Fast & furious new Stingray sets a new standard
The company parking lot was alive with color, as was the driveway at home. People stared, gave a thumbs up and admired what for 60 years has been America’s Sports Car.
This was a Torch Red Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51, fresh off the assembly line in Bowling Green, Ky., and raring to have its legs stretched, its engine thrummed, its giant near slick ZR-rated tires warmed and spun. The Corvette remains a two-seater, but by the late 1960s had transitioned from sports car to muscle car.
Oh, these babies are raced to be sure, but on the highway, on our city streets, it’s their muscle that most folks admire. They are low, so low I found myself looking up to a Mini Cooper that I was passing on the freeway. Vettes are fast. Chevy claims 3.8 seconds from 0-60 mph and even it if it’s 4.0 or a touch more, it’ll haul butt.
Top speed? It’s rated at 190 mph and there’s no good place to test that out, legally. Suffice it to say I got within 90 mph of that. Highway entry ramps are too short in a Corvette, which for its seventh generation that debuts as a 2014, brings back the much loved Stingray name.
For the record Chevy has revamped its giant 6.2-liter V8 to add direct injection and variable valve timing. That translates into 460 horses and a torque rating of 465. Consider that a Porsche 911 Carrera S manages 400 horses, albeit from a flat-6, and costs almost twice as much.
Consider too that with all that thrumming muscle, this burbling beauty manages a 29 mpg rating on the highway, but just 17 mpg in town. I got 19.1 in a couple days of driving during our first real cold snap and just after our first snow.
Beyond its sleek, sexy, missile-like exterior, one thing that helps the Stingray slip along at racetrack speeds, but at a reasonable fuel consumption rate, is its slick 7-speed Tremec manual transmission. That’s right, seven speeds, the final two doing a good job of turning the engine at a moderate rate. On the freeway at 70+ I saw 1,100-1,200 rpm. So engine noise is modest cruising the freeway, but a wonderful grumble of V8 fun at rest or muscling away from stoplights. A cylinder deactivation program also works to save fuel when you’re cruising at highway speeds.
Power is a good thing, but there is a lot of road noise here, mainly tire noise, inside the cockpit. This coupe has the easily removed roof panel over the cockpit, so more noise makes it to the occupants than in a hardtop. But on the highway it was pleasant. And I suspect, if you want a Stingray, you want some grumble for show at least.
It’s not surprising the run-flat low-profile rubber makes some noise as low-pro tires are always loud. These were racy 19-inchers up front and 20-inchers in back, and surround gorgeous black aluminum wheels that looked great on the red racer. But they have precious little tread and despite their enormous width did not give much traction in our 25-35-degree weather, especially in the evenings when there was some moisture in the air. You had to feather the throttle and treat it gingerly to avoid wheel spin and tail wagging.
But once the tires were up to temperature on the highway, the Vette could power up and keep its feet. There are five driver mode selections, Weather, Eco, Touring, Sport and Track, all giving you varying levels of power and ride comfort. Track also reconfigures the car’s projected digital gauge system to show only the tachometer and redline, plus your track time and best time.
Handling is quick and responsive, but with a heavy steering feel despite the car’s modest 3,460 lbs. You feel you can put this car anywhere on the road that you want and it’ll track through perfectly, again, once the tires are warm.
Ride is less impressive in town where roads are more uneven. The Stingray rides on a 106.7-inch wheelbase, usually about the length where ride really improves in cars. The independent trailing arm rear suspension does a good job of smoothing ride on the freeways, but tends to be pretty stiff on city streets. Ride isn’t harsh, but certainly firm and sporty. A long trip on the highway won’t tire you physically. It’s more likely you’ll grow weary of the tire noise.
Braking from monster 13.6-inch vented grooved discs up front and 13.9-inch vented grooved discs in back is amazing. Naturally there is vehicle stability control and traction control, all needed to apply the power to the pavement, especially when damp. The test Vette also primped its brake calipers, adding a bright yellow finish that stood out, and should because it adds $595 to the car’s cost – which you might be wondering about by now.
A base Corvette 1LT starts at $51,000 and the tested Z51 1LT lists at $53,800, but in essence this was the Z51 2LT, because it added the $4,210 2LT package as an option. With a few other spiffs the test car hit $62,085.
That 2LT package includes a load of goodies, including a head-up display, seat memory package plus power lumbar support and bolsters for the driver, heated and ventilated seats, a luggage shade, auto-dimming inside and outside mirrors, the outer one being heated, plus a fancy 10-speaker Bose audio system. The console and doors also are color keyed, so red in this car. And that along with the red stitching in the black leather dash creates an exciting interior.
But then Corvette has always had a more in-your-face look to its interiors than say a Porsche or BMW. Other automotive journalists are fawning over the interior because it’s a step up from the previous C6 models that used a bit more plastic. And it IS nice, but there’s still a pretty large seam between the door and dash. Just sayin’!
Certainly the seats are well contoured and feel great. I was immediately comfortable, adding just a tiny bit of side bolster support and the seats have three heat levels and a cooling feature too. All the power seat controls work well, but are a tight squeeze for your hand to get between the door and the seat’s side. A power tilt/telescope steering wheel helps you get settled quickly and head and legroom are good. But the Stingray’s high center console makes you feel pretty confined, as in earlier Vettes, and be aware that you must press a small button on the door to unlatch it.
My most serious complaint is that once I moved the seat close enough to fully depress the clutch I could not easily get my feet out when exiting the car. There is a logjam, or footjam if you will, between the front seat edge and doorframe. I regularly powered the seat back an inch or so to allow my feet to swing free of the doorframe.
All the gauges are easy to see and the touchscreen for the radio and navigation worked well and intuitively. I also liked the large radio channel buttons on the screen, which are easy to see and tap while driving. The car also has a back-up camera.
There also is a small covered storage compartment at the driver’s elbow, two cup holders on the console and small visors overhead, but they do slide to help reduce side sun intrusion.
Behind the seats is a bit of storage room for a briefcase or such, if you’re not a tall driver, and in back, under the giant rear window hatch is a load of cargo room, 15.0 cubic feet worth.
One final thing, did I mention that the Stingray is stunning to look at? It’s beautiful in profile and the rear is a masterful blend of evil Transformer and modern speed wagon. The four center-exit tailpipes give it a full-on racer look.
You can pay more for this much performance … and still not have the style!
Hits: Stunning looks, amazing power, quick steering, massive brakes, smooth 7-speed manual shifter, good highway gas mileage. Plus you can haul a lot of luggage under the hatch, the interior is nicely styled, the roof panel pops off to make it an almost convertible and price is moderate for the performance you get.
Misses: Hard for short drivers to get feet out between seat and doorframe, older drivers and passenger just have trouble getting out. Pretty noisy inside, a little tough to get at power seat adjustments when doors are closed and ride can be firm in city driving.
Made in: Bowling Green, Ky.
Engine: 6.2-liter DI VVT V8, 460 hp
Transmission: 7-speed manual
Weight: 3,460 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.7 in.
Cargo: 15.0 cu.ft.
Base Price: $53,800
Dealer’s Price: $48,958
Exhaust Multi-Mode Performance, $1,195
2LT package (memory package, seat adjusters w/power lumbar & bolsters, Corvette logo on seats, color keyed console/doors, luggage shade & cargo net, power heated outside mirrors, driver side auto-dimming mirror, inside auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated/ventilated seats, premium Bose audio system w/10 speakers, extra 9-mon. XM radio, universal remote, advanced theft deterrent system, head-up display), $4,210
MyLink Navigation, $795
Custom yellow calipers, $595
Black painted aluminum wheels, 19-in. front, 20-in. rear, $495
Test vehicle: $62,085
Sources: Chevrolet, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Mark Savage and Chevrolet