Comparing the C5 and C8 Corvette models is very much like comparing a high-end desk computer available in the 1990s with the Apple iPad available in 2021. In some respects, it’s also a bit of apples vs. oranges since the intent of the C5 design by Chevrolet was very different from where it went with the C8.
A Car Designed for Solving Problems
The C5 Corvette released in 1997 was a paradigm shift for Chevrolet. It needed a corvette that was far more responsive to efficient production expectations, it needed to be a step away from the past and the complexity of builds that became part heavy for the sake of iterations layered on top of each other. The vehicle had to produce a return to power again, something that had frustrated buyers tremendously in the early 1990s and produced very weak vehicles that soured the public’s taste in Chevy performance vehicles.
A key factor of the C5’s success started with its simplicity in design. Using 1,500 less parts than the prior corvette model, the car was going to be far easier to construct, adding a huge benefit on the production side. In terms of physical design, the C5 changed the wheelbase and spread it out further with a flatter windshield, a greater slope in the front to reduce wind drag, and a sleeker look over all. Bottom line, what was a fast car visual became even faster-looking. However, unlike Chevy issues of the early 1990s, the C5 was not just appearance only; it actually produced hard results in terms of power and performance.
The engine block packed in a V8 powerhouse in the form of the LS1 for the base model C5 corvette and LS6 for the Z06. Built as a 5.7 liter assembly, it put out 345 hp. The suspension was beefed up with a Z-51 system as well as a redesign of the brake system that produces a 125-foot stop at 60 mph. The entire car was stabilized structurally with an aluminum tube designed for heavy power stress and torque.
The flagship of the C5 was the Z06 model, which included the LS6 engine package and the FE4 suspension. This particular souped-up design put out an even more powerful 385 hp. Once the additional weight changes were taken off the vehicle, the vehicle was reaching 405 hp by 2002. Again, the C5 was really a package of multiple worlds: production efficiency improvement, sleeker design to match modern expectations, and a respectable power output.
A Power Sports Car Upgrade for the 2020s
The C8 Corvette, released approximately 22 years after the C5, provides a tremendous step up from prior models. Keep in mind, two other model versions had already been designed and built after the C5 and before the C8. With the release of the C8, the Corvette now produced for an owner the 6.2 liter V8 engine based on an LT2 block design, producing 495 hp. It’s a 30 to 35HP increase over the C7 and well up to 150HP increase over the much earlier C5 Corvette.
Interestingly, the C8 is a heavier car. It added almost 200 pounds over the prior C7 model but only about 100 pounds over the C5 which was designed for being light to add speed. However, all of that weight translates to power, which produces a C8 vehicle that jumps to 60 mph in under 3 seconds (2.8 seconds to be exact). It was also a reduction of one second’s time from the fastest C7 clock. In terms of stopping power the C8 arrives from 70 mph to 0 in 149 feet, again an amazing amount of braking power applied at full speed.
The C8 transmission is a departure from previous years in that it will only be produced with an automatic transmission. However, while there’s no manual transmission option going forward, the automatic version is a dual-clutch design, responsive steering wheel paddle control as well as heavily computerized performance.
The C8 transmission is a departure from previous years in that it will only be produced with an automatic transmission. However, while there’s no manual transmission option going forward, the automatic version is a dual-clutch design, responsive steering wheel paddle control as well as heavily computerized performance. The above said, there is still ongoing discussion about a manual version running around and might be in development, but there isn’t a lot of confirmation per se on the matter, more conjecture. It would be an odd departure as well given so much was invested in the commitment to the automatic transmission mode versus prior versions like the T56 transmission and the LS6 compatible packages.
In short, the C8 Corvette and the C5 were both groundbreaking designs for their releases, but to compare the two side-by-side would be silly. Their build intent was very different and they were produced for very different markets and times.