Not even a year out of the box, the new Chevrolet Corvette is about to get a significant upgrade. The 2015 version of the Stingray will trade in its current 6-speed automatic transmission for a new 8-speed gearbox that promises to be smoother and quicker, the maker says.
The new 8L90 automatic also is expected to yield about a 5% improvement in fuel economy, according to General Motors, a significant figure, especially considering the current Corvette already can deliver as much as 30 mpg on the highway, a number not traditionally associated with a high-performance sports car capable of producing as much as 460 horsepower.
“Corvette Stingray’s new eight-speed automatic delivers the comfort and drivability of a true automatic transmission, as well as lightning-fast shifts and the manual control that enhance the performance-driving experience,” said Bill Goodrich, assistant chief engineer for eight-speed automatic transmissions. “It was designed to enhance the Stingray’s driving experience, with performance on par with dual-clutch designs, but without sacrificing refinement.”
Members of the Corvette team, notably including project leader Tadge Juechter, have promised to deliver a steady stream of updates to the sports car, a move that they hope will make it more competitive with such alternatives as the Porsche 911. They’ve already launched a second version of the ‘Vette, a new convertible. And a higher-performance model, the Corvette Z06, is scheduled to reach market early in 2015. A top-line ZR1 version is reportedly also under development.
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The new Corvette – known to aficionados as the C7, or seventh-generation model – has garnered mostly raves since its introduction last year, landing honors as North American car of the Year this past January. But the original 6-speed automatic was one of the few things to take criticism.
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GM opted for an 8-speed with the new Z06 and it was widely expected that the “base” Corvette would get a similar upgrade. The 8L90 gearbox is based on the Z06 transmission, GM notes, but adopts a unique clutch and torque converter tuned to the Stingray’s needs.
The new gearbox can be driven in full manual mode using steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter. The maker claims that new software and control technology will allow the automatic to shift gears as quickly as the dual-clutch transmissions used on competing sports and supercars – such as the Porsche 911’s PDK. In fact, the Detroit maker claims that the 8L90 will complete wide-open throttle upshifts about eight-hundredths of a second quicker than the Porsche’s gearbox.
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Under increasing pressure to improve fuel economy, automakers have been migrating to transmissions offering more gears. It can be a challenge to develop the right controller software so these gearboxes don’t constantly “hunt-and-shift,” but stay in the appropriate gear. But when tuned properly they can deliver improved comfort and fuel economy – and, in a performance car like the Corvette, they can constantly remain in the “sweet spot” providing maximum torque and horsepower.
Surprisingly, the 8L90 is about eight pounds lighter than the older 6-speed transmission, something that also contributes to improved performance and mileage.
Tags: 2015 chevrolet corvette, Porsche 911, auto news, car news, chevrolet news, corvette 8-speed, corvette stingray 8-speed, corvette transmission, corvette z06, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, porsche news, sports cars, thedetroitbureau