Among the many ways, the new 2020 Corvette breaks with Corvette tradition is that it’s the first generation of America’s sports car not to offer a manual transmission. As with any multifaceted decision like this, there are a number of factors. But the primary reason didn’t have to do with engineering or packaging.
Executive chief engineer Tadge Juechter told Car and Driver that part of the reason is the desire to not breach the mid-engine C8’s central tunnel: “That tunnel is the backbone of the car, and if you break the backbone, you lose a lot of structural efficiencies. With a shifter, you have to have a big hole in the tunnel for the linkage to go through.”
Another factor is the dramatically increased performance of the new Corvette’s automatic, which, for the first time in the car’s history, is a dual-clutch unit. The launch-control functionality and far quicker shifts of this new eight-speed would easily outperform that of a manual-equipped car; Chevy claims that the C8 will be capable of hitting 60 mph in under three seconds when equipped with the Z51 performance package, a dramatic improvement of about a full second.
It certainly requires a non-trivial investment to engineer, tune, and certify an additional powertrain variant, but Juechter’s deputy, chief engineer Ed Piatek, told us that those are challenges the Corvette’s ace engineering team would’ve happily overcome.
Piatek said that the real thing that put the team over the edge in their decision was a lack of customer demand. Citing manual-transmission take rakes for the C7 Corvette, which started at or slightly above 50 percent when it launched as a 2014 model, he says those have more recently dwindled down to only 20 percent. And that just wasn’t enough to secure a third pedal in the mid-engine Corvette.