Chevrolet Corvette C7 - Sneak Preview 2008

Don Sherman

Three technologies available to uplift the Corvette's venerable pushrod V-8 are variable valve timing (VVT), direct injection (DI), and active fuel management (AFM). Taking those items in order, the Mechadyne/Mahle cam-in-cam VVT arrangement used successfully in the Dodge Viper's V-10 has been spotted being tested in GM V-8s. DI and AFM (GM's code for cylinder shutdown) have been seen fraternizing in the 4.9-liter, 326-hp V-8 that powers the GMC Denali XT hybrid concept vehicle.

We've heard wild rumors of one exotic engine planned for the Corvette. A spin-off of the UV8 - scheduled to replace what was formerly known as Cadillac's Northstar V-8 - would have used four camshafts and 32 valves to feed an ultrasmall displacement. A stratospheric redline and an exhaust shriek capable of rousing the lifeless would have been key character traits. Alas, the entire UV8 program was shelved last December as GM's salute to future mileage obligations.

The third engine penciled onto the C7's bill of materials is equally interesting. Plans are afoot to consider the General's new 4.5-liter Duramax turbo-diesel V-8 for possible use in a special, high-mileage edition of the 2012 Corvette. This engine definitely has the guts for the job: more than 300 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque. It fits the same hole as the current gasoline small-block V-8 and is remarkably smooth and quiet for a diesel. The highest hurdle is weight; while GM has not disclosed how much the Duramax weighs, its robust internal parts and cast-iron block are contrary to the Corvette's quest for anorexia.

To help any engine that makes the cut shine, there's a new dual-clutch automatic transmission under development for the C7. We don't know whether this gearbox will be located ahead of the rear axle (as in today's 105.7-inch-wheelbase Corvettes) or behind it, which would enable the wheelbase to be shortened to save weight and, theoretically, quicken steering response. The cost of a world-class transaxle to replace the Tremec six-speed was a key showstopper for the mid-engine C7.

Chassis details also are unknown, although there's little incentive to deviate far from the aluminum linkages and composite springs optimized during the past four Corvette generations. Transverse fiberglass springs date all the way back to 1981, when a weight savings of more than thirty pounds was realized. One flaw worth fixing is the front spring's location under the engine, an arrangement that elevates the entire driveline. Magnetically adjustable dampers surely will play a major role in the C7.

In summary, we're expecting a 3000-pound Corvette powered by a 300-plus-hp engine delivering at least 30 highway miles per gallon. There will be less raw-speed bang for more bucks. That poses two appropriate courses of action for Corvette enthusiasts: Start saving now for the most technologically advanced car ever fielded by GM. Or place your deposit on a ZR1 before they run out.

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