On the morning of August 13th, seven months to the day of its introduction in Detroit, CorvetteBlogger gathered with 20-some other automotive writers at an airport hangar outside Monterey, California to drive the 2014 Corvette Stingray. This was the defining moment. The end all/be all moment of truth. Just how good is the seventh generation Corvette Stingray? Better than you can possibly imagine.
Shrouded in a light fog, the airport hanger had a large C7 Crossflags logo on the doors. In front were the six white examples from each generation of Corvette while two rows of C7 Corvette Stingrays flanked each of the sides of the parking lot. The red car covers hid the different colors and configurations available to us and we had the distinct feeling that it was Christmas in August. Then the doors parted and inside under brilliant spot lights sat a Torch Red C7 Corvette Coupe.
Inside the airport hanger, Chevrolet had a fantastic display set up showing many of the individual components and parts that can be found on the Corvette. A Laguna Blue Stingray was bolted to a rotisserie and turned on its side showing off the chassis and underbody’s aero package. A video screen showed both recent and vintage photos and videos including Zora and other Corvette notables through the years.
Chevrolet’s Chris Perry welcomed us and gave an overview of the automaker’s growth since 2010. Corvette’s Chief engineer Tadge Juechter ran through the finer points of the new Corvette Stingray’s engineering and content, from the construction of the new lighter but 60% stronger frame to talking about how reimagining the interior was the group’s upmost priority. Tadge rolled through the performance stats: 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds, 12.0 second quarter mile at 119 mph, a stopping distance at 107 feet and cornering at 1.03 Gs. These details only served to get us even more amped up before turning us loose in the parking lot.
Chevrolet split everyone up into pairs and so for the three hour ride my driving partner was Jim Campisano, the editor of Super Chevy Magazine. The media drive was divided into three legs with approximately 75 miles for each of the first two legs and then 35 for the final drive back to the airport hanger. All sorts of roads were on the agenda, from four lane highways to winding 2 lane roads through the California countryside. We headed out and Jim took the first driving shift. Our first Corvette was a Laguna Blue Z51 Automatic Coupe.
Getting behind the wheel and closing the door, you are enveloped into the cockpit. Our Laguna Blue Z51 auto was outfitted with the Kalahari 3LT interior and the attention to detail still impresses us. Brushed aluminum, fine leather and carbon fiber trim are abundant and the attention to detail is amazing. On the NAV, instead of an arrow showing your location on the map, you’ll see a tiny Stingray, complete with the black hood air extractor pointing the way. Both the drivers and passenger windows are indexing and will go up or down with a single toggle of the switch.
Pressing the start button immediately awakens the 460 hp LT1 V8 (455 hp without the performance exhaust package) and that deep V8 rumble filling the morning air is exactly how you would expect the Corvette to sound.
Driving the automatic gave us time to play with the Driver Select Mode knob, toggling between the five different modes. When you start up the Corvette Stingray, the default mode is Tour, but we quickly turned between Sport and Track. You can immediately feel the difference in the steering wheel’s resistance as it stiffens for Race Mode or relaxes in the Tour Mode. There are actually three different steering modes, Comfort, Sport and Track. You also can hear the difference in the exhaust note as you toggle through the different modes as well.
The configurable display is stunning. There are three themes available for the five Drive select modes. The Tour Theme is displayed in Weather, Eco or Tour Mode. The Sport Theme shows the big tachometer while the Race Theme is a replica of Corvette Racing’s C6.R display. Pressing the center button brings up the different submenus for customizing the mode you’ve selected.
Once we hit California’s 101 highway back north towards Monterey, we put the Corvette into Eco Mode. There was no noticeable change from the engine as the V4 indicator was shown on the display and we were doing around 75 MPH when the fuel saving mode was engaged. One of the driving teams claimed they were able to keep their Stingray in Eco Mode while hitting 100 MPH! Tour and Weather Modes will also allow the LT1 to go to its V4 configuration but any slight throttle and the V4 switches immediately back to V8 power. Pushing one of the submenus allowed us to see our instant MPG which was mostly north of 30 MPG while in Eco Mode.
As far as the seats go, the debate is over. Anybody who claims differently will be labeled “Seat Deniers” and will be taken out back and flogged. We only had the standard Touring seat to test and they were incredibly comfortable for the three hour drive. The bolsters are firm and had no problem keeping me in place, especially when we hit the autocross track later in the day. As the afternoon began to heat up, we turned on the seat’s cooling vents which had the immediate effect of cooling you right down. No more sweaty shirts and pants after a long drive.
And speaking of keeping cool. Another improvement Corvette owners will appreciate is that center tunnel through the cockpit is coated with Aerogel. Chevrolet uses a super thin coating to help cut down on the heat generated in the torque tube from transferring into the cockpit. Not once during our three hour ride did the center tube feel hot like in previous generations.
Cruising through the rolling mountains and two lane roads, the Corvette Stingray makes you a more confident driver at every turn. Michelin’s Pilot Super Sport ZP tires were engineered specially for the 2014 Corvette Stingray and had no problem keeping us glued to the roads. There was a bit of tire noise but that was more due to the condition of the roads than the tires. We also liked that they didn’t seem to attract the same level of debris when you went offline like the Pilot Sport Cup PS2s on the 427 Convertible we drove last year.
The brakes were very solid. We did a quick brake test and the car stopped very confidently. I wish I could have braked before hitting that squirrel but I just didn’t see it in time. Unfortunately, we caught that one on video too.
During the road test, we made several high speed pulls where the road was relatively flat, straight and clear of any traffic not bearing Stingray logos. The Corvette was very strong in acceleration and the 465 lb-ft torque reminds of the Z06. At speed, the car was very stable and the wind noise wasn’t bad considering the two GoPros mounted on the exterior. The Stingray felt like it could just keep going faster and faster.
We didn’t really play too much with the MyLink entertainment center. The sound emanating from the NPP Performance Exhaust System ($1,195 option) was the soundtrack for our drive. But I did fire up the XM radio as we hit one of the highway portions and the sound from the new Bose System was excellent. On the steering wheel, there’s a set of paddles under the airbag that allow you to toggle a list of favorite stations. Depending on the Mode and Theme, the stations are displayed inside the configurable screen.
And of course we had to play with the secret stash area. Hitting the button to the left of the infotainment center screen reveals a USB charger and a slot for an SD card as the screen lowers into the dash. Push the button again and the screen returns to its place, safely concealing your phone or whatever else you want to hide away.
When we had another opportunity to switch cars at a winery called Wrath in Soledad, CA, we got a Torch Red Z51 Coupe with the 7-speed manual. The shifter was very firm and sure. I did miss a couple of shifts early in the drive, going from 2nd to 5th instead of 3rd, but only needed a few miles to become acclimated to how it feels and then it was smooth shifting from there on out.
On the 7-Speed’s steering wheel are the Active Rev Matching paddles. Toggle them on and the gear indicator on the display changes from white to orange. The Rev Matching anticipates your upshift or downshift and puts the engine into the best RPMs for that shift. Driving down the road at roughly 50 miles an hour, I pushed the clutch in and then began toying with the Active Rev Matching by playing with the shifter. The engine revs would jump to a specific RPM depending on which way it thought I was going to go. Tadge says you play it like an instrument and that’s absolutely true.
The Z51 Package is really what buyers should be selecting when ordering a new Corvette Stingray. The Z51 package adds $2,800 to the base price of $51,995 and comes with the dry-sump oiler, electronic limited-slip and differential cooling. Larger brakes and tires round out the package.
But that doesn’t mean the non-Z51 is a slouch. The Crystal Red Metallic Coupe we drove was also a blast to drive and provided ample performance in base Stingray form. You still get all the Driver Select Modes with the configurable displays, the beautiful interior and fuel saving technologies.
So was there anything we didn’t like? I think some will be concerned about the rear visibility looking backward through the hatch. The Stingray does come with a backup camera which has an extremely wide view. However, during our drive we came up on a stop sign where our road intersected at a 45 degree angle. Turning left, it took a few looks by leaning way forward or straining backward in the seat to confirm there wasn’t any oncoming traffic headed our way and out of caution, asking the passenger if it’s okay to go. Despite the rear quarter windows, it will take some time to get use to the fact that there is less glass to look out of.
Bottom line? The Corvette Stingray is by far the most advanced Corvette ever. Our expectations were clearly met in this extended drive. The owner that gets to put one of these in their garage will be very happy indeed as the Corvette Stingray is a gift that keeps on giving.
But buyer beware, the 2014 Corvette Stingray is a four wheeled rock star and subject to much attention while on the streets!
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