while cruising in one of its higher gears, the E‑Ray responds with real intent. On most roads and for most people, I expect Corvette’s hybrid would beat its hardcore would-be racer. 

Use the centre console-mounted control wheel to toggle up into Sport and Track modes and the E‑Ray feels pretty well tied-down, too. There isn’t the incredible alertness of the Z06 but the car really controls its mass superbly and even in Track mode there remains enough absorbency to deal with tricky surfaces in decisive, well-rounded movements. Z-mode, accessed on the odd steering wheel, is effectively an Individual mode and allows the driver to play with damper settings, steering weight, powertrain settings and even brake feel. Plus, once you double-click the traction control button you can tweak to PTM between Wet, Dry, Sport I, Sport II and Race. 

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This all sounds deeply confusing. Honestly, it is. I mostly found myself using the preset modes and either leaving the traction control alone or switching it off completely. Fortunately, where the sheer configurability is intimidating, the natural, intuitive feel of the car itself is liberating. There’s a lack of texture and information coming back through the steering, but for the most part it just feels like a really well hooked-up car, with incredible scope to deal with bad surfaces, masses of performance and a chassis that provides plenty of options. 

The spec suggests that the hybrid part of the E‑Ray is almost hidden away. There are no charge cables, the range is pathetic and the Corvette messaging is all about performance. However, in reality the E‑Ray embraces the electric boost and deploys it to telling effect. In fact, the addition of power to the front wheels creates an impressive set of skills as the limit of grip is approached, and the way the thumping old-school V8 soundtrack is overlaid with a synthesised plasma-gun warble is, weirdly, quite a lot of fun. It feels absolutely in tune with the sensations provided by this intriguing car.

On the road, it’s not often you test the ultimate grip of 345-section rear tyres, but there are definitely subtle new sensations and capabilities that you feel and enjoy as you start to load the E‑Ray up. Treading the line between the front axle feeling ‘active’ in the driving experience and a car descending into an odd, inconsistent experience that’s constantly shifting the goalposts is tricky, but the E‑Ray manages it really well. Compared to a solely ICE-powered four-wheel-drive car, it’s somewhere between the almost pure rear-drive feel of an early R8 and the extreme capability of a Nissan GT‑R, which pulls itself straight with greater force and is more aggressive with its the front axle. You can feel that the E‑Ray is driven at both ends, but it doesn’t demand you adopt a particular driving style. 

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So, on the road the E‑Ray is extremely convincing. The engine is a little lacking in reach, revving to just 6600rpm, but it has character in abundance and the eight-speed dual-clutch ’box is fast and smooth. Even the annoyingly long gap between third and fourth – a quirk of all C8s – is slightly less of an issue due to the torque on offer. Even better is that the noise and the performance boost of the electric motor are integrated effectively and with a refreshing sense of fun. The smooth, slightly heavyweight feel of the car is very much Stingray Plus rather than the edgier, more agile and attacking style of the Z06, but the added AWD capability does lift it above the base car in more than simply straight-line performance. My road tester’s heart can’t help but yearn for slightly faster responses and more vivid feedback, but I guess that’s what the Z06 is for… 

It seems slightly cruel to venture out on track in the E‑Ray. It is deliberately very different to the track-focused Z06, it weighs 1800kg and I’ve been in America long enough (12 hours) to have eaten six cheeseburgers and imbibed gallons of Dr Pepper, only adding to its mass. Thank god for those carbon-ceramic discs and six-piston calipers. However, very quickly I realise my worries are unfounded. The E‑Ray is a riot and very, very quick. 

Funnily enough, whereas on the road the hybrid Corvette is very natural and intuitive, on track you must adapt to get the most from it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the E‑Ray is a point-and-shoot machine, but looking at data recorded from its onboard camera and telemetry system it’s very clear that carrying speed into corners and then teetering the car on the edge on exit isn’t the way to fast lap times. Instead, get the E‑Ray slowed down early, quickly get the turning done by sacrificing a bit of apex speed and then pin the throttle to provide maximum thrust from the front wheels. Traction is mighty and on shortish tracks with several slow corners the E‑Ray will match or even beat a Z06 even with the hardcore machine’s tyre advantage. The brakes are superb, the steering may lack feel but on track you simply want consistency and accuracy, which it provides in abundance, and the sheer performance and grip on offer is quite something. 

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What’s particularly impressive is that the E‑Ray requires less patience than the lighter (although narrower) Stingray. There’s more front-end bite and the weight of the engine is better controlled, so you can hustle it a bit more without washing into understeer or provoking roll oversteer. The PTM system works well in Race here, too. You can sense it gently caressing your inputs to knock the edges away but still the car feels free to move beneath you. Remove the stability and traction aids altogether and the E‑Ray remains really composed and is a joy to slide. Now that middle ground I mentioned between R8 and GT‑R swings a little further towards the Nissan, so you have to be sensitive to what the drivetrain is doing and work very calmly on the steering wheel. Opposite lock will be required from time to time, but you can often balance the car in a lovely four-wheel drift. 

If there is a problem here it’s that the small battery means you’ll only get a lap or two at qualifying speed in Track mode before it’s depleted. More consistent lapping is possible by selecting Charge Plus, which will keep the battery in a sweet spot but provide a little less power. Chevy claims this allows for 30-minute sessions without a drop-off in performance. Incidentally, the front wheels can’t be driven over 150mph and the E‑Ray’s top speed of 183mph is pure ICE-enabled. 

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It’s a curious car, the E‑Ray. My logical brain says a performance hybrid that can manage only two laps at full force is all a bit chocolate teapot. That a hybrid 1800kg sports car costs almost the same as its track-focused counterpart – a car, let’s not forget, with a bespoke, motorsport-derived flat-plane-crank V8 that revs to nearly 9000rpm, produces more power and benefits from considerably less weight to haul around – is, well, a complete nonsense. 

And yet I thoroughly enjoyed it. The E‑Ray has GT-like comfort, makes a Z06 feels rather breathless unless it’s singing over 5500rpm, performs excellently on track both in terms of raw lap time or when you simply sling it around for fun, and is interesting and engaging even at low speeds. Ultimately, the Z06 is more exciting and much closer to a true supercar experience, but the E‑Ray has its own identity and appeal. Rumours abound of an upcoming Corvette with Z06-style aggression, a similar but more powerful hybrid system to the E‑Ray and somewhere around 1000bhp. Nobody needs that sort of performance, of course, but the E‑Ray suggests the project will be superbly executed and developed with entertainment as well as pure capability in mind.

Chevrolet Corvette E‑Ray specs

EngineV8, 6162cc, plus e-motor 
Power655bhp
Torque595lb ft
Weight1765kg
Power-to-weight377bhp/ton
0-60mphc2.7sec (see text)
Top speed183mph
Basic price$106,595

This review was first featured in evo issue 318.

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