Corvette Stingray delivers old-fashioned fun
Now in its second season, the all-new, seventh-generation Corvette is a more precise and fully thought-out tool for two things: Acts of extreme driving and generalized showboating.
It’s got rakishly good looks — all lean and mean and chiseled — and an interior finally fit for a domestic vehicle stretching into the $70,000 range, as my tester was, with the Z51 performance package, plus a wide range of optional cabin and seat upgrades.
The performance aspect is definitely delivered with metrics aplenty, as the car is also a showcase for electronic displays, G-force meters and even a built-in camera to record your track theatrics, as much of a giant liability as that might be for your future insurance rates.
At its core, though, the new Stingray takes care of business on the road, sticking to tight corners like something actually stickier than glue, and thundering along with an exhaust note that causes a primal response in gearheads of all sexes.
Sure, it still smells overpoweringly like plastic when you first sit inside the new, actually leather-sculpted interior, and yes, a few of the less critical bits (the floppy cupholder lid, for instance) still look like discards from a Spark. But the seating is indeed now impressive and the overall dash design modern and classy, a quantum leap from Corvettes of even recent vintage.
The square-edged design might have a few not-so-enlightened observers thinking you’re rocking something Italian, not a native of a factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Ferrari-ish, LED-infused boomerang shards of headlamps, massive (and thoroughly functional, and necessary) brake cooling vents on the sides and atop the rear haunches and a sleeker overall look do make it as contemporary as the very pricy supercar imports.
And even without the heart-stopping theatrics of its out-of-control Z06 variation, your basic Stingray delivers 455 small-block V-8 horsepower, or 460 with this tester’s orchestra worth of tuned and trumpet-styled exhaust pipes — matching the 460 lb.-ft. of torque. Combine that with a curb weight of 3,298 pounds and the math gets exciting, as do the results — the aluminum frame and parts ranging from a carbon fiber hood to composites in the doors and quarter panels all feed into that low overall weight. Just a poke of the electronic starter button produces the most explosive response I’ve had in a modern car.
New in the C7 is a standard seven-speed manual transmission or the optional eight-speed automatic. I can tell you that in a week of canyon-centered driving, I spent the lion’s share of time in third gear; it’s a long, notchy step to even get into seventh gear, which I guess is probably best used during interstate cruising.
That versatile combination of manual gears means highway mileage figures of up to 29 MPG, and the rather remarkable sensation of wheel spin in fourth gear, or even higher, when the pedal is mashed to the carpet. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Take it into a repeated series of 20-MPH curves and the lateral grip is just unbelievable, even scary, so do be careful.
The ride is additionally intensified with the optional magnetic ride control; not brutal, mind you, but able to keep it all unbelievably flat and composed at greater-than-normal speeds. And just to really confuse matters, there’s also a paddle-activated rev-matching function, even on the manual transmission, for those of you non heel-and-toe types.
A curiously undersized, flat-bottomed race wheel will always have your arms crossed origami-style if you’re doing those 270-degree sweeping turns. And the electronic gear position display on the instrument panel and heads-up readout is indeed a godsend, as there are indeed a lot of ways to easily find yourself in the wrong gear, with that many choices.
Really, if you’re not a track fiend, and few of us are, the safer path with the Stingray coupe is to instead pop the easily removable and relatively light roof panel – stored in a locking rack in the surprisingly commodious, 15-cubic-foot space beneath the rear glass – and set out to tool around at low speeds, gunning the engine at every possible moment. Juvenile, yes, but totally awesome. I hear the Stingray also has a great Bose stereo, but I chose to exclusively listen to that exhaust note.
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