Tested: 2014 Corvette Stingray Z51 Convertible
I can say with all honesty that I’ve never been a huge Corvette fan. I know that’s heresy coming from a so-called “car guy”, but I’ll endure the fallout. Save for the C4-generation ZR-1, there’s been not a single one that has aroused my passion. Every generation has had its foibles and fame, but for me the Corvette as a brand only truly crystalized when I witnessed the C7 rolling across Chevy’s debut stage at last year’s Detroit show. Here was a car that not only looked fantastic on the outside, but finally had an interior to match. As ever, powertrain and chassis accommodations were not found to be lacking – 460 horsepower and a torque figure to match in a car weighing less than 3,500 pounds are enough to set any driver’s loins afire. Quality on preproduction show cars is hard to judge, though, so I waited until I had a real life example to see if my initial excitement was justified. Turns out, it was. A lot of fans previously gave the Corvette’s interior a pass – sure, it couldn’t hold a candle to a Porsche’s or BMW’s, but the car’s performance (generally) was at least on par with those marques if not far in advance, with a value price tag to boot. Who cared about a basic interior when you’ve got performance stats that can shame a Carrera S? Well, me for one. Most modern cars require you to sit in their interiors in order to operate them. Considering that a car’s cabin is the place you’re going to be spending the entirety of your driving life, in my eyes it needs to be a pleasant place. And the last Corvette’s honestly wasn’t. This C7 was designed under the new GM, though – the GM that is once again making truly competitive products – so it stands to reason that the folks in charge pointed to the interior as the one place above all others where the C6’s successor had to show real progress. And the C7 certainly does that. The cockpit – and with a well-positioned heads-up display and slick digital instrumentation, it certainly feels like one – is a massive leap forward from the last one, now playing in the realm of BMW and Lotus and nipping at Porsche’s heels. “Soon…” it seems to murmur. The seats finally hug, the plastics justify the car’s price and the feature content impresses. The overall design is modern and no longer an afterthought. It’s a big step up. But enough harping on the interior – Corvette buyers were already prepared to accept a C5 or C6’s interior, so the fact that the C7’s is now class-competitive comes as a bonus, not a raison d’etre. How does the thing actually drive? Wonderfully. There’s power absolutely everywhere on the tach, the direct-injected LT1 engine shining as brightly at low revs as it does screaming toward 7,000 rpm. My test car featured the six-speed automatic, which actually comes with some praise for those buyers who don’t want to row their own: while it still possesses a torque converter and “just” six speeds, it operates transparently around town and, in Sport or Track mode, cracks off upshifts and rev-matched downshifts at a speed that belies its old school roots. The chassis is another area you can tell late work nights were spent. Reactions are sports-car-instant, not warmed-over-muscle-coupe flabby. The optional magnetic shocks of my tester did an admirable job of quelling rough pavement while keeping body roll and brake dive in check, though you’re never in question of whether you’re behind the wheel of a Corvette or a Regal. Motions are controlled and firm, never floaty. While you’d expect the firm ride to trouble a convertible chassis, it doesn’t – the windshield frame stays put, exhibiting no scuttle shake, and no untoward vibrations come through the steering column. That electric steering isn’t the most feelsome, but it’s honest and nicely weighted, especially when it firms up in the selectable Sport and Track driving modes. Purely as a convertible, this Corvette is pretty good. It’s not a car for wallflowers, however. Thanks to its show car looks and the fact that production C7 convertibles on the ground are still pretty scarce, attention from the public is absolutely unavoidable. I found that driving with the top down compounds this problem. I call it a problem only because I’m not really a “look at me!” type, preferring instead to fly under the radar. It’s going to take some time for that to become possible in the C7, even in muted (and gorgeous) colors like our tester’s Lime Rock Green Metallic. Whatever your opinion on the design details, the overall aesthetic seems to be a hit – with the public and the press alike. I think it looks great, though I’d probably color-match those black teardrop taillight bezels. Are there other demerits? If prompted, I might admit the cabin is a bit drafty with the roof down – those of fake quaffs will need to take extra care to secure their rugs before dropping the top. With the top raised, rear visibility is pretty ambiguous. And, of course, the aforementioned attention you’re likely to receive from admiring bystanders and law enforcement types alike. If you can cope with the temporary stardom and the flush of entitlement it produces, the new Corvette both preaches to the faithful and brings the newly converted into the fold. I’m finally among the believers. [gallery ids="9715,9716,9718,9721,9722,9723,9725,9726,9727,9730,9732,9735,9736,9737"] 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51 Convertible Base price: $59,795 Price as tested: $73,525 Options on test car: 3LT Preferred Equipment Group ($8,005), Magnetic Ride Control w/ PTM ($1,795), 6-speed paddle shift automatic ($1,350), Multi-mode exhaust system ($1,195), Lime Rock Green Metallic paint ($495), Sueded microfiber-wrapped upper trim package ($495), Sueded microfiber seat inserts ($395) Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive – 460 horsepower, 460 lb-ft torque S:S:L-observed fuel economy: 19.7 mpg Chevrolet provided the vehicle for testing purposes and one tank of gas. Photos by the author.