Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Gloriously the Hottest American Supercar!

When it comes to American muscle cars, people are always irritated by the poor interior offered by the Camaro and Corvette. Let me slice that away. The all new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has transmitted the pro qualities of its predecessors - such as acceleration and handling - while peeling away the past cons such as poor ergonomics, average build quality and intolerable seats. The glorious and evolutionary step above the Corvette C6 is the new Corvette Stingray C7 that has honestly redefined the brand and is expected to magnetize buyers who are gravely considering the purchase of a Ferrari California, Porsche 911 Carrera or an Audi R8. This car is going be the real deal by 2014!

Driving Impressions
A long way from the Middle East to the capital of the United States of America, Washington DC, was our location for the first drive of the hottest American supercar. The 7th generation Corvette was finally here - but it's not called the Corvette anymore. For 2014, it is now the Corvette Stingray. Chevrolet has used the Stingray name before on previous versions of the Vette. If you want to win the pub quiz with this one, it was known as the Corvette Sting Ray from '63-67 - the C2 version - and as the Corvette Stingray from '69-'76 - the middle of the C3 version - and now again in 2014. The C denotes the generation of the Corvette. The car has been through six rebirths since it was launched in 1953, so there are six generations. The launch of this new car is the seventh iteration of the Vette, so it's known as the C7.

There are going to be two available trims from day one: the base car, which isn't really base as it's so loaded with tech and spec; and the Z51, which adds a pack of go-faster goodies that you should consider an essential option as all of them make the car even better. There are a number of optional extras that need to be considered, too.

So you might all be wondering and must be excited about what's new with the C7 Corvette.

I am pretty sure that it will be an easy task to mention what isn't new than what is, as the C7 only shares two parts with the previous generation C6: the cabin air filter and the rear handle for the removable roof panel.

I jump in and give you the highlights…

First up is the all new interior. This is the biggest improvement to the car. As a substitute to feeling like you are sitting in something made down to a price, it now looks, feels and operates like it's been built to a modern standard. Replacing the earlier vicious plastics, it's now all soft touch, fine looking substance twanged with real leather, aluminum and carbon fiber.

There are two eight-inch hi-def screens to access all the info plus a single rotary drive mode selector that allows you to change between the Vette's five modes: Weather, Eco, Tour (the default), Sport and Track - and the car's set up in an instant. The car just adjusts 12 of its parameters to suit the conditions.

In terms of exterior looks the C7 has evolved the Vette design in many ways. The single biggest change is the switch from round rear lights to the slashes on the new car. The added angularity of the body and lighting works to make the car feel more modern, but it's going to be a personal thing whether people will like it or not. Honestly, it feels like the biggest sibling of my Camaro back home!

Exterior
"Corvette Stingray's provocative exterior styling is as functional as it is elegant," said Ken Parkinson, Executive Director of Global Design. "Developing a new Corvette, while every designer's dream, is not an easy task. The goal was a bold design statement that embraced the advanced technology of the car, while enhancing its overall performance in everything from the wind tunnel to the track. The result is a new Corvette Stingray; a fantastic car that breaks new ground yet remains true to the fundamental elements that make a Corvette a Corvette," Parkinson said.

While no single detail is repeated from previous generations, the new Corvette Stingray includes the distinctive profile defined by a long dash-to-axle ratio and the greenhouse evoking the canopy of a fighter jet with dual-element tail lamps. To this foundation, designers built a form vocabulary from two very different sources: aerospace and nature.

"For the new Corvette to be called a Stingray, it had to deliver an incredible, purposeful visual impact - just as the original did in 1963," said Tom Peters, Exterior Design Director. "That visual impact is evident in fighter jets and the Stingray animal itself. Their beauty comes from their purpose, designed to cut through air or water as quickly and efficiently as possible. As with aircraft and living forms, every transition on every surface of the Corvette Stingray serves a purpose executed with beauty and proportion."

Lighting is a signature element of the Corvette Stingray's design and reinforces its high-tech aesthetic. At the front, indirect white LED lamps form a distinctive daytime styling cue. They are set in a black-chrome lamp housing with standard HID projector headlamps. The turn signals feature edge-lit amber LED lighting.

All new, dual element tail lamps represent the greatest departure from tradition and are among the car's most dramatic elements. The three-dimensional, sculpted lenses house innovative indirect LED lighting. The state-of-the-art lighting uses hidden LED lamps that cast their light up from the bottom of the housing into a reverse reflector, creating an even glow. LED lamps are also used for the white backup lamps. The tail lamps integrate functional aircraft-style air outlets for the available differential and transmission coolers.

"From the front or rear, the signature lighting brings the new Corvette to life," said Peters. "It looks beautiful, sinister and more than a little intimidating. It gives the Corvette a nighttime appearance unlike anything else on the street."

When it comes to aerodynamics, the new Stingray is in a league of its own. Advanced computer-aided modeling programs were employed to predict and track airflow over, under and through the new Corvette's body. Engineers and designers also relied on data gleaned from the Corvette Racing program - the most successful program ever in the American Le Mans Series and the 2012 GT class champion - to help balance front and rear grip for high speed stability.

Interior
The new Corvette Stingray interior blends fine materials and craftsmanship with advanced technologies that contribute to a more connected and more engaging driving experience, said Helen Emsley, Interior Design Director.

"Every feature and detail in the interior is designed to enhance the driver's connection to the Corvette," Emsley said. "It starts with the fighter jet inspired wraparound cockpit; continues to build with the smaller steering wheel, more supportive seats, and high-definition, configurable screens, and is finished in gorgeous materials."

The smaller, 14.1 inch diameter steering wheel fosters a more direct, immediate feel to directional inputs. The attention to the driver extends to the smallest details, including the flat, precise stitching on the steering wheel designed to provide a smooth, consistent feel.

Precise and elegant stitching also is seen in the available Napa leather trim of the all new seats. Two seating choices will be offered: a GT seat for all-around comfort and a Competition Sport seat with more aggressive side bolstering which provides greater support on the track. The frame structure for both seats is made of magnesium for greater strength and less weight than comparable steel frames. They're also more rigid, contributing to the enhanced feeling of support during performance driving.

Additional performance-enhancing details of the interior resulted from designers' "field trips" to GM's Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan, where high performance driving experiences spurred the design and implementation of several features, including a steel-reinforced grab bar on the center console for the passenger and soft-touch materials on the edge of the console, where the driver naturally braces during high-load cornering.

High performance driving also influenced elements of the configurable display screens and available head-up display, which vary depending on the driving mode, including the track display inspired by the C6.R.

The performance supporting elements inside the new Corvette Stingray are complemented by unprecedented attention to detail and build quality, including the sweeping arch motif over the driver cockpit trim and the seamless transition of the line from the instrument panel to the door.

All models feature a fully-wrapped interior, where every surface is covered with premium, soft-touch materials. Available materials, depending on the trim level, include Napa leather, aluminum, carbon fiber and micro-suede.

A blend of hand craftsmanship and machined precision is intended to ensure the fit, finish and ambience of the cabin is first-rate. The leather wrapped instrument panel, for example, features hand-selected and hand-stretched materials for better grain matching with stitching performed by robots that deliver perfect seams.

There's even a micro-LED screen for the passenger's climate control placed below the vent on the dash away from the performance features on the instrument panel.

"To ensure the high quality of the interior, we spent time working on the line alongside the team that builds the Corvette every day at Bowling Green Assembly Plant," said Ryan Vaughan, Interior Design Manager. "And thanks to that collaboration between design, engineering and manufacturing, we were able to make adjustments that allowed us to maintain the integrity of the design, improve the assembly process and ultimately deliver what we believe to be a world-class interior."

Drivetrain
The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard model ever, with SAE-certified 455 horsepower and 624 Nm - and 460 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 630 Nm at 4,600 rpm, with the available performance exhaust system. It is also the most capable standard model ever, with Z51-equipped models able to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and achieve 1.03g in cornering grip.

The new Corvette Stingray backs its performance capability with the greatest efficiency of any sports car on the market, delivering an EPA-estimated 13.8 L/100km in the city, and 8.1 L/100km on the highway with the all new seven-speed manual transmissions. No other car offers more than 455 horsepower and greater than 8.1 L/100km highway.

The lightweight elements of the Stingray contribute to the ideal 50/50 weight balance. Combined with its 455 horsepower (standard exhaust system), the new Corvette delivers a better power-to-weight ratio than the Porsche 911 Carrera.

Those 455 horses are generated by an all new LT1 6.2L Small Block V8 engine, which produces 624 Nm of torque (standard exhaust system). More importantly, it generates 68 Nm more low-end torque than the previous 6.2L engine, matching the 7.0L LS7 engine from the 2013 Corvette Z06 from 1,000 to 4,000 rpm.

The engine's performance comes from combining advanced technologies like direct injection, active fuel management and continuously variable valve timing with an advanced combustion system. More than 10 million hours of computational analysis went into the new small block's design, including more than 6 million hours alone on the combustion system.

The LT1 is backed by a choice of active exhaust systems that are less restrictive than the previous generation, due in part to an increase in diameter from 2.5 inches to 2.75 inches. The standard system offers a 13% improvement in airflow and features a pair of butterfly valves that contribute to greater refinement at cruising speeds when the engine is operating in fuel-saving V-4 mode.

An available dual-mode active exhaust system offers a 27% improvement in airflow. It features two additional valves that open to a lower-restriction path through the mufflers. When open, these valves increase engine performance and produce a more powerful exhaust note. It also raised the engine's output to 460 horsepower and 630 Nm of torque.

The LT1 is mated to either a six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission or an industry-exclusive TREMEC TR6070 seven-speed manual with Active Rev Matching. The Corvette retains its distinctive rear transaxle layout for optimal weight balance.

The seven-speed manual incorporates rev-matching technology for upshifts and downshifts. This driver-selectable feature can be easily engaged or disengaged via paddles on the steering wheel. The seven-speed is used with a new dual-mass flywheel and dual-disc clutch, which deliver greater shift quality and feel through lower inertia. The transmission with the Z51 Performance Package includes specific close-ratio gearing for more aggressive driving.

"Active Rev Matching makes the new Corvette easier and more fun to drive in performance conditions," said Jeuchter. "It anticipates the next gear selection and electronically 'blips' the throttle to match engine speed for a seamless gear change."

A six-speed Hydra-Matic 6L80 paddle-shift automatic is also available. It is optimized for use with Active Fuel Management and features a lower-inertia torque converter for improved shift quality and shift speeds. In addition, shift feel and shift points can be adjusted through the Driver Mode Selector.

The new Corvette Stingray takes advantage of lightweight materials, advanced manufacturing techniques and technology transfer from the Corvette Racing program to produce an ideal 50/50 weight balance and to deliver a world-class power-to-weight ratio.

"Chevrolet has a long history of using racing to improve production cars, and nowhere is that more evident than with Corvette," said Jeuchter. "We continually apply technologies and strategies developed for Corvette Racing directly to the production car. That influence can be seen in virtually every aspect of the new Corvette Stingray, from the aerodynamic design to the use of carbon fiber, to the cooling techniques and even in the brake system.

The technologically advanced foundation is an all-new aluminum frame structure that is 57% stiffer and 45 kg lighter. The greater torsional rigidity reduces unwanted noise and improves ride and handling.

Compared to the previous generation, which used continuous hydroformed main frame rails with a constant 2mm wall thickness, the new Corvette's frame features main rails composed of five customized aluminum segments, including aluminum extrusions at each end, a center main rail section and hollow-cast nodes at the suspension interface points. Each segment is tuned - varying in thickness from 2mm to 11mm - tailoring the gauge, shape and strength properties to optimize the requirements for each frame section with minimal weight.

The frame is assembled at an all new welding shop at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant using a unique laser welding process in which a computer-controlled beam of high energy joins the components with exceptional precision and tolerances of about 0.001-inch.

Supporting the frame's greater strength and lower weight are complementing chassis elements, including hollow-cast aluminum front and rear cradles that are approximately 25% lighter and 20% stiffer than the solid cradles used on the previous structure.

The innovative use of materials includes a standard carbon fiber hood and roof panel, as well as underbody panels created with carbon-nano composite technology, an advanced blend of traditional composite material and carbon fiber, which allows lighter underbody panels without a loss of strength or stiffness. Fenders, doors, rear quarter panels and the rear hatch panel are made with lighter-density Sheet Molded Compound than the previous generation.

Verdict
In a word? Yes, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is nothing short of astonishing! I drive a Camaro daily, and I basically feel that you get three cars in one with the C7. It will happily cruise all day, sponging up bumps, tasting fuel in a shy way and usually letting you do your business. I was happy to travel in it. It has the performance you can take to a track for plenty of fun hours. If you've ever thought about a Vette, now is the time. By carefully updating the car, the C7 team has marched to the front line. The Nissan GTR is always a choice in terms of pricing (closest price) too, but there isn't anything else on the market that does as much as this car for even twice the price.

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