Hopes, dreams, and wishes for a small Chevrolet roadster withered with the passing of the Corvair in the late 1960s, and altogether died once General Motors discontinued use of the Kappa platform in 2009. Still, that isn’t stopping the company from showing a new roadster concept -- the Chevrolet Mi-ray -- at this year’s Seoul Motor Show in South Korea.
GM insists the edgy, cab-forward speedster is inspired by a number of its own sports car concepts from the 1960s, specifically the 1962 Corvair Super Spyder (pictured below in 2003). Certainly, the stubby windshield and aggressive rear decklid serve as a visual homage, but the Mi-ray isn’t blatantly retro. The split front grille fits in with Chevrolet’s current design language, as do the recessed headlamps and scalloped fenders, which resemble those used on the Corvette Centennial / Stingray concept of 2009.
That body itself is made mostly of carbon fiber, as is the interior’s shell, which wraps around driver and passenger alike in a dual-cockpit design. Like BMW’s ConnectedDrive concept, the dash surface itself doubles as a touchscreen display, and is organized so that the passenger commands all functions deemed unnecessary to drive (i.e. audio, Web connectivity, navigation, etc).
As is the case with many recent GM concepts, the Mi-ray is yet another plug-in hybrid vehicle, but unlike those show cars, it isn’t just a fancy body mounted atop the Volt’s powertrain. Officials refer to this configuration as “mid-electric,” and for good reason: it’s essentially a mid-engine, all-wheel-drive hybrid.
In normal driving, the Miray functions as an electric vehicle, using a pair of 15-kW motors to drive the front wheels. But once the driver mashes that pedal on the right, a turbocharged 1.5-liter I-4 -- located just aft of the passenger compartment -- comes to life, and drives the rear wheels via a dual-clutch transmission. GM suggests the Miray can subsequently function as a front-, rear-, and all-wheel-drive vehicle.
In Korean, the word mi-ray equates to future. Much as we’d love for a small, mid-engine Chevy roadster to fill the hole in our hearts left by the death of the Toyota MR Spyder in 2005, don’t plan on the for the Mi-ray being a part of GM’s future product plans. Instead, the concept is likely serving as a showcase for new technologies. Uwe Grebe, GM’s executive director of advanced powertrain engineering, notes many components used in the Mi-ray are “a logical extension of GM’s current technology portfolio,” and we can’t help but note that the General recently patented a seven-speed DCT. Hmm…