2024 Corvette E-Ray First Drive: Unstressed express
Standing alongside the bright blue CERV III concept—a 650-horse, mid-engined, all-wheel-drive Corvette concept from 1990—Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter sought to explain the new E-Ray in a historical context. We were in Denver, at the first-drive event for Chevrolet’s first production all-wheel-drive Vette, the first to have an electric drive motor.
Juechter reminded us, too, that Corvette dabbled in powering all four wheels with the CERV II concept, completed by Corvette legend Zora Arkus-Duntov in 1964. Then, as now, additional technologies like all-wheel drive were added to amplify performance. In the 2024 Corvette E-Ray, Juechter noted, electrification is a means to that end.
“This is a performance hybrid, and the result of what sports car maniacs do when they get ahold of this technology,” he said. “We knew we were going to do an all-wheel-drive car when we committed to a mid-engine platform, so we studied options for mechanical or electric drive for the front wheels. The outcome wasn’t even close.”
In interviews on site, other members of the Corvette team confirmed that the E-Ray’s V-8-in-back/electric-motor-up-front layout was optimal for packaging, for keeping parasitic drivetrain losses at bay, and for overall performance. Knowing that powering four wheels inevitably adds heft, they stressed their efforts to trim weight wherever they could. The electric front drivetrain components (all of which are built in-house), along with changes to the front shock towers to accommodate the axles, add about 265 pounds over the Z06. (You can take a deep dive into more technical aspects of the E-Ray here.)
Specs: 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray
Price: $104,900 (Price as tested: $130,905)
Powertrain: 6.2-liter V-8, permanent magnet motor with 1.9-kWh lithium-ion battery; 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Horsepower: 655 combined (495 gas/160 electric)
Torque: 595 lb-ft combined (470 gas/125 electric)
Layout: all-wheel-drive, two-door, two-passenger coupe
EPA-rated fuel economy: 16 city, 24 highway, 19 combined
0–60 mph: 2.5 sec
Competitors: Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT
Though the E-Ray is a hybrid, it is not a plug-in. As such, its small battery does not permit much pure-electric drive range—four miles, tops. Its purpose is to enable a more versatile all-weather, all-season Corvette with a very approachable 655 total system horsepower, 160 of which electrically powers the front wheels. It also launches like no other production Corvette in history. Zero-to-sixty comes in 2.5 seconds, a tenth quicker than the Z06 and four-tenths quicker than the Z51 Stingray.
Drag-race prowess aside, the E-Ray is positioned as a high-tech grand-touring option in an expanding Corvette lineup designed to meet a broader array of buyers. Think Z06 pace, absent the edgy, track-focused chassis tuning and the LT6 engine’s flat-plane-crank wail.
We were handed the keys to a Sea Wolf Gray Tricoat Corvette E-Ray—a new color for 2024—and encouraged to disappear into Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. At $130,905, this top-trim 3LZ example came packed with $9880 worth of aesthetic bits, including carbon-fiber accents inside and out, a red engine cover, and black exhaust tips. Other add-ons: the popular Front Lift (a $2595 option that is certainly cheaper than front bumper repairs) and the $500 Performance Package (larger rear wickers and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires). To demonstrate just how capable the E-Ray was on the base tire, however, our tester was re-fitted with Pilot Sport all-seasons.
The first thing you notice when you walk up to the E-Ray is the absence of black accents. All of the car’s body panels are shared with the Z06, but the front fascia and the strakes along the enormous side intakes are instead painted to match the color of the body. The handsome, thin five-spoke wheels look like they came out of a Ferrari catalog, more sports car style than motorsport-butch. Even in flashy look-at-me colors, the E-Ray gives off an air of restraint when compared with the more manic Z06.
Inside, as has been the case since the inception of the C8, you can order your interior as ostentatious or as toned-down as you like. The E-Ray’s interior is the same as the others in the lineup, though a new color—Artemis, a soft green-gray hue—has been added. Our car’s Natural tan coverings, accompanied by a wash of carbon accents, felt in line with the car’s price point and near-luxury comfort pretenses.
We opted to start our journey in Stealth mode. It’s the E-Ray’s pure-electric function, intended for leaving your neighborhood without angering the Joneses next door. Novel silence and a slight hum filled the cabin as I poked the start button. That’s about all Stealth mode provides, however. Air conditioning is not available in this mode, as the 1.9-kWh lithium-ion battery doesn’t pack enough punch. Once you reach the limits of the battery (either by mileage, by exceeding 45 mph, or by using more than 30 percent throttle) the 495-horse 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 kicks on, and the only way to return to Stealth mode is to shut off the car and restart it. All this is to say, the E-Ray is not an electric sports car in the sense some people might expect. The electrification supplements, deepens, and alters the scope of Corvette performance and the environments in which it is usable; in this context, Stealth mode is best thought of more as a handy add-on than a prominent feature.
It didn’t take long for us to appreciate the E-Ray’s grand touring recipe. Eighth-generation Corvettes have been competent cruisers since day one, and even the Z06 isn’t too jarring for long journeys. The E-Ray, though, takes that a step further. Bolstered by its electric motor, there’s a dissonance between the E-Ray’s unburdened, almost relaxed V-8 sounds and the immense pace the car so effortlessly carries. It’s a wholly different personality than the Z06’s urgent, ever-thrumming sound and sharp-edged handling.
Because of that, during the early part of our road drive, we found ourselves wondering whether the E-Ray was too docile and buttoned down for something of its looks and capabilities. As our route began to bend through the mountains west of Denver and we pushed the car harder, the E-Ray began to hint at its potential, but always with an unflappable, “I got this” demeanor.
Effortless power delivery and a stratospheric performance envelope constitute the E-Ray’s personality. Torque arrives early and linearly to all four wheels, backed up by Michelin all-seasons (345-section in the rear, the largest such tires offered on a street car) that offer far more grip than can be safely used on the street. The pull from the front axle—a feeling that takes some getting used to in a Corvette—builds trust that the front end will actively guide the car’s trajectory as you exit corners on throttle. The uniquely tuned Magnetic Ride Control suspension, softer than the Z06’s, keeps the chassis poised and unperturbed by imperfections. There’s very little theater associated with carrying speed in this car, and never a moment on the street when the E-Ray feels like it will run out of give.
That said, the E-Ray is still fun. It’s still a C8 Corvette, which means it delivers all of the brilliant chassis feedback we’ve come to expect from recent General Motors performance vehicles, including the Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwings. Even the steering, now forced to accommodate the additional mechanical components and thrust of all-wheel drive, conveys a clear sense of what the front end is up to.
We did, however, encounter a foible unfamiliar to the Corvette faithful: torque steer. Heading into a valley, while on throttle and driving over changing camber on a low-grip surface, the wheel pulled left in a quick instant. Over our hours of street and track driving in the E-Ray, this jitter only occurred with one perfect confluence of circumstances. But it served as a salient reminder: the E-Ray is a different kind of Corvette.
How different? These same all-wheel-drive dynamics put to rest any concerns about the E-Ray’s personality at the rough-surfaced Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR). With enough room to fully stretch its legs, the E-Ray’s relaxed confidence on the street translated to approachability on track.
“The stability that’s built into the car is a little bit on purpose, and a little bit comes for free,” explained vehicle dynamics engineer Stephen Padilla. “Given the broader mission envelope of the E-Ray, we set up the suspension to yield a Corvette that’s easier to quickly get comfortable with compared to the Z06. And the fundamentals of an all-wheel-drive platform are inherently going to contribute to that goal.”
Effectively applying 655 horses to road course pavement is rarely this easy. Despite the gritty surface, the E-Ray (equipped with the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires for the track session) launches without fuss, hurtling past triple digits in seconds.
PPIR’s road-course-oval configuration contains several pavement transitions that require vigilance at speed, but the E-Ray traversed them with confidence. As we modulated the standard carbon-ceramic brakes with the ever-firm pedal, the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission grabbed the proper downshift every time, without hesitation.
While you’ve got your eyes up in the brake zone in preparation to crank the wheel at corner entry, the E-Ray’s regenerative braking charges the battery. Optimized for continuous discharge and recharge, the battery is capable of several laps at full capability around this one-minute circuit. The system is always active and never fully discharges. When the battery is low, the motor will adjust its protocol and contribute primarily during on-throttle cornering to maintain consistent handling dynamics. The Charge+ mode more actively uses the electric motor as a generator to replenish the battery.
Unless you’re trail braking, the E-Ray gives a faint brush of turn-in understeer at the limit. Remember—this is the kinder, gentler high-horsepower Corvette. Your fastest pace requires getting the car pointed to corner exit as soon as possible, and then stomping on the throttle; from corner apex to the edge of the track is where the E-Ray’s all-wheel drive and brutal thrust shine. Its chassis is not knife-edge precise like the Z06—nor is it supposed to be—but the E-Ray will lay down a seriously fast lap without unsettling drivers with less experience or suboptimal car control.
Unfortunately, our track time was cut short by a warning notification from the Performance Traction Management system (GM’s driver aid featuring adjustable traction and stability control, commonly called PTM). The other two drivers on track with us suffered the same fault. GM has since told us it was the result of a preproduction bug that has since been worked out of the system. The E-Ray is the first car in which PTM—renowned for its scalability and non-intrusiveness—has been used in an all-wheel drive configuration. In this application the system has the benefit of an additional front axle to dial inputs, but that sword cuts the other way in the form of added complexity.
To stress the E-Ray’s agility and capacity to misbehave with the best of its rear-wheel-drive Corvette siblings, Chevy offered up an autocross course with a drift circle. All-wheel-drive calibration engineer Jason Fahland shared a bit of guidance as we sat between the start cones: “The E-Ray takes less countersteer input than you would need in a rear-wheel-drive car. If you keep more steering lock in it,” he added, “it’s going to keep that side slip going.”
The big-fendered E-Ray scythed through the cones better than you might expect, pulling toward apexes with the nose under measured throttle and happily rotating the rear at full tilt. Breaking the rear end loose on the drift circle came like this: Initiate the turn, find the lateral limit, and then stab the throttle. Holding the drift proved a more delicate balance between just the right throttle inputs and, as Fahland said, less countersteer than we’re accustomed to. With another session to practice (and perhaps another set of tires, since we threw a cord in a cloud of tire smoke on our second trip around the circle), we’d have cracked the code. Not all the journos present could get the car sideways, though, and some complained of understeer. At the end of the day, the E-Ray will flatter most drivers.
That the all-wheel-drive E-Ray can enthusiastically drift, turn a lap time within a breath of a Z06, and then cruise along quietly while coddling its occupants is a testament to the technology and tuning behind it. Difficult as it is for yours truly—an adamant track rat—to admit, not everyone who wants a Corvette can live with the Z06’s high-intensity, feverish personality. Still, most wouldn’t mind similar pace, and the E-Ray provides it with a bit less amygdala tickle.
Over its seven-decade run, the Corvette has meant a lot of different things to a lot of people: Road course terror. Summertime companion. Quarter-mile monster. But it’s always been an American innovator. The E-Ray is all of those. Now, Chevy would argue, it’s also an all-weather cruiser. Through that lens, the groundbreaking E-Ray needs little explanation.
2024 Corvette E-Ray
Highs: A high threshold that isn’t hard to reach; monstrous launch; pace on the street feels effortless.
Lows: Light on personality at lower speed; preproduction tech hiccups limited our seat time; price tag for the top trim is no joke.
Takeaway: An all-American, grand touring, modern marvel.