When a sports car like the Chevrolet Corvette has been around for 60 years, there are bound to be highs and lows in its history. For the legendary Vette, the lows included being way down on performance in its first two years, and then in the mid to late ‘70s.
But even it its “high” years, a lack of refinement was always a niggling asterisk for the Corvette. In recent years the sixth generation of the car could garner great reviews, yet still end up with a few thumbs-down marks for things like interior quality and seat comfort.
Finally, now, the seventh-generation Corvette loses those faults and truly has the whole package to back up its performance specs. From build quality to seat comfort, the 2014 Corvette Stingray is world class now, and can run with the best of them.
First up, the shape is really striking. One of the most difficult challenges in the automotive design world is to remake a legendary vehicle. Just ask anyone who’s been tasked with updating something like the Porsche 911 or Nissan Z. You have to get it just right. The new Stingray looks very much like a Corvette, but a thoroughly modern one.
Open the door and peer inside, and you’ll be treated to an equally attractive interior. The instrument panel is canted toward the driver, with a sweeping raised part that flows down to the center console and forms a grab handle for the passenger. Instruments and controls are crisp and legible, with the center portion of the display being a changeable LCD readout.
And then there are the seats. Perfectly bolstered to hold you in place during spirited cornering, but not too aggressively shaped to make ingress and egress difficult. Comfort is superb as well. This Corvette is truly a grand touring car that would be great for a short or long road trip.
Performance wasn’t forgotten about, of course. Under the long carbon fiber hood is Chevrolet’s latest V8, using the legendary designation LT-1 and producing 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Add the optional performance exhaust and you gain an additional five horsepower.
Behind the engine is a new 7-speed manual transmission. Corvette isn’t the first sports car to employ so many gears in a conventional manual gearbox, as Porsche added a 7-speed in the 911 recently. Optional is a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, which most Corvette customers will likely choose.
I got to spend a few days recently in the sought-after 2014 Vette, but it only took the first 10 minutes of that time to realize that Chevrolet has something special here. I’d driven many variations of the previous car over the years, and this one is worlds better in pretty much every way.
First, climbing inside, it’s quite apparent that GM’s designers and engineers sweated every little detail. The stitching of the seats, the feel of every surface, and the close tolerances where each piece attaches to the next. It’s all right up there with anything out of Stuttgart, Germany or Maranello, Italy.
Power from the 6.2 liter V8 is smooth and comes on with a deep thunder when the throttle is pushed hard. And yet, technology has been engineered in to make the Stingray’s fuel economy reasonable if not downright impressive. The highway rating from the EPA is 29 mpg, and I was able to top 31 on a gentle freeway drive to Long Beach.
Part of the efficiency of the engine comes from cylinder deactivation, which means that when cruising at light throttle, the V8 turns into a V4, though the driver will hardly notice. There’s also a Driver Mode Selector, which changes many different settings for the engine. You can choose modes as varied as Sport for maximum performance or Eco for maximum efficiency. Wow, the Corvette really has come a long way.
Reaching select dealerships just now, the 2014 Corvette Stingray is sure to be a hit for General Motors, with orders supposedly stacked up for the next six to nine months. At a base price of $51,995, that’s a pretty good problem for a car company to have.
So a tip of the hat to the folks at Chevrolet. Finally, they’ve turned “America’s Sports Car” into a world-class sports car.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz