It is quite simply impossible to predict the future. We in the automotive media can’t do much more than make educated guesses and speculate about what the future holds for cars, especially when manufacturers are less than forthcoming with the information. Such is the case for the C7 Corvette. We’ve heard rumors, we’ve seen renderings – yet there is not a single reliable, absolute piece of information except that there will eventually be a C7 Corvette.
Is this the new Corvette? Not according to GM.
We’ve been told we have to wait until 2012, maybe 2013. It could even be 2014, meaning the long-in-the-tooth C6 (that was heavily based on the C5, which debuted in 1997) will be quite old by then. Renderings and concepts have popped up, like the Transformers 2 character Sideswipe, as well as numerous wallpapers, but nothing firm. Since a vacuum has been left by the lack of information on the future C7, some rather ridiculous rumors have been swirling around. Could the next Corvette get a hybrid drivetrain or a diesel engine? Maybe even a twin-turbo V6, as suggested by Paul Lindy of Global Insight in an interview with Popular Mechanics.
The last Blue Flame six-cylinder engine was a fantastic fizzle that almost killed the Corvette in its infancy.
Nonsense, we say. The Corvette hasn’t had a six-cylinder engine in over 50 years. When you buy Corvette, you get a V8. But one has to take into account today’s market and environment. The Obama administration has set a pretty high bar for fuel efficiency in the coming decade, mandating manufacturers reach a fleet average of 35 mpg by 2020. That timeline means the next Corvette is going to have to take fuel efficiency into account, and engines are likely going to get smaller before they get bigger.
Even bigger with a LSX 454-based engine for Z06s?
Then again, maybe not. The ZR-1 has a supercharged, 6.2 liter LS9 engine that makes more than 100 horsepower per liter, can reach a top speed over 200 mph, and yet still gets about 20 mpg on the highway. Not too shabby. Dr. Jamie Meyer of GM Performance Parts thinks there might be a future still for big displacement engines in the Corvette. During a recent interview on other topics, he said “The GM platform teams are also impressed with output of the LSx 454. A production Camaro or Corvette with an LSX 454? It could happen.”
A 454 LSx engine in a production Corvette might not be environmentally friendly, but it sure would be fun.
This got the gears in our head turning. The LSx 454 engine is essentially a large displacement engine fitted into a small block package. The engine makes 650 horsepower on pump gas while keeping everything in a compact package. While it is difficult to contemplate GM dumping the exceptionally awesome LS7 engine after just a few years of use, stranger things have happened. The LSx engine is currently offered as a crate engine, but dropping it into a next-generation Corvette wouldn’t be too hard. But a base Corvette displacing 454 cubic inches and making 650 horsepower? That is highly unlikely.
Corvette Racing's 5.5 liter production-based engine may end up as the base engine for the C7 Corvette...one day. Picture: Corvette Racing/Richard Prince
Base Model Corvettes with a Smaller 5.5-Liter Power Plant?
Instead we look to Corvette Racing. The team of Corvette C6.Rs has dominated the American Le Mans Series so much, that they had a whole class to themselves after the competition dropped out. New rule changes in the ALMS require teams to run more production-based vehicles, including the engines. This means the 6.0 liter, race-prepped engine that took the teams to so many victories had to go. Instead Corvette Racing will be running a 5.5 liter production-based engine that will in fact be built alongside the Corvette’s lineup of current engines. Could the C7 wind up with a 5.5 liter engine in place of the 6.2 liter LS3 it currently uses?
Well until GM gives us something else to go on, that’s our story. A base Corvette with the Corvette Racing 5.5 liter engine, and a Z06/ZR-1 with the 650 horsepower LSx 454 engine. So says the car-predicting crystal ball.