Like many car enthusiasts, I’ve spent much of the year in keen anticipation of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. I first saw one in the flesh at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector-Car Auction in January and it was clear that if nothing else, Chevrolet had a winning design to the new, seventh-generation Corvette, or C7, as it’s known.
Still, until you get behind the wheel, you don’t really know for sure whether that beauty goes beyond skin deep. I’m happy to report that in the case of the new Corvette, the beauty goes way, way beyond skin deep. In fact, Chevrolet has dialed up a true world-class sports car free of qualifiers. No longer does one describe the Corvette by saying, “It’s a great car, but …” It’s simply a great car.
The things people complained in Corvettes past — second-rate interiors, punishing ride, workmanship that was just adequate — those are all gone.
Our test car was a 2014 coupe with a six-speed automatic transmission (a $1,395 option), instead of the standard seven-speed manual. Other options on the car included Chevrolet’s 2LT package ($4,210), which consists mostly of a package of upscale interior options; suede microfiber seats ($395); navigation system ($795); carbon fiber interior trim ($995); multi-mode exhaust ($1,195); magnetic ride control; and the all-important Z51 performance package ($2,800).
The Z51 package comes with specila high-performance suspension; dry-sump oil system; electronic limited slip differential; larger, slotted brake rotors with black calipers; painted aluminum wheels, 19-inch up front and 20-inch in back; lower aspect ratio tires; performance gear ratios and heavy-duty cooling.
Under the hood on all Corvettes, is an all-new, direct-injection V-8 engine, which produces 455 horsepower in base trim and 460 with the optional high-performance exhaust. Lightweight and efficient, this engine is simply tremendous. Mash the acceleration from a standing start and you’ll hit 60 miles per hour in just 3.8 second and travel a quarter of a mile in 12 seconds flat at nearly 120 mph. More importantly, it reacts immediately and feels even faster than it really is, which is in stark contrast to Chevrolet’s Camaro SS, which posts good numbers but doesn’t feel especially fast.
And the thunderous yet melodic exhaust rumble that the Corvette emits truly is intoxicating, a joyous noise if there ever was one.
While one can debate the merits of the 2LT package, a nav system or the suede seats, frankly, if you’re going to spend the money on a Corvette — sticker price on our test car was $65,530 — to me you’d be crazy not to get the Z51 package, the magnetic ride control and the exhaust system. This is a high-performance car and if you like to drive hard and want to extract maximum performance, it needs to be equipped correctly.
I’m sure there are all manner of detailed technical explanations of how the suspension and braking components on the new C7 ‘Vette work, but suffice to say they work spectacularly well. A new aluminum chassis that’s 57 percent stiffer and nearly 100 pounds lighter helps.
I’ve driven just about every new Corvette model since the late 1980s and the C7 trumps them all hands down. The roadholding limits, frankly, are well beyond the limits of most drivers. But even driven at 75 percent of its capabilities the C7 is astonishing. It’s fast, nimble, precise and has better instinct and reactions than some race cars. And when you drive at a normal, sane pace, the ride isn’t the least bit punishing.
The biggest improvement on the C7 ‘Vette is the interior, long a source of loud complaints from critics and Corvette owners alike. Those crappy old seats? Fuhgettaboutit. The new standard Corvette seats are light years ahead of the old ones. The new buckets are much more supportive and more comfortable, too, and for the truly hard core, there are available competition seats, a $2,400 option.
By the same token, the entire cockpit is a much friendlier place to be. The dash is well laid out, if a bit busy, and the center stack on the console that controls audio, HVAC and navigation functions is easy to use and properly intuitive.
The only real negative is that the car sits so low to the ground that ingress and egress are somewhat daunting, especially for us full-figured guys. Once you’re in, there’s plenty of head and legroom. It’s just that getting in and out is a royal pain.
In terms of exterior appearance, the Corvette design team did a sensational job with the new C7. From almost any angle, it just looks purposeful, if not downright sinister. I especially like the rear view, where the four exhaust trumpets exit under the rear fascia. This thing looks like it’s waiting for you to hop in so you can launch into space and go hunt Romulans or Klingons.
When I starting reading the first reviews of the 2014 Corvette Stingray I was admittedly skeptical. Not anymore. And while I could blather on about its performance, to me the most remarkable thing about the new Corvette is that it delivers true supercar performance and a price tens of thousands of dollars below what you’d expect to pay for a high-line sports car from Europe or Japan.
Kudos to the Corvette design team for creating something this wonderful, and kudos to GM for having the guts to build it.
VEHICLE TYPE: Two-passenger sports car, rear-wheel drive
ENGINE: LT1 V-8, 460 horsepower, 465 pound-feet of torque
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 107 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 176.9 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 3,298 pounds
EPA MILEAGE RATING: 16 city, 28 highwayC7, Cars, Chevrolet, Corvette