Mountain Wheels: Power-boosted 2023 Corvette Stingray is futuristic fun
While President Joe Biden may not be the exact demographic for America’s ever-evolving, now European-supercar-styled sports machine of choice — celebrating its 70th anniversary — there is some curious synergy. Especially since he’s already the owner of an older Chevrolet Corvette.
Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure who’s the ideal market for the 2023 edition of the Corvette Stingray, as it is equal parts totally exotic roadster and still as classically American as possible, at the same time.
I spent an entertaining weekend in Steamboat Springs with a Stingray upgraded with the Z51 performance package, which boosts its 100% naturally aspirated power to 495 growly horsepower and 470 pound-feet. It also adds an electronically controlled limited slip differential, performance brakes, exhaust and an enhanced cooling system — plus a flow-through rear spoiler.
With a base price of $69,200, that package and an automatic nose-lift system, carbon fiber outfitted aircraft-style bucket seats, and 20 inch aluminum wheels brought the total to $83,965. Or, basically your average 2022 high-end pickup truck transaction price, now that I think of it.
That extra power does put a little extra sparkle in the noisy Corvette’s step, though clearly altitudes above 8,000 feet are not the place to set time trial records with a new-fangled old-schooler like this. At sea level, 0-60 times of 2.9 second are more plausible; I discovered it took me more straight road than exists in Colorado to reach those kinds of speeds you see in YouTube videos, where the Stingray tops out at 194 mph. So it goes.
The handsome and hyper-futuristic cabin, set up a little like a police car from the future — your passenger essentially gets walled off behind a gigantic, 2-foot-long bar of HVAC controls — does become more intuitive with repeated drives.
Critical to transitional season driving, Stingray offers 12 ways to adjust its driver mode system, hidden in a knob covered in beautiful leather, like the rest of the cabin. The “weather” mode was most helpful in restraining some of the vehicle’s exuberance on rain-soaked roads, plus additional options to mess with the 12-inch color instrument panel and head-up display, to see if maybe 39 degree driving on Rabbit Ears Pass was pushing my luck.
Happily things warmed up and gave me more opportunity to do some slower but expressive driving, with big shift paddles whacking through the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Ultra-massive high-performance tires do some mighty sticky work when required and Stingray rides and revs smoothly and steadily, with magnetic selective ride control an available option I did not have. Hitting the Z button on the truly rectangular steering wheel (yes, really) pushed the noise, braking, throttle response and shifting to their most athletic and entertaining levels.
Just over two years ago, I had a between-snowfalls drive in the convertible Stingray of this new generation; this week brought the more standard coupe version with the large, slightly ungainly removable roof panel that subsequently takes up about 90% of the rear trunk space when stored. But it also means a clear glass panel view into the engine bay, from both the cabin and when standing outside the car, giving you more McLaren-styled déjà vu of this striking mid-engine layout.
The Ferrari by way of Bowling Green, Kentucky, styling never fails to excite, especially onlookers who know this is an all-American vehicle, and the very cab-forward design necessitates three nose-mounted cameras to help with parking. I never needed the nose lift function, even on big speed bumps, but it will be helpful for some driveways.
Your rear vision is perhaps a little nebulous, with those ultra-wide, squared-off hips and the contrasting reflections of glass through the engine cabin, but the suggested remedy is to simply drive like there is no one behind you, at all times. That seemed to work.
I did feel like I was 70 years old after a week of entries and exits, though the seats themselves are surprisingly wide and comfortable. I did survive, whereas two hours of driving in the new Toyota GR 86 totally killed my back and shoulders. Corvette for the win.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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