Eight-Speed Auto Unlikely for 2015 Corvette Stingray

Luke Vandezande
by Luke Vandezande

Don’t hold your breath for an eight-speed automatic in the the Corvette Stingray next year.

“As far as the Stingray coupe and convertible, we haven’t announced any changes. Everybody is speculating that we’re going to put the eight-speed in that. The question would be: ‘do you do it in 15 or 16,” Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter said.

Chances of the new eight-speed reaching Chevrolet’s lesser sports car in the 2015 model year aren’t good.

“We’ve got a lot on our plate to get done,” he said.

Specifically, his team has the Corvette Z06 to build. The car shown earlier this month in Motor City still has a year of development to go through before it’s ready for sale.

SEE ALSO: Corvette Z06 is a Race Car for the Street

There are probably more than a few people willing to violate Geneva Protocol to know exactly what it is that Juechter’s team is up to behind closed doors. Hiss if you will at the idea of a torque converter automatic, but if he has misgivings about packaging the transmission, they’re impossible to spot.

“Our development guys say it’s like driving a sports bike. Zing, zing, zing,” he said while grinning and flicking a set of make-believe paddle shifters during an interview at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month.

The Corvette is already a low-volume product for Chevrolet and the Z06 will make up an even smaller sliver of the car’s overall sales. It was expensive to develop the new eight-speed and General Motors is eager to expedite the amortization of that cost by using it in more vehicles. Ideally, that would mean an eight-speed Stingray would already be waiting in the wings, held back by little more than model year formality. It’s much more complicated than that.

“You would think, ‘OK you’ve validated the high horsepower one, so validating the low horsepower one is like falling off a log, you just judge it.’ But that’s not true.”

There’s one little word to blame: validation. Swapping the Corvette’s transmission will be a complicated and vastly expensive process that the company won’t treat lightly.

“You’ve got to recalibrate everything. People think, ‘oh well its powertrain calibration’, but its more than that.

“It’s all the stability systems because you’re managing torque. So traction control, launch control, performance traction management, all that stuff has to be re-done when you just change the transmission.”

The level of computer involvement in modern sports cars makes incredible performance milestones possible, but it also means long hours for people like Juechter.

“Things that used to be mechanically simple are now electronically complex,” he said. The car will also need to pass GM’s battery of extreme temperature tests, all of which soaks up time and resources.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible Video Review

Meanwhile, key decisions about the Z06 including damper tuning, when to de-activate four of the blown 6.2-liter LT4’s eight cylinders and much more are still up in the air. There will be many more record-setting laps at the Milford proving grounds before Chevrolet shores up the production Z06.

There are also other products that would benefit more from the added gears than the Stingray can. The North American pickup truck market is the most hotly contested segments GM plays in and gas mileage is more important now than ever before.

Ford unveiled its 2015 F-150, emphasizing fuel economy gains by taking a big risk by building much of the body with aluminum. The choice will shed hundreds of pounds and bring about better fuel economy.

SEE ALSO: 8-Speed ‘Very possible’ Says Top GM Truck Engineer

General Motors truck engineer Jeff Luke all but admitted on the Detroit show floor that the Silverado will share the eight-speed automatic very soon. Further underscoring the transmission’s impending truck future, Juechter said that re-packaging the eight-speed for a non-transaxle application is relatively easy.

The Stingray isn’t hurting for two more gears and it sure seems like the people responsible for making that change have other fish to fry… for now.

GALLERY: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Discuss this story at our Corvette Forum.

Luke Vandezande
Luke Vandezande

Luke is an energetic automotive journalist who spends his time covering industry news and crawling the internet for the latest breaking story. When he isn't in the office, Luke can be found obsessively browsing used car listings, drinking scotch at his favorite bar and dreaming of what to drive next, though the list grows a lot faster than his bank account. He's always on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="http://twitter.com/lukevandezande">Twitter</A> looking for a good car conversation. Find Luke on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="http://twitter.com/lukevandezande">Twitter</A> and <A title="Luke on Google+" href="http://plus.google.com/112531385961538774338?rel=author">Google+</A>.

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  • Auto Motive Auto Motive on Jan 29, 2014

    I have been sending emails to GM asking when a auto would eventually hit the Z06 and ZR1 and every response was the same. We at sales marketing know as much as the auto mags. Finally a car that I may buy if pricing is at $100k. My choices have been the 2016 Avenger Coupe powered by the new hell cat supercharged hemi with rumored 600-650 hp with a eight speed auto. Based on a Fiat platform wgt should be 330-3600 lbs which will be lighter than the current Mustang. Pricing upward of $75k fully optioned and if the design and fit is there this will be my second choice. Its going to be one or the other as my last modern muscle car.