The wait is finally over, and Chevrolet’s worst-kept secret is finally out of the bag. The C8 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has just been revealed, and the rumours and reports were true – after 67 years, America’s premier sports car has gone all mid-engined and ready to hunt Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

This switch has been a long time coming, with a series of studies and prototypes having been built from the late ’60s all the way until the ’90s. “The traditional front-engined vehicle reached its limits of performance, necessitating the new layout,” said GM president Mark Reuss. “In terms of comfort and fun, it still looks and feels like a Corvette, but drives better than any vehicle in Corvette history.”

Chevrolet claims that the new engine placement improves straight-line and track performance thanks to the increased rearward weight balance, and that the driver’s positioning closer to the front axle provides better responsiveness and sense of control. The move has also enabled the bonnet, dashboard and steering wheel to be moved lower, enhancing visibility and allowing for a race car-like view of the road ahead.

Mounted longitudinally just behind the driver is the LT2 small-block V8, which keeps the 6.2 litre displacement (and likely the cross-plane crank and ancient pushrod valves) of the previous LT1 but introduces a dry sump with three scavenge pumps. This enables the engine to be mounted lower and improves lubrication under hard track driving. The company says this is the only remaining naturally-aspirated V8 in the segment.

Equipped with a performance exhaust system, the new Stingray makes 495 hp at 6,450 rpm and a towering 637 Nm of torque at 5,150 rpm, making it the most powerful base Corvette ever. It’s also the fastest, going from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) in under three seconds when fitted with the Z51 Performance Package.

Part of that speed comes down to the transmission. Unfortunately for purists, the seven-speed manual option is no more, replaced by a standard-fit eight-speed dual clutch transmission. The new Tremec-developed unit features a very short first gear for quick launches, closely-spaced ratios from second to sixth and tall seventh and eighth gears. It also allows drivers to manually disengage the clutch by pulling both paddles.

Under the skin, the new Corvette is built around a stiff backbone structure that offers a solid foundation for the suspension, as well as improved torsional rigidity and easier entry and egress compared to the competition. It also preserves the Corvette’s trademark removable roof panel and eases the conversion to right-hand drive, so the C8 will be the first generation to be available with the steering wheel on the correct side.

The main structure is made from just six die-cast aluminium parts to increase rigidity, while a carbon fibre rear bumper beam and an ultra-lightweight material – derived from fibreglass and a proprietary resin – for the front and rear luggage tubs combine to reduce mass and vibration.

Another wholesale reinvention can be found in the all-round double wishbone suspension, where the Corvette finally waves goodbye to composite leaf springs in favour of conventional coils. Moving the engine rearward has also allowed for a shorter, straighter and stiffer steering system which, together with the revised electric power steering and quicker ratio, allows for more responsive handling.

The new C8 also introduces an eBoost electro-hydraulic brake booster and a nose lift system that is linked to the navigation system and can recognise up to 1,000 locations. You also get an electronic limited-slip differential, Michelin Pilot Sport all-season tyres and version 4.0 of the optional Magnetic Ride Control dampers that read the road better and responds more quickly to driver inputs.

Also on the options list are Performance Traction Management and the aforementioned Z51 package that adds a whole host of performance-enhancing features. These include uprated suspension with manually adjustable threaded spring seats, larger brake discs, an enhanced cooling system, a unique rear axle ratio, front brake cooling inlets, the performance exhaust and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S summer tyres.

Performance characteristics can be adjusted using the drive modes that have been expanded from four (Weather, Tour, Sport and Track) to six. There’s a customisable MyMode as well as a Z mode that can be used to further tweak the engine and gearbox settings. General Motors’ new electrical architecture allows for shorter wiring and quicker signal transmission, allowing for over-the-air updates and enhanced cybersecurity.

The revised layout has made fundamental changes to the car’s proportions, with a cab-forward profile inspired by fighter jets and Formula 1 race cars. The Corvette’s low nose has been retained and incorporates new headlights with forked LED daytime running lights and large air intakes.

This hyper-aggressive look continues down the rest of the car, where you’ll find retractable door handles and a sizeable inlet aft of the doors to aid cooling and aerodynamic performance. But it’s at the rear where the designers have really gone to town, with quad tail lights (with sequential indicators) and exhaust exits, huge vents and a massive diffuser.

A bigger front splitter and a two-piece rear spoiler on the Z51 version add up to 180 kg of downforce. The glass hatch provides a good view of the engine – the design of which has been completely tidied up for presentation – and with a boot that Chevrolet says is big enough for two golf bags (there’s another boot in the front). The wheels measure 19 inches in front and 20 inches at the rear.

Inside, the C8 continues the cockpit-like dashboard design that wraps around the driver, but the technology inside has been raised to a whole new level. Ahead of the driver sits a customisable 12-inch digital instrument display and a squared-off two-spoke steering wheel, while a higher-resolution centre display is linked to Chevrolet’s next-generation infotainment system.

This system incorporates features such as one-touch Bluetooth pairing via Near Field Communication (NFC), wireless charging, improved real-time traffic information for the navigation system and a voice control system that learns over time. There’s also a Performance Data Recorder with a high-definition camera that can record track and point-to-point road course data, and which can also function as a dash cam.

Elsewhere, Chevrolet promises top-grade materials such as hand-wrapped cut-and-sew leather and real metal and carbon fibre trim. It also offers a choice of three seat options with differing bolstering, materials and upholstery, and claims that the revised packaging has added an inch of rearward seat travel and almost double the reclining angle. Audio is piped in through a choice of 10- and 14-speaker Bose systems.

Production kicks off at the Bowling Green, Kentucky plant in late 2019, and while no specific details on pricing and variants have been made available just yet, it’s been confirmed that the range will start from under US$60,000 (RM246,600).