The Chevrolet Corvette is the quintessential American sports car. Mustang and Mopar fans will scoff, but in the pantheon of American performance vehicles, there is the Corvette, and there is everyone else.
You cannot buy another vehicle for the price of a Corvette that performs quite like it. Decade after decade, the Corvette performs as well as vehicles that cost more than twice the price—and that’s just one part to the Corvette mythology.
For 2014, Chevrolet has revived the “Stingray’’ branding, tapping into the history of the second and third generation Corvettes. The iconic 1963 Corvette was actually inspired by French cars. Designer Harley Earl had a penchant for cars like the 1938 Bugatti Type 57, and baked features into the ’63 ‘Vette like doors that curved into the roof, and the spine line that runs down the center of the car. The seventh-generation — or C7 — 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray instead takes cues from the Italians, and you can see plenty of Ferrari inspiration in the sharp angles, glaring LED headlights, and assortment of vents.
The vents are painted black, and range in purpose from engine heat extraction to added rear brake cooling. On lighter-colored Corvettes, these vents really stand out, in a very Boy-racer, Match-box-car fashion. Given the history of the Corvette, the two-seat coupe deserves a bit more grace than that, and the Lime Rock Green shown here obscures the vents.
The interior of the Corvette received a much-needed upgrade in design and refinement. The last two generations were plagued by a sub-par fit and finish, and 2014 does away with those issues. In addition to a new cabin design, the Stingray features tech goodies like a retractable navigation screen that reveals a secret cubby area, and a customizable digital instrument panel. The speedometer, coolant temp, and fuel gauge are all analog, but together flank a center screen that features a large dynamic tachometer, trip computer, and instrument cluster.
At the heart of the new Corvette is a brand-new small-block V8 engine. The 6.2-liter LT1 V8 makes 455 horsepower and features technology like direct injection, variable valve timing, and active fuel management. Combined with the new 7-speed manual gearbox, the Corvette is able to achieve 17 miles per gallon city, 29 highway. The automatic returns 16 and 28. Not bad for a car that can hit 0 to 60 in under three seconds.
Standard performance equipment includes four-wheel independent suspension, large Brembo brakes that bring you to an extremely quick-yet-controlled stop, and the variable-setting Magnetic Ride Control. This system works in unison with the Driver Mode Selector—a small knob below the shifter—to deliver unique suspension, engine, and steering characteristics. The five modes are Weather, Eco, Touring, Sport, and Track. Touring is the default setting, and softens the suspension to a degree required for potholes or cobblestone streets. The downside of Touring is the very light steering feel. Turn the knob to Sport, the suspension buckles down, and the steering tightens up to a level much more appropriate for the Corvette.
The Corvette starts at $51,000, and an available Z51 Performance pack tacks on $2,800. It features larger wheels and brakes, a dry-sump oil system that will keep the oil flowing even in high-g turns, more aggressive gearing, and added cooling for the transmission and differential.
Our test vehicle was a mid-range 2LT trim without the Z51, and it was beyond fun. The two-mode exhaust is largely muffled until you press the throttle past a certain point, then it springs to life, and the pushrod V8 erupts out of four massive rear exhaust pipes. Each gear felt like separate stages of a Saturn V rocket.
Without a doubt the Corvette has gone from domestic toy to internationally relevant performance machine in one year.
Youth may be wasted on the young, but too often, gorgeous, powerful, and expensive sports cars are wasted on old guys who don’t know how to master what is sitting in their garage, collecting dust. With 460 horsepower and 3.8-second 0 to 60 times for just $51,000, the Corvette is that attainable performance machine that has captured the imagination of generations of gearheads– and will capture many more to come.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Price: $ 51,000. As tested: $ 61,995. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 17/29. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 20.5 mpg (enthusiastic driving). 6.2L V8, 7MT, Rear-Wheel Drive. Body: 2-passenger Coupe (Removable roof panel)
Horsepower: 455 (460 optional). Overall length: 176.9 in. Wheelbase 106.7 in. Height: 48.6 in. Width: 73.9 in. Curb weight: 3,444 lbs.
Bang-for-buck is true to Corvette nature. Supercar appearance. Finally a refined interior.
Blacked-out vents smack of “Fast and Furious.’’ Rev-Matching system will never get used.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s the American Action Hero that everyone loves, fit for the times.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Dodge Challenger SRT8, Porsche Boxster S.