Wise puts the car through another exercise that involves a rolling “launch” from about 45 mph. This time the car has to go from running on electricity to starting the engine. From the passenger seat, the transition is thrilling. The 6.2-liter V-8 fires up with its characteristic bark and quickly gives the car a shot of adrenaline. Again, I can’t feel it through the throttle, but my chat with engineers revealed it’s a 2-3-second transition as the transmission has to pick the appropriate gear, the exhaust catalysts have to fire, and the engine has to stabilize and match what the driver is asking it to do. Red, yellow, and green graphics in the instrument cluster show some of the process, including the final notification when the engine is synchronized.
Chevy gives the E-Ray two electric driving modes: Stealth and Shuttle, and both can be chosen by putting a foot on the brake and turning the center console-mounted controller dial before startup. Both also trigger an artificial exterior sound akin to a flying saucer hanging ominously overhead to warn pedestrians of the car’s presence.
Shuttle mode allows the car to drive up to 15 mph and never turns on the engine. It’s best for moving the car around in the garage or driveway.
Stealth mode can drive the car at speeds up to 45 mph as long as the driver never engages more than 30% throttle or starts out with more than 0.15 g of forward acceleration. Chevy engineers estimate 3-4 miles of electric driving range.
In the E-Ray’s other modes, which are shared with other Corvettes, the electric motor can add hybrid power and/or the stability of all-wheel drive when needed—well, as long as the speed stays below 150 mph. At that point, the electric motor shuts off as it approaches its rpm limit around 15,000 rpm. The electric motor can also provide an extra bit of power to keep the V-8’s Active Fuel Management cylinder shut-off system in 4-cylinder mode longer on the highway.
The E-Ray’s hybrid system requires cooling systems for the motor, battery, and power control unit. Also contributing to the added weight are front half shafts that required tweaks to the front suspension’s geometry. The shocks move higher, and Chevy adds a tower-to-tower brace between them to retain stiffness. In total, the changes for the E-Ray add a little less than 300 pounds to the car for a total weight of 3,774 pounds for the coupe and 3,886 for the convertible.
Chevy offsets some of the weight by outfitting the car with standard carbon-ceramic brakes and replacing the lead-acid 12-volt accessory battery with a lithium-ion unit. The extra weight up front also moves the weight distribution a couple of percentile forward, with roughly 41% of the weight over the front axle compared to 40% for the Corvette Stingray and 39% for the Z06.
After the hard and rolling launches, Wise whips the E-Ray through a coned-off autocross course and a skid pad.
He starts by putting the car in Track mode and shutting off the stability control and traction control.
Again, the power comes on strong and between that and a few flicks of the steering wheel Wise is able to induce slides in both long autocross corners and on the skidpad. The car transforms into a drift machine, spinning its Michelin Pilot Sport all-season tires (stickier summer performance 4S are also available, as are a set of Michelin winter tires) with ease. The front motor is an X factor here, though, as it wants to pull the car out of a corner rather than allow the drifts. He maintains the drifts, though, but I won’t know how hard that is unless Chevrolet gives me the opportunity to do the same. It seems like it would be easy to get the car to drift in a corner, then use the front motor—and a little help from chassis electronics, perhaps—to power out of the turn and get back on the intended line.
Wise tells me that the battery should have enough charge to power the motor through 20 minutes of track driving—normal track driving, that is. After our run, he shows me that the drifting exercise really depleted the battery because it kept asking the front motor to intervene. There’s a solution to that, though. It’s called Charge+ mode, and it’s activated by a button on the driver’s side of the center console. It over-revs the engine to optimize the battery’s state of charge. Chevy engineers say the regen never feels like anything more than the normal resistance of a car with an automatic transmission.
I also can’t feel the braking response through the brake pedal, which can be an issue in electrified cars. The brake regen and friction braking are all fed into the braking modules, but brake feel is handled by a brake-by-wire system (with a mechanical backup) and can be adjusted by mode. Wise notes that the pedal feel won’t change when the brakes begin to fade, so the driver will have to notice that the car is taking longer to stop. That shouldn’t be much of a problem given the car has notoriously resilient carbon-ceramic brakes.