You'll be forgiven if you confuse the all-new Corvette Stingray with one of its sports car competitors.
From certain angles, it looks like a McLaren GT or a Ferrari F8 Tributo. Even a splash of the Acura NSX supercar, too.
Last July, Chevrolet finally unmasked what car enthusiasts had been chattering about for years: a Vette with its signature, naturally aspirated V8 engine positioned behind the driver. Company engineers had secretly been working on a mid-engine car since 2004, well aware that the sports car world was evolving. Chevrolet had to dial up the performance, handling and sophistication of the eighth-generation Corvette if the 67-year-old American icon wanted to see another day.
"It's been a long time coming," Chris Barber, a vehicle performance manager for the 2020 Corvette Stingray, told ABC News. "This is something GM has been looking at for a while. We pretty much had to throw away any kind of historical 'this is how you do it because that's what a Corvette is.' This car is just head and shoulders above what we have done in the past."
Corvette engineers benchmarked the new model against what they viewed as its most direct competitor: the Porsche 911, hailed by many enthusiasts as the epitome of sports cars. The latest Corvette needed to match -- if not exceed -- what the 911 reliably delivered to its followers: high performance, innovative technology and supreme handling. That meant moving the Corvette's engine to the rear axle to extend capability and acceleration.
"We're really proud of this car," Barber said. "It's unbeatable when it comes to value for performance. What we're going after here is the greatest sports car in the U.S. -- and the world."
The most shocking detail about the 2020 Stingray may not be its revamped engine configuration but its base price of $60,000. The 2020 Stingray boasts 495 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft of torque and clocks 0-60 mph in under 3 seconds without costing into the high six figures -- a badge of honor that Corvette engineers wear proudly. The top speed is 194 mph.
Mid-engine sports cars are here to stay, according to Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader. They've also become the preferred choice of younger buyers, a demographic Chevrolet clearly targeted with the redesign of the Corvette.
According to Kelley Blue Book data, Corvette sales in 2019 totaled 17,988 units, down from 18,791 units in 2018 and 25,079 units in 2017. In 2014, when the seventh generation was unveiled, Corvette sales jumped to 34,839 from 17,291 in 2013. Moreover, 28.1% of Corvette buyers fall in the 55-64 year old bracket. The second largest group of owners is between the ages of 65 to 74 years old.
"It will be interesting to see if the mid-engine design car can pull younger, non-traditional Corvette buyers into this fold," Brauer said.
Going mid-engine also puts the 2020 Corvette on par with more expensive exotic models, he pointed out.
"The [older] Corvette was supposed to compete with more high end, luxury model sports cars but it didn't get a lot of cross-shopping," Brauer said. "Now I think it can justifiably claim to compete with these cars ... the high-performance versions that are coming out can further that argument."
He continued, "There's a wider appreciation now of the mid-engine. They've gone from being almost a mystical, European exotic car design that not a lot of people could afford to becoming more mainstream in the last 10 years."
Ed Kim, an automotive analyst at AutoPacific, said the mid-engine design could grab the attention of non-Corvette owners.
"People won't be trading in their Ferraris for the new Corvette but the car will get a new level of respect from this audience," he told ABC News. "Other sports car makers will pay attention and closely monitor how the new Corvette does in the marketplace and if it steals volume."
Of course, the problem facing Chevrolet, Porsche and other sports car makers is getting young Americans to actually buy these weekend toys. Porsche's SUVs -- the Macan and Cayenne -- far surpass the 911 in sales.
"Two-seater sports cars are not what millennials want," Kim said. "[The Corvette] won't be a high volume car -- but no two-seater sports car is. Generation X may be the last generation that gets really excited about sports cars."
But choosing to go mid-engine was still the right move for the Corvette, Kim argued.
"It's radical but not without precedent," he said. "The style is striking, it's exciting and very modern."
Chevrolet said customer deliveries of the new Stingray would start this month and demand has been "unprecedented." There have been 2.5 million visits to Corvette's visualizer page since the reveal and the $71,945 3LT coupe (the top trim) is the most popular model selected online. Production of the Stingray retractable hardtop convertible -- a first for the Corvette -- begins in April.
Gabe Shenhar, an auto engineer and test driver at Consumer Reports, said Chevrolet engineers finally achieved the performance objectives that eluded past Corvettes.
"The new Stingray doesn't feel like a Corvette anymore," he told ABC News. "It gives drivers more confidence and precision. It handles more naturally and responds quicker. There's no longer a 'nose heavy' feeling. It's a huge difference from the previous Corvettes."
He added, "It can run with the Porsches and Ferraris of the world."
The Stingray has already racked up multiple industry awards and dealers have reported large wait-lists around the country.
"This is just the beginning," Harlan Charles, Chevrolet's product marketing manager for Corvette, said. "We're just getting started."
Is the new Corvette as good as its European rivals? originally appeared on abcnews.go.com