We’ve known ever since Anthony Reid drove the new Corvette Stingray up the Goodwood hillclimb course in impressive time that the latest car from Bowling Green, Kentucky is a driving proposition to be taken seriously. Historically speaking the words ‘Corvette’ and ‘automatic’ have not been bywords for driving nirvana, though. In fact, they bring to mind the words ‘medallion’ and ‘man’.
Even though the C7 Corvette Stingray is considered good news by reviewers, the automatic version has had to make-do with the old C6’s item which seems to have been a blight on the new car. Autoblog’s Michael Harley was moved to say of it: “The traditional six-speed automatic seemed to extinguish the C7’s performance edge. I found it softer, slower and more lethargic (even paddle-initiated shifts had annoying lag). Even though it was every bit as quick in terms of outright acceleration, the gearbox took much of the excitement out of the driving experience.” Oh dear.
Although too late for the launch of the Stingray, GM has now released news of its new 8L90 slush-box which would appear to be much more palatable if you’re familiar with the outstanding Porsche PDK and ZF transmissions it must compete with. Designed with the 650bhp Z06 in mind, the new eight-speeder features lots of aluminium and magnesium in its construction and reportedly enables the ‘Vette to get to 60mph a whole tenth of a second quicker and with a 3.5% improvement in fuel economy over the old ‘box. Reviewers like Autoblog also indicate that the shift speed is ‘dual-clutch’ fast, although the signs are that the fastest way around a course is with it shifting by itself in full auto.
So, it sounds like the latest GM automatic transmission is a vast improvement over the old one and could even prove to be faster around a course than the manual, but can it erase the old ‘automatic Corvette’ image?