If the question is: what’s the most performance you can buy for $50,000, there is no doubt that the answer is the 2014 Corvette Stingray.
|1. A new 6.2L V8 gets variable valve timing, direct injection and cylinder deactivation to make 455 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
2. Chevy quotes a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds, with a 12 second quarter mile, 107 ft 60-0 stopping distance and 1.3 gs of lateral acceleration with the Z51 Performance Package.
3. The manual transmission now offers 7 gears with a rev-match feature.
4. Fuel economy for the stick-shift is 17/29 mpg.
5. A new Driver Mode Selector dial offers five drive modes that adjust 12 individual vehicle attributes.
6. Pricing starts at just $51,995.
Starting at just $51,995 it makes 455 hp – over 100 hp more than a Porsche 911 Carrera. Even if it couldn’t handle, that would make up for a lot. Thankfully, the C7 Vette can carve a corner with the best of them; especially when equipped with the Z51 performance package.
Blasting down a stretch of twisting, undulating black asphalt drawn across the sunburnt yellow countryside outside of Montery, California the throaty V8 is roaring through the optional active exhaust system (a must have). Keeping the tachometer just off the redline for many miles, when we do finally reach a stopping point and check the car’s onboard stats the display reads a shocking 9.6 mpg.
The most fuel-efficient Corvette it may be, with a 29 mpg highway rating and cylinder deactivation that we saw regularly returning over 30 mpg on the highway, beat it hard and you’ll pay. You’ll also be rewarded.
And how can you not touch carpet with the Vette’s right pedal, the torque surging you forward at speeds that, at least according to the Europeans, no mortal with less than $100,000 to spend has any right to. Chevy officially rates the car at 3.8 seconds to 60 mph – faster than a Carrera S with both the optional dual-clutch transmission and Sport Chrono package.
Attack a corner and the brakes have a streetable softness at the tip of the pedal before grabbing powerfully, smoothly and progressively. Hit a turn with too much speed and they’ve solved your terrifying problem before it’s even an issue.
Then again, “too much speed” is a relative term and the Stingray shows yet another card in its well-stacked deck, with incredible levels of cornering grip.
Built on an all-new aluminum platform that’s 100 lbs lighter, it feels it with a new sense of nimbleness, emphasized by a smaller steering wheel that means inputs are acted upon more quickly.
Also new for 2014 is a 7-speed manual transmission. The extra gear may seem as excessive as an amp that goes to 11, but it serves a purpose. In an era where automakers are quickly abandoning the manual transmission Chevy saw fit to invest in an all-new box.
You’d be hard-pressed to want more than the first several gears with the car still humming along effortlessly at 3000 rpm at highway speeds in 4th. Put it in 7th and it’s at just 1300 rpm. Offering maximum fuel economy, that’s the whole point, with top gears you’ll rarely use, designed to meet pesky fuel economy regulations.
What makes the new manual extra special, however, is a rev-matching feature. Depress the clutch and the second you move the smooth shifter out of gear the engine revs like you’re an expert at heel-toeing, meaning when you drop a gear and lift off the clutch pedal it’s a seamless transition. You can even turn the feature on or off using the steering wheel paddles.
As fantastic as all this is, there’s so much more. A new Driver Mode Selector with settings marked Weather, Eco Tour, Sport and Track adjust 12 individual vehicle attributes. Plus, experienced drivers can take full advantage with the ability to engage Competition Mode and the Performance Traction Management program. Debuting on the ZR1 it’s derived from the Corvette Racing program and will essentially use complex algorithms to deliver the maximum level of grip. The 2014 Corvette is so many cars in one, helping to deliver amazing levels of performance and comfort like never before.
Flipping from Tour to Sport and then to Track showcases one of the new Vette’s coolest tricks. The old gauge cluster has been replaced with a digital unit, showing conventional info in the default setting, switching to a large tachometer in Sport, while Track mode reveals a lateral rev display inspired by the iconic yellow Corvette C6.R race cars.
It’s impossible not to be impressed with the new Vette’s performance, though it’s important to point out that our first experience with the car is a direct result of the Z51 performance package, which includes upgraded brakes, a revised suspension, larger wheels with lower profile tires, a special electronic limited slip differential and, of course, custom bodywork.
It genuinely transforms the Stingray. Without it, the suspension feels soft. That’s something to appreciate on the highway, though when pushed on some tricky roads we experienced enough compression to scrape the front end more than a few times.
The stock brakes are also less impressive. Rather than spectacular, we’d have to say they’re just good.
Adding insult to injury, when we tested the standard car it was equipped with the 6-speed automatic. Likely a carryover until an 8-speed is available, we insist you at least hold off until then or else we promise to call all your buddies and tell them you like romantic comedies.
The paddle shifters are made of plastic, a poor choice on GM’s part, though they’re hardly the most offensive bit of the Stingray’s interior. It may finally boast a steering wheel that’s not shared with other products in the Chevy lineup, but that doesn’t change the fact that the column stalks and mirror controls have been rummaged from the parts bin.
Are they bad? No, but that doesn’t change the fact that they shouldn’t be there.
Lower trim models do betray their pricepoint and the stitched leather on the dash could be confused for stitched plastic.
The interior isn’t all bad. Far from it. In addition to the digital gauges there’s a bright, attractive and modern 8-inch display in the center console. The buttons are vastly improved and the optional carbon fiber trim package is yet another option box that can’t go un-ticked.
Perhaps most notably, the seats no longer suck. The standard GT seats put a bit more focus on comfort while still delivering solid bolstering, while optional Competition Sport seats (a $2,500 option) really hold you in place.
To meet the needs of those looking for a more premium cabin, Chevy now offers a pricey $8,000 upgrade package with a full leather interior and upgraded Nappa leather seats. The seats even feature a three-stage heating and cooling system – a first for the Corvette. It’s certainly impressive but leaves us thinking perhaps it should just be standard and the Corvette should just start at $60,000.
After all, the same basic shape is carried over, just with more angles, scoops and vents. A touch baroque, if not downright gaudy, Chevy insists every aspect of the bodywork is functional, either for cooling or aerodynamic purposes. For example, the large hood vent actually works to take air from the front bumper and direct it through and over the car, creating downforce without drag.
As for the most controversial detail, the Vette’s new rear end, some may protest but this journalist thinks it’s the sort of dramatic change that the rest of the car could use. Otherwise it’s in danger of blending-in rather than standing out.
Those in search of the ultimate performance bargain will once again find the Corvette to be the undisputed champion.
But 0-60 times or on-track capability are not the only ways to measure a sports car. If they were, the new Vette wouldn’t have a wild new look, new luxury features and an even better feel behind the wheel.
Besides, it’s not like the Corvette has ever been lacking in capability compared to its rivals. Historically, where it came up short was in all those other areas, almost of all of which have now been addressed.
A 911 killer, perhaps, it’s still not competing on the same level when it comes to prestige, a problem the seventh-generation Corvette unfortunately does not solve – with the blame lying squarely on the $52,000 base model.
The Z51, on the other hand, equipped with all of the must-have extras isn’t just the Vette we like, it’s what we think the Corvette should be; a precision performance machine with a luxury interior as well as world class power and handling. And if that costs $70,000, so be it. Even then, it’s still a bargain.