It’s a fresh change of scene to feel the power and capabilities of a raw, naturally-aspirated V8.
It has now been over two years since the initial debut of the C7 Corvette. However, with new models such as the Z06 and the introduction of a new 8-speed automatic transmission, the hype has yet to come down. We’ve all been huge fans of the car since its launch, and it was time for us to revisit the current model. At an American media event, we had the opportunity to spend a day with a 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z51, equipped with the 3LT package and removable targa roof.
The lines on the latest ‘Vette are striking, and it renders stares and thumbs-ups everywhere it goes. This is the bona fide American “I made it in life” statement, and rightfully so. Even in the bright Daytona Sunrise Orange Metallic (an extra $520) that our test car was painted, it stands out with a likeness to the Batmobile. From the sharp design cues to the black cooling ducts flush along the body and the black rear lip spoiler and diffuser, the Corvette Stingray is not only gorgeous, it’s also menacing. The low front end and overall stance are both unmistakably Corvette, but fresh and reworked thoroughly so they will never be confused with the previous model.
What’s truly astounding is that all of these styling cues aren’t just for show – they’re completely and fully functional. The flush vents atop the side of the car do a great job of cooling the transmission, which is mounted in the rear of the Corvette. This was done in order to optimize weight balance as well as overall stability and to maximize the car’s handling capabilities. The front lip and rear lip spoiler both help significantly with aerodynamics – cues borrowed from the famous Corvette Racing program.
Chevrolet hasn’t only worked some magic on the exterior; the cabin of the Stingray is a pleasant place to be. This new car will completely change preconceived notions that Corvettes have terrible interiors – everything is ergonomically correct and very aesthetically pleasing. My tester’s seats were finished in a combination of leather and suede, and the steering wheel and shifter are covered in suede as well. All interior materials are soft to the touch and feel almost Italian in quality. Rather than a plethora of buttons everywhere, controls are strategically placed and it’s easy to quickly familiarize oneself with the car.
Of course, the Corvette isn’t all about sexy looks and a luxurious interior. In fact, in the past, neither of these were real priorities. The real key to the Stingray’s heart is under the hood, wherein lies a 6.2L small-block V8 with a 11.5:1 compression ratio. It hurls out 455 horsepower (460 on this car because it’s equipped with the dual-stage performance exhaust) that peaks at 6,000RPM, and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,000RPM. Mated to the seven-speed manual transmission (that’s right, seven), the ‘Vette sprints to 100 km/h in just under four seconds. This puppy moves quickly and confidently. Second and third gears are the sweet spot in the power band, but it’s safe to say the car will take your breath away every time the go-pedal is pressed.
Not only does it get going quickly, the Corvette Stingray can halt to a stop. The meaty Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers bring all 3298 lbs. of American muscle to a stop in mere feet. Lastly, handling is one area where the C7 model doesn’t fail to impress. The Corvette’s steering is heavy where it needs to be, and the car is exceptionally responsive. Giving it some throttle in the corner will easily kick the rear end out, and stability/traction control systems hop in to stop you. Of course, these systems can be fully defeated if that’s what you’re going for. The 285-section rear tires (245s in front) ensure the car has maximum grip at any given time.
The seven-speed manual transmission sounds a bit confusing at first, but after a few minutes behind the wheel, I began to understand that it’s one of the best manual gearboxes on the market today. The shifter is heavy but easy to modulate, and the clutch is agreeable but doesn’t let you forget that it’s responsible for 460 horsepower. The Corvette is a relatively easy car to drive quickly, but it’s definitely not a force to be messed with for inexperienced drivers.
Inclusion of a seventh gear as well as implementation of Active Fuel Management both help significantly to keep fuel economy at its best. That is, the best that it can be in a V8-powered muscle car. The Corvette’s 6.2L is rated for an average of 8.3L/100km in optimal conditions. Naturally, with some curvy mountain roads and a beautiful lakefront drive at our disposal, we didn’t average anywhere near that. However, I was impressed to see that the car still returned about 12L/100km on premium fuel in combined driving over the course of our test. I’d expect the typical owner to average similar numbers over extended ownership.
In the driver’s seat, there’s ample technology to keep you busy, and it’s all functional as an aid to help you during both everyday driving as well as track use. The instrument cluster is a full colour digital display that’s capable of displaying variables such as G-meter, a lap timer, and temperature displays in addition to the typical speedometer, tachometer, audio display, and navigation info. Right in the driver’s field of vision is also one of the best heads-up displays in the industry right now, which is also able to display similar information in order to ensure your eyes are on the road at all times.
The Chevrolet Corvette is loved by its loyal followers, diehard American muscle car fanatics, and non-car people who think it’s “pretty”. The truth is, car enthusiasts have given the car plenty of hell over the past few decades for having cheap interior bits, poor handling, and a high price tag. The C7 with the Z51 and 3LT packages comes in at about $75,000, and can be had nicely optioned in the $80,000 range. That’s a serious amount of power for your dollar, and it now has the ability to tackle corners better than cars with twice the sticker price. This latest model is the iconic biggest chance the ‘Vette has had at full redemption, and it’s going to succeed.
In an age where most sports cars and even supercars are going towards forced induction, plug-in hybrid setups, it’s a fresh change of scene to feel the power and capabilities of a raw, naturally-aspirated V8. After all, a traditional American muscle car should boast nothing else under the hood. The sheer noise emitted from the four center-mounted tailpipes of the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z51’s dual-stage exhaust is a constant reminder that this car has been the very definition of the American dream ever since its conception decades ago.