Here’s a little-known factoid to motoring fans not steeped in the Corvette world. America’s sports car actually gets surprisingly good fuel mileage on the highway. Going all the way back to the C4 Corvette with the six-speed manual transmission and stretching to the current seven-speed stick in the C7, a careful right foot could see highway mileage reach 30 mpg. LegitStreetCars on YouTube decided he could do better, and well, he did a lot better. In fact, he averaged over 40 mpg on a recent road trip, which is the crux of the video featured above.
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Before we go further, what kind of crazy world is this where we talk about fuel efficiency in a freaking Corvette? The simple answer is that it’s a world where gasoline isn’t as cheap as it once was, and modern supercars with hybrid powertrains are very expensive. If it’s possible to save some cash at the pump while still enjoying a throaty American V8, why not make the most of it? And the Corvette is a great platform for such an effort, as its manual transmission features a top gear that’s way overdriven for lazy highway cruising. The EPA actually rates a manual C7 ‘Vette at 28 mpg highway, and C5 Corvettes like the 1999 model featured here return 26 mpg.
Getting 40 mpg from a 5.7-liter LS1 V8 requires more than just low-speed cruising, however. As the video explains, this car has a special “lean burn” engine tune that thins out the air-fuel mixture at highway speeds, specifically between 50 and 75 mph. To gauge highway fuel mileage, the car was filled up at a gas station near a Chicago highway and driven to Wisconsin and back, where it was refilled at the same pump several hours later.
The total distance was 314.6 miles and according to the fuel pump, the car took just 7.813 gallons. Basic math tells us that equates to 40.2 miles for every gallon of gas used, which is better than a whole host of ultra-efficient hatchbacks and knocks on the door of many electrified sedans like the Ford Fusion hybrid. Not bad for a Corvette with 140,000 miles and a thumping V8 that dynoed 364 horsepower to the wheels.
So why don’t automakers do this sort of thing? Running an engine lean can have negative consequences, higher NOx emissions being among them. Lean engines also run hotter, which can take a toll on components over time. Whether the lean-tune established for this Corvette is aggressive enough to drastically affect these parameters is unknown, but we can’t deny that hitting 40 mph in a high-horsepower sports car is indeed impressive.