Corvettes have always been about the democratization of exotic sports cars. Whatever the prestigious brands are doing over in Europe, the Corvette team figures out how to do nearly as well. Or, occasionally, better. For a lot less money. With the new 2024 E-Ray, Corvette takes inspiration from the Porsche 918 Spyder, the Acura NSX, the Ferrari 296, and the McLaren Artura, all of which use hybrid technology to improve performance. These hybrid supercars are complex machines, but, to some, not as complex as they could be.
This story originally appeared in Volume 20 of Road & Track.
“The convertible version of the E-Ray, with its retractable hard top, is the most complex consumer product on sale today,” says Tadge Juechter, executive chief engineer of the Corvette. It’s hard to argue with him, though a table full of journalists spends probably 20 minutes trying. “We are hearing arguments if you’ve got one,” Juechter says, “but we’ve tried ourselves and can’t think of anything on sale today with as much going on in one vehicle.”
With a gasoline engine mated to a dual-clutch gearbox, an additional electric powertrain with a high-voltage battery, all-wheel drive, a magnetically actuated adaptive suspension, and the synchronized dance of a power-folding hardtop, the E-Ray does have most every technology one could think of crammed into one car. And that’s not counting the dual LCD screens, the automatic climate control, the multistage traction-control system, and all the other goodies available on lesser Corvettes. All but the base trim also get onboard telemetry and a video recorder, as well as heated and cooled seats. Juechter just might be right.
Moreover, the E-Ray coupe starts at $106,595—only 62 percent of the list price of the 2022 NSX Type S, less than half the price of an Artura, almost a third the price of a Ferrari 296 GTB, and still just a small fraction of the way to a well-used 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder at auction. The E-Ray’s hybrid system provides 160 hp to the front wheels. It pairs with the regular Stingray’s gasoline-fueled engine to make this car the quickest-accelerating production Corvette in history. It also has a usable, flexible all-wheel-drive system and is among the most fuel-efficient Corvettes ever.
To hammer home the performance angle, the first thing I am told is that E-Ray has no charge port. It’s not a plug-in hybrid designed to cheat London’s congestion tax. It has, functionally, no “range” beyond leaving the length of your cul-de-sac silently in Stealth mode, so as not to activate the cold-start alarm clock. The E-Ray has a mere 1.9-kWh battery, the smallest of any hybrid sports car on the market now, wedged into the tunnel between the seats. GM says the E-Ray can drive up to 45 mph for up to five miles in Stealth mode, but I exhausted it in under two miles. Furthermore, this mode works only on start-up; you can’t go back to it once the engine fires up without parking and restarting the whole car.
The Stingray-based powertrain and the electric front drive are fully independent of each other, making the Corvette unique in this space. The Artura and the 296 have an electric motor sandwiched between engine and gearbox as a torque filler and generator, while the NSX uses two more motors to vector torque at the front. The E-Ray doesn’t indulge that sort of complication. Juechter’s team simplified the process by leaving the gas powertrain alone and using only a single motor with brake-based vectoring at the front, saving both money and frunk space.
The unique battery pack, relieved of “range duty,” is designed to charge and discharge as quickly as possible, rather than provide efficient propulsion. It will never go empty (under normal or even track-day operation), so there’s always all-wheel-drive functionality regardless of whether there seems to be any juice left.
Now the boilerplate stuff: 655 horsepower. About 3900 pounds. Most of the Z06’s widened bodywork, save for the rear fascia, which more closely resembles the regular Stingray’s with the “split” exhaust. Color-matched accent work, available on all Corvettes, is standard here. For grip on par with the power, the E-Ray uses the same-width tires as the Z06 but with Michelin (E-Ray spec) all-season rubber coming standard—at 345/25ZR-21, these are the widest all-season car tires ever made.
Because GM planned for the E-Ray all along, neither trunk nor passenger space is affected by the motor or the battery. That’s why even the Stingray has such a large center console compared with the more open-plan cockpits in the Ferrari and McLaren.
And it’s fast. Using launch control, the E-Ray chirps all four tires and sails past 60 in 2.5 seconds—quicker than the Z06, the 296, and the Artura—on its way to the quarter-mile in 10.5. The E-Ray is also quicker than the Z06 in Chevy’s “highway passing” tests: 30 to 50, 30 to 70, and 60 to 100.
But unlike the Z06, the E-Ray is not a track monster. That’s not to say it can’t handle track work; it absolutely can. Using Charge+ mode, it will discharge power a bit slower than when it’s in full kill mode so it can last for a full 30-minute lapping session, whereas kill mode (not actually called that) will flow maximum electrons for a couple of laps until the battery is mostly depleted. It’s good at the track, trust me—until a Z06 pulls up. It should be noted that even in kill mode, the battery never “dies,” though acceleration will be held back until the battery is charged up again. How long will that take? Funny you should ask: one lap. Really. When the engineers say it’s designed for fast charge and discharge, this is what they mean. If you run the battery down and then put the car in Charge+ mode, it will completely replenish the battery in one slow lap of most racetracks, or about three miles of road driving. You do need to be driving, rather than idling, as kinetic energy from motion, not the rotation of the engine itself, is converted into battery power.
On the street, the E-Ray shines bright as a road tripper’s dream Corvette. It’s got nearly the power of the Z06 but better fuel efficiency and road manners somewhere between the Stingray Z51 and the base Z06. Put the powertrain in Track, the steering in Tour, and the shocks in Tour (using My Mode), and it’s set for a fast canyon blast or a windy highway run through the Rockies. Even the standard all-season tires are up to the task (though I didn’t get to try them in the wet).
I pushed the all-seasons through some undulating Colorado canyons, and they are impressively sticky and composed on dry tarmac. At mild throttle inputs, the electric powertrain sits back, gathering juice from the front axle as you motor along. At over 50 percent throttle, it comes alive, shoving those 160 horses and 125 lb-ft into the front wheels without a hint of torque steer (definitely the first time “torque steer” has been used in a Corvette review), playing through the speakers a soundtrack I can describe only as “a Christmas-chime sound bath” in conjunction with the glorious LT2 V-8 noise from the stern, familiar to anyone who’s been in a Stingray.
The Tremec dual-clutch transmission is still slick and responsive, and even better as the e-motor provides filler acceleration between gearchanges, as well as filler regenerative-braking assistance when needed on downshifts.
Speaking of brakes, for the first time, as part of a comprehensive weight-reduction package, the E-Ray comes standard with Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes. As in the Z06, Road & Track’s 2023 Performance Car of the Year, I have no complaints about them whatsoever. Also included in the weight-loss plan is a 12-volt lithium-ion battery (instead of the commonplace lead-acid kind). The Z06’s available carbon-fiber wheels are optional on the E-Ray as well.
When they’re closely spec’d, an E-Ray weighs about 400 pounds more than a Stingray, so 3900 and change full of fuel and fluids—about 600 pounds more than the Artura but within a few hundred pounds of the 296 GTB and comparable to the Type S.
People will complain that 3900 pounds for a Corvette is too much, despite that it accelerates quicker than any Corvette that came before. The E-Ray is a wonderful luxury grand tourer that can leave your home silently if asked, then dance on the road and the track, not to mention in the wet, the snow, and possibly even the dirt. For someone seeking those things, the weight trade-off is worth it.
The company that designed perhaps the best economy car of all time, the Volt, has now built a truly competitive hybrid sports car. The only point of the electricity is the performance application. The fact that you can spend more on options for the 296 GTB than the E-Ray costs is a testament to what GM can do when it maintains focus. This is a true four-season, no-excuses Corvette with 21st-century tech, world-matching performance chops, and no gas-guzzler tax. And as a convertible, it’s the most complex consumer product on four wheels being sold today.
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