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Chevy lifts lid on first-ever Corvette hard-top convertible

When the Corvette debuted in 1953, it was available only as a convertible. But that was a traditional soft top, and wow how times have changed. Chevrolet has just unveiled the line's first-ever hard top, which caps a totally redesigned Stingray full of firsts, including the first mid-engine car for the brand. It took special engineering to accommodate the new retractable top into such a tight design.

"We put the world on notice when we introduced the first mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette a few months ago, and now we're raising the bar with the first-ever hard-top Corvette convertible," said Brian Sweeney, Chevrolet U.S. vice president. "And the convertible will be priced only $7,500 more than entry 1LT Stingray coupe."

According to the almost-500-hp car's designers, the mid-engine 2020 Corvette Stingray was engineered first and foremost as a convertible. The convertible maintains the tunnel-dominant structure and use of high-integrity die-cast parts found in the Stingray coupe.

The team engineered the hard top to stow seamlessly into the body, maintaining the Stingray's impressive ability to store two sets of golf clubs in the trunk -- even with the top down. The convertible also keeps the coupe's front storage compartment, which can fit an airline-spec carry-on and a laptop bag.

The convertible weighs a mere 77 lb more than coupe, and the top is available in body-color or a dark carbon finish. The hard top also provides a quieter cabin, increased security, and a cleaner look compared to the previous softtop designs.

"Our goal from the beginning was to make sure customers didn't have to sacrifice any functionality, performance, or comfort when choosing the hard-top convertible," said Josh Holder, Corvette program engineering manager. "We managed to keep the same design theme as the coupe, as well as the exceptional storage capacity and track capability."

Like the coupe, the Stingray convertible's design was inspired by fighter jets. The tonneau cover features aerodynamically shaped nacelles influenced by the housing used for jet engines. The nacelles, which were also used as inspiration on the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV) I and II, as well as the Corvette SS and SR2 concepts, help reduce air recirculation into the cabin and provide an exotic profile with the top up or down. The tonneau also provides a rear power-adjustable window and a vent for mid-engine cooling.

The two-piece top can be activated at speeds up to 30 mph and retracted in as few as 16 sec. It is powered by six electric motors -- a Corvette first -- and uses encoders for precise control. Switching to electric motors from hydraulic systems helps increase reliability. A body-colored roof is standard, while Carbon Flash metallic-painted nacelles and roof are optional.

The coupe has more roof options, including a carbon-fiber-look, solid body color, or transparent (tinted). The convertible Carbon Flash option is colored and solid, with no transparent option offered.

Careful attention was paid to make sure the engine could breathe when stored underneath the tonneau cover. The sheet-molded composite top stows in a compartment made from lightweight composite panels and heat shields to manage heat from the engine.

A divider glass window in the middle of the vehicle can be power adjusted with the top up or down. The glass has been optimized to reduce air recirculation and wind noise in the cabin for improved quietness. The roof system design, combined with the same rear spoiler used on the Stingray coupe's Z51 Performance Package, results in identical drag between the coupe and convertible with the top up.

Engineers tweaked the chassis for the convertible, with springs and dampers tuned specifically to provide nearly the same performance as the coupe.

Like the Stingray coupe, the convertible is powered by the next-gen 6.2L Small Block V-8 LT2 engine, the only naturally aspirated V-8 in the segment. It will produce 495 hp (369 kW) and 470 lb-ft (637 Nm) of torque when equipped with performance exhaust -- the most horsepower and torque for any entry Corvette.

One thing the convertible design did give up is the see-through "jewel" window that shows off the engine in the coupe. That's a shame, because it was a neat and novel touch.

The LT2 is paired with Chevrolet's first eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which provides lightning-fast shifts and excellent power transfer. This transmission is uniquely designed to provide the best of both worlds: the spirited, directly connected feeling of a manual and the premium driving comfort of an automatic. The double-paddle de-clutch feature even allows the driver to disconnect the clutch by holding both paddles for more manual control.

When combined, the advanced propulsion system, revised chassis tuning, and retractable hard top make the 2020 Stingray "the most no-compromise Corvette convertible in history," according to its developers.

One of the big news items at the reveal of the Stingray coupe in July (see Designfax article here) was that the entry 2020 Stingray will start under $60,000. Chevrolet is counting on a very aggressive pricing strategy to help make the mid-engine Corvette a success.

You can build and price your own Corvette coupe or convertible using the 2020 Corvette visualizer on the Chevrolet site here. The 2020 Corvette is available in 12 colors and shown in this article in Accelerate Yellow and Sebring Orange Tintcoat.

Source: Chevrolet

Published October 2019

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