With the introduction of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette due on Jan. 13 in Detroit, General Motors has launched the long, slow striptease with a reveal of the Vette's heart -- an all-new V-8 that straddles the line between tradition and technology to deliver 450 hp, 26 mpg on the highway and a sprint to 60 mph in less than four seconds. Not bad for a type of engine that's supposed to be on the endangered list.
Given the pressures on the Corvette team -- charged with redesigning the car for only the seventh time since 1955, and facing more challenges than ever before in fuel efficiency -- the Corvette engineers stuck with the venerated design of a pushrod V-8, even reviving the LT1 engine code used on Chevy V-8s in the 1970s and again in the 1990s.
But the 6.2-liter (or 378 cubic inches, for the traditionalists) engine isn't some throwback; upgrades from the current design include direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, with four of the eight pistons squeezing just air at highway speeds. The new engine makes 20 more hp than the 6.2-liter in the outgoing Vette, but also produces 450 lb.-ft. of torque in a curve that matches well with the bigger 7-liter V-8 in the Corvette Z06. GM also says the new V-8 will take regular unleaded, rather than requiring premium as many high-performance engines do.
Eventually versions of this V-8 will see duty in GM's pickups and SUVs, and given that its performance makes the new base Corvette nearly as fast as today's top-end Z06, expect even higher-output versions to follow within a few years -- or as long as the engineers can keep the fuel economy rules from turning V-8s into museum pieces.