Let’s cut to the chase. The new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a great car. It has managed to carry over the virtues of its predecessors (acceleration and handling) while shedding its past vices (poor ergonomics, mediocre build quality and unacceptable seats). More than evolutionary step above the Corvette C6, the new Corvette Stingray C7 redefines the brand and will very likely attract buyers who are seriously considering the purchase of a Ferrari California, a Porsche 911 Carrera, or an Audi R8. Hyperbole you ask? No, this car is the real deal.
I had the opportunity to test drive the new 2014 Corvette Stingray along the back roads that connect Portland, Oregon with Sisters, Oregon. The roads consisted of tight twisty turns, long straightaways and off camber 90 degree sweeping turns. It was the perfect place to test the new C7. My first impression took place as I adjusted the driver’s seat and put on the shoulder harness. The seats were firm and felt very supportive. They were well shaped to keep you in place to minimize lateral movement in cornering maneuvers. This was in sharp contrast to the cushy, soft and non- supportive seats of the previous Corvette C6 & C5. Once I fired up the engine, the great V-8 sound emanating from the exhaust was pure traditional Corvette and I liked it (no – I liked it a lot). Having a deep sound with just enough cap lope, the LT-1 pushrod V8 harks back to the entire line of legendary Chevrolet V8’s that have dominated the race tracks and stop light grand prix’ of America such as the DZ 302, the LT-1 350, the L78 396, the L79 327, and L88 427.
Once underway, the first immediate impression is one of structural solidity. The car feels so solid – like it is carved from a single block that has been machined down to size. Until the C7 arrived, structural integrity and the name Corvette have been an oxymoron. All the more amazing is that the frame material is hydro formed aluminum affixed to a composite body. Not the kind of materials that you would expect to lend themselves to the feeling of a monolithic steel structure. The structural integrity is confidence inspiring. So is the paddle shifter automatic transmission. I was initially a bit “put off” by the idea of an “automatic transmission” Corvette. After all, I drove bow tie Chevrolets back in the 1960’s and 1970’s and nothing was quite as satisfying as shifting a Muncie 4 speed transmission. Fast forward to 2013 and I’m immediately enamored with the six speed paddle shifter (or what GM calls the 6-speed automatic with tap shift). The beauty of the automatic is that you never take your eyes off the road to shift. Your vision remains focused and uninterrupted as you upshift / downshift through the gears. The shifts are crisp and immediate without being neck jerking. The automatic becomes so intuitive within a few short miles. Suddenly, you realize that this is a better way. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The GM representative accompanying for the test drive looks at me and says “Drive it like you stole it -but if you get busted by the cops – that’s on you”. Although I’m normally a law abiding citizen and cognizant of all the rules of the road, I decide to follow his directive. I drive the C7 aggressively – I try to make it falter – I try to upset its balance – I try to find its limit of adhesion - I try to find its weak spot. Every time I try harder to embarrass the car, it only embarrasses me. The C7 is laughing at me like its saying “Is that all you got?” The car never loses its composure and is best described as being unflappable. No matter how hard I try to unseat this machine I never even provoke a hint of tire squeal. After a while, I quit trying to arm wrestle with the beast and change my strategy to a Zen like “be at one” with the car mode. It does exactly what I want it to do - willingly, obediently and gracefully. I think I’ve found automotive Nirvana.
I’m amazed at the road feel of the electronic steering. I was always worried when the car manufacturers went to e-steering thinking that it would numb your tactile senses. Wrong. The C7 steering feel borders on telepathic and communicates right through your fingertips. Of the e-steering cars that I have driven lately, the Corvette C7 and the Porsche 991 Carrera do the best job of mastering that science. Also, I really like the new Corvette C7 steering wheel. Leather wrapped and just the right width, it only adds to the driving experience. In the past, Corvette has always borrowed their steering wheels from the corporate parts bin. There was something terribly wrong with sitting behind the wheel of a C6 ZO6 with 505 horsepower while gripping a steering wheel that looked like it came off a rental Camry. Thank God all of that has changed with the C7.
The styling of the new C7 drew mixed reviews from the other automotive journalists. Styling is a very subjective thing and anyone’s evaluation of beauty is just as credible as the next. All I can say about the new C7 is that it looks better every time I see it. It looked way better after I first drove it. I was so enamored by it vehicle dynamics that it had a major positive influence on my opinion of its aesthetic appearance. At the end of the day, the best way to define the new Corvette is best summarized as “It’s not just what the Corvette C7 does that is so amazing, it is the way it does it that makes it so satisfying to drive”.