Incredible performance for not very much money | The overall driving experience is just so engaging that it keeps me grinning from ear to ear.
“Corvette”. It’s a very special name to most diehard American car enthusiasts. It was one of the first cars to hail from North America that defined the sports car as we know it today. It gets redesigned about once a decade on average, and it represents the halo of General Motors and the Chevrolet brand. This car is particularly special to me, as my entire DoubleClutch.ca team and I were in Detroit at the official reveal party in January 2013, and I have been in love with it since then. A year and a half later, I was given some up-close-and-personal time with a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray; the Z51 model with the 7-speed manual, to gauge my thoughts.
Disclaimer – while most auto critics have gotten some seat time behind a Corvette at some point or another, this is my first extended go in one. As a kid though, I visited the factory and museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky a couple times and enjoyed every minute of it. Oh, and I’d like to get out of the way that in a world of alphanumeric naming schemes, “Stingray” is one of the most awesome names currently in existence. Opening the electronically-operated doors and getting into the Corvette for the first time, my jaw dropped. I’ve been inside numerous ‘Vettes over the years, but I have never seen interior quality as good as this. It doesn’t feel like a ~400 horsepower, $60,000 car. It feels like something considerably more expensive from a German manufacturer. The car’s interior fit me like a finely tailored suit.
On to the more important stuff – under the hood of the 2014 Corvette Stingray lies a 6.2L V8, known by GM aficionados as the LT1. It pumps out 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, and you can feel every bit of it. While the 2015 Corvette replaces the 2014’s 6-speed automatic in favour of an 8-speed, my test car was equipped with the preferred 7-speed manual. It’s an excellent transmission; the clutch is heavy but provides great feedback and the car is very easy to drive spiritedly. I observed that in second and third gear, there’s raw, American power right across the power band. The Corvette pulls and pulls hard – the sound coming from the quad exhaust pipes is heavenly.
In an automotive world that’s gradually transitioning over to forced induction, the Chevrolet Corvette is the very definition of an excellent sports car. It’s powered by a traditional V8 and coupled to a proper manual gearbox. When you undo the three latches and lift the (surprisingly light) carbon fibre targa top off, you’re reminded of simpler times. The top disappears into mounting points in the rear hatch, and the whole operation takes about a minute. I cruised down Lakeshore Road from Mississauga back home into downtown Toronto, and I have never gotten so much positive attention in a tester. Even with the polarizing new styling, everybody instantly recognizes this as a Corvette. It really is an american icon.
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette comes with cylinder deactivation, so typical V8 fuel consumption isn’t really an issue. When cruising on the highway in 7th gear, the ‘Vette shuts off four of the cylinders and projects fuel economy numbers to drop near the 6.9L/100km range. I personally observed as low as 7.3L/100km on the highway. I did quench the Corvette’s thirst for premium fuel, and observed 11.2L/100km in combined driving over my test. All of the highway driving was done in “Eco” mode, but when cruising around the city and on my favourite country roads, I just had to engage “Sport” mode. In this mode, the exhaust gets noticeably louder, and the car transforms itself into even more of an athlete. For those that don’t want to rev-match their own downshifts, there are paddle-type buttons on the steering wheel that enable/disable the car to do this automatically.
The biggest argument in favour of the new Corvette is its price point. A decently equipped base-ish model can be had just below $60,000. My tester was completely loaded with the 3LT equipment group. This includes full leather seats (heated and cooled), navigation with 8″ touch screen, Bose sound system, the dual-mode performance exhaust system, heads-up display, and a plethora of other toys. I was lucky that my time with the new ‘Vette had minimal rain, so I was driving top off and windows down most of the time – the stereo is crystal clear even at higher volumes at highway speeds. This is probably the best I have seen from Bose so far.
Even though I fell for this car hard, there were a couple of drawbacks. For instance, with the targa top stowed in the rear trunk area, there isn’t really room for anything at all. My small camera bag slid under the top, but there wasn’t enough space for my laptop case. The Corvette can definitely handle enough luggage for a weekend getaway, but at this point you’re forced to either leave the top intact or put it in your garage at home and pray for perfect weather. Additionally, there’s a hidden compartment with a USB port behind the navigation screen that stows your iPod. Access to this compartment is via a button that electronically drops the screen to reveal the space behind it. When you lock the car from the outside (with the windows up), that button still works. Therefore theoretically, if somebody really wanted to steal your iPod, they can reach in and take it.
I can’t say it enough – I love this car. It may have its small drawbacks, but the overall driving experience is just so engaging that it keeps me grinning from ear to ear. This tester is the perfect colour too; the black wheels (19″ in front and 20″ out back) and red calipers set it off perfectly. My car came in optioned out at just over $70,000. No, that’s not exactly a small sum of money, but the sheer value that this car represents is unmatched. With a solid set of winter tires, the Corvette is livable in our climate year round, and it’s a surefire way to keep a smile on your face 12 months of the year. I think it’s about time I make another pilgrimage to Bowling Green…
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51 Gallery
*Rolling shots courtesy of K-Pro Media*