2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is All New, All American, All Supercar [w/ Video]
Reinventing a legend is one of the most challenging tasks known to mankind. On the one hand, you want to keep up with – or better yet, advance – the state of the art and ensure your rivals don’t leave you in their dust. On the other hand, altering a successful formula too much can remove what made that formula successful, and alienate loyal fans.
It is exactly this sort of sans-nets high-wire act that the development team behind the new seventh generation Chevrolet Corvette (widely known as the C7) had to perform. No, not in front of a Geo Metro full of clowns and a bearded lady, but for millions of curious car enthusiasts, chop-licking journalists, and rabid Corvette owners and enthusiasts who may or may not finish every conversation with the phrase “Zora be with you.” But after seeing the C7 revealed in Detroit tonight, we can safely say that Team Corvettedid not do a belly flop onto the proverbial elephant-whiz-scented sawdust.
First of all, there’s the name: It’s not just a Corvette, but a Corvette Stingray. The name was first applied to the 1959 Corvette Stingray Concept, a show car based on the run-only-once 1957 Corvette SS sports racing car and featured styling that presaged that of the iconic 1963 Corvette (aka C2), which was subtitled the Sting Ray (Note the space.). The new-for-1968 C3 was simply a Corvette, but from ’69 to ’76, was badged as the Corvette Stingray (Back to one word.). Chevrolet and GM management chose to revive the Stingray designation for the C7 because, they claim, it is reserved for Corvettes that strike a balance between technology, design and performance.
So does the new ‘Vette strike that balance? Well, on paper, it certainly has all the ingredients to do so. Let’s start with the design. Its proportions are longer, lower and wider than those of the C6, though the overall silhouette is more evolutionary than revolutionary. The bold face features headlights that are, admittedly, reminiscent of those found on a late model Ferrari or the Corvette’s arch foe, the SRT Viper, but the “eggcrate” grille is definitely a callback to those on the C1s and the ’57 SS. The louvers on the hood are functional: They channel hot air from the back of the radiator over the top of the car, a concept proven in competition on the C6.R race cars. The side sculpting is an evolution of the C6’s, which itself was rooted in that of the C2 and C3. Also, for the first time since the 1962 model’s optional lift-off hardtop, the Corvette has rear quarter windows. Finally, out back, there are still four taillights and four centralized tailpipes, but the taillights are squared-off rather than round. In many ways it’s a big departure from Corvettes of yore, but the longer you look at it, the more historic cues you notice.
Speaking of big departures, the chassis is all new as well and, for the first time on the base Corvette, it’s made of aluminum (The C6 Z06 and ZR1 had aluminum frames, but the base and Grand Sport versions stuck with steel.) Chevrolet claims the chassis is not only 99 lbs. lighter than the steel C6 unit, but also 57% stiffer. Further weight is saved by use of a carbon fiber hood and targa roof panel and magnesium seat frames. In terms of driver aids, the Stingray packs something called Driver Mode Selector. This gizmo allows the driver to switch things like throttle response, suspension damping, and traction and stability control intervention among five presets: Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track. As with the C5 and C6, the C7 places the engine in front and the transmission in the rear (technically making it a transaxle), and the front-to-rear weight balance is an ideal 50% at both ends.
Helping make the most of that improved balance and stiffness is an all new engine. Christened LT1 (though not to be confused with the LT-1 of the early-1970s, or the LT1 of the mid-1990s), this 6.2L 16-valve pushrod V8 represents the fifth generation of Chevrolet Small Block V8 descended from the 265 cubic-inch (4.3L) original of 1955. However, the LT1 (and its Gen V siblings) features three key technologies that Ed Cole (Chevrolet chief engineer in the ‘50s) and his team could not have comprehended. The first is direct fuel injection; yes, Mercedes-Benz had it on its racing engines back then, but the LT1’s high-pressure, computer-controlled setup provides monumental boosts in power, efficiency and emissions management. Ditto variable valve-timing, which can advance or retard the camshaft’s timing within a 62° window. And finally, there’s Active Fuel Management (AFM), which allows the engine to run as a 3.1L V4 under light throttle loads. Put those three engineering tricks together with other ones like a choice of wet- or dry-sump oiling and piston oil-cooling jets, and you get an engine that GM expects will make at least 450hp and 450 lb.-ft of torque. Oh, and look for 0-60 mph times under four seconds and an EPA highway fuel economy rating that violates 30 mpg’s personal space, the latter no doubt made more attainable by a new Tremec-built 7-speed manual gearbox featuring an automatic rev-matching system that can be switched on or off (A revised version of the C6’s paddle-shifted 6-speed automatic is optional.). Wowzers.
And speaking of wowzers, that’s what you’ll say when you open the doors and climb aboard. People have been complaining about Corvette interior quality and design pretty much since those first 300 ‘53s trickled out of the factory, but the new Stingray should silence all but the most closed-minded critics once and for all. The driver-centric dash is cloaked in premium leather and carbon fiber trim, as are many of the other interior surfaces. As for the seats, there are now two styles available. For the gold-chain-and-girlfriend-young-enough-to-be-your-granddaughter crowd, there are the GT seats which, while still more aggressively bolstered than the C6’s seats, are cosseting enough for daily use and/or hernia inflammation avoidance. But for the young, track day addicts of the world, there are the Competition Sport buckets, which will keep your corpus planted even when it’s being subjected to cornering forces of over 1 g (which, coincidentally, is what Chevrolet execs say the C7 will pull in the turns). Track rats will also squee at the mention of the Z51 package, which will include closer-spaced gear ratios, an electronic limited-slip differential, larger wheels and tires, and dedicated fluid coolers for the transmission, differential and brakes.
No pricing information is available just yet, but don’t expect a massive increase over the bargain basement C6’s $49,600. And don’t expect regular production Stingrays to start rolling out of the Bowling Green, Kentucky factory before September or October. We can’t guarantee the wait will be worth it, but based on looks and the spec sheets, we don’t think there’s any cause for pessimism.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvWTUN77950[/youtube]