What a super-positive review by a skeptic, a reporter who previously preferred hybrids... And now he has become addicted to the StingRay convertible.
Chicago Tribunemy.chicagotribune.com said:Review: 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible Makes A Convert!
It wasn’t until I spent a weekend behind the wheel of the 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible that I began to understand the allure of the Corvette.
When you are behind the wheel of a Corvette, you are driving. There is nothing else. The contours of the road, the surrounding traffic, the passing landscape, the thrum of the engine, the level of engagement turns driving into an experience, not just a function.
For a driver who prizes plug-in hybrids and fuel-saving technological innovations, this has been a conversion of the spiritual kind. I’ve never driven anything like it and I don’t want to drive anything else.
You’ve likely heard about the C7, or seventh generation Corvette, that was introduced in 2013 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Corvette. The C7 starts with model year 2014 and features the hallowed Stingray name, which had first graced the second generation Vette from 1963 to 1967 and was phased out in 1976. The C2 was considered by many as the sportiest version of America’s sports car. Until now.
Winner of the 2014 North America Car of the Year and Automobile Magazine’s 2014 Automobile of the Year, the 2014 Stingray is GM’s most complete Corvette in 60 years. A synthesis of style and performance has allowed GM to trim fat with the aluminum frame and add muscle in other places, improving its aerodynamics and jacking up its metrics so that a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds complements an EPA highway fuel economy of 29 mpg.
Gorgeous: My test model had the velocity yellow tintcoat (an extra $995) that a young girl more aptly called “a banana car.” This cop magnet drew praise from dozens of passersby in Vette City in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and on the road semi-truck drivers deferred changing lanes until I passed, teenagers in jalopies made hand gestures from the appreciative to the obscene, couples in Sunday cruisers nodded me on, and there was even some road banter with a handful of Ford Mustang 5.0 drivers in my 900-mile trip.
Although GM says no detail is repeated from previous generations, the C7 could not be mistaken for anything but a Corvette. The C7 is as low and lean as ever, but its evolution is not without its critics. Some enthusiasts don’t like the chunkier rear end, where you’ll find the most distinguishing exterior change. The twin circular taillights—the hallmark of previous generations—have been replaced with three-dimensional square LED taillights that add a nighthawk menace to the rear.
Pop-up headlights went away with the C5 in the name of anytime aerodynamics and LEDs fill out the front lights as well, with daytime running lights and amber turn indicators.
Under the carbon-fiber hood, which has a vent that keeps the nose down at high speed, is a 6.2-liter V8 engine with direct injection and variable valve timing, among so many other performance and efficiency optimizations. A 7-speed manual transmission is standard with Rev Match paddles instead of the paddle shifters you’d find offered on the 6-speed automatic. An 8-speed automatic will be offered in 2015 models, though I doubt most drivers will improve fuel economy by GM’s estimated 5 percent.
The engine generates 460 horsepower with performance exhaust ($1,195 extra) and 465 pound-feet of torque. A tap of the accelerator at 60 mph feels the same as at 100 mph: responsive, powerful, and capable of just about any passing maneuver you can imagine. So much torque is being delivered so instantly to the rear-wheel drive that the unseasoned but eager driver will spin wheels from a stop.
Embracing the interior: The most dramatic change to the C7 comes out of the most consistent criticism of the C6: the underwhelming interior. The thoughtfulness under the hood and on the exterior is even more dramatic inside.
Getting in a Corvette will never be easy, but getting out is difficult because of how nicely the seats seem to hug you. The interior is tight, as it should be in a proper sports car, but once seated the cabin doesn’t feel cramped at all. After 900 miles in 30 hours, I was conscious of a little soreness in my shift thigh from the door-side ridge of the seat, but the 8-way power seat controls with power lumbar support made for easy adjustments. The forward/back control gives less than 4 inches of range, and the vertical control may give 2 inches of range, based on my crude measurements. Regardless, I’ve been less comfortable over shorter distances in sedans and luxury cars.
Aside from shifting gears, you really don’t have to shift your body. Most of your inputs are accessible via the steering wheel.
My model had the 3LT Preferred Equipment Group for $8,005. It includes Napa leather seat inserts, heated and ventilated seats and the heads-up display (HUD), which is that video game-like projection appearing beyond the dash and between the sculpted shoulder of the hood. The HUD and the seats might’ve been worth the extra $8k on their own, though, like any option bundle, there were things I wouldn’t purchase, such as the convenience net in the trunk.
The loaded package is GM’s response to the critics, and if that isn’t enough you can opt for the cool carbon fiber dash styling for an extra grand. Whatever the case, there are a dizzying array of options, especially compared to the two state-of-the-art options offered in the original 1953 model.
Not only are heat and a.m. radio standard in the C7, so are dual-zone climate control with buttons on the passenger vent and a Bose 9-speaker audio system that cranks out SiriusXM and pretty much any input you want via Bluetooth, USB and all that.
Connectivity: The game changer on the interior of the C7 is Chevy’s next generation MyLink system, which is being rolled out in the latest Chevy Impala and Chevy Silverado as well. This could be the best infotainment system out there.
Calling one system a winner in the ongoing development of in-car connectivity may invite criticism, especially if you’ve used Chevy’s previous generation system, but the telematics in the Corvette blew me away. GM’s Next Gen system is aesthetically simple and neat, with fewer buttons than Chrysler’s UConnect, which can sometimes feel overwhelming, and a more streamlined design than Audi’s elegant MMI system. After 20 years of developing OnStar and making telematics a battleground for automakers, GM has come as close as possible in perfecting hand-on-wheel connectivity with smartphone applications, navigation options, and voice recognition software.
Let’s start with the steering wheel, which is smaller than previous generations. The right controls have four-way arrows and a center select button. From that you can access virtually everything on the vehicle information display between the tachometer and speedometer. The left button will take you to the menu on what would be a left drop down on a tablet. There are 7 options, including audio, navigation, performance and vehicle info. Select one and it will appear in the center. Want to test your 0-60mph time? Left click on performance, scroll a couple paces to 0-60, hit enter, then hit the gas. Tire pressure? Click on vehicle info, do the same process, hit enter. XM radio? You can scroll through channels or presets. If you want to go deeper into the selected field, click the right arrow for options. So if I’m in XM and I hit the right arrow it will let me switch between AM/FM/Pandora and my phone.
If I’m making this sound complicated, it’s not. It might take a minute to learn how to navigate the system, then getting to where you want to go can take less than 3 clicks, with your eyes straying as far from the road as if you were checking your speed (which you don’t need to do in the Vette because HUD projects it onto the road). As far as steering wheel control buttons go, it’s the most intuitive and easy to pick up on the market.
It all connects to the 8-inch touch screen in the center control panel, if you prefer to use that (you won’t). And your phone? Forget about it. The screen raises to reveal a cavity with a USB port, perfect to keep your phone out of sight, out of mind. It also doubles as a vault of sorts; enter in a Valet code and the screen won’t activate or go up without the code. The car can still be driven but your personal info, as well as whatever’s stored in the cubby, is secure. Pardon? The screen is not the most impressive feature of the system. In fact, you won’t even need it once you start using the voice recognition system.
The learning curve of the voice prompts is as sharp as the steering wheel controls. You can answer the voice prompts, or if you are lacking patience you can click on command options in the vehicle information display between the tach and spedo. Voice recognition has been dodgy at best thus far, but I had a nearly 9 out of 10 success rate with it understanding my contacts’ names.
It doesn’t read text messages yet but one of the most frustrating elements of previous generations of MyLink was the navigation search system, where you have to enter it physically on the touchscreen. The voice recognition system paired with the center display solves this: I was able to find, call and book a hotel room using the triumvirate functions of voice, display and touch screen. I pulled over to do so, but with a bit more familiarity I could see voice recognition being used to do it all while driving. The MyLink bot might ask your “Pardon?”a few times, but even that is charming because it’s efficient.
Top up, top down: All this was happening in a convertible. Road noise is minimal with the top up, which has a glass rear window. Sound comes from the rear but it is not enough to disrupt ride comfort or voice recognition software. Voice controls worked at 60 mph as well as they did at higher speeds. Only one person said I sounded muffled when I tried to spell my name, but it was a customer service rep more interested in Game of Thrones on the lobby TV, I would subsequently find out.
Get this: Voice recognition works with the top down. Without much surrounding road noise, I used the voice and steering wheel controls to place a call; my contact said there was a brief delay but at 50 mph with the top down the software worked as well as most other systems.
There are more convertible surprises. At a slow spot on interstate construction, I was able to put the top down while in gear. Chevy says the electronic top can operate while the car is moving at speeds of up to 30 mph, though it takes about 15 seconds for it to fully seal.
With any convertible comes reduced cargo space. The 10 cubic feet in the Corvette’s trunk (15 cubic feet for the coupe) is shallow. You might be able to fit a smaller set of golf clubs and two carry-on type bags but I couldn’t fit my small cooler because of the raised handle. The depth is less than a foot, roughly.
The convertible is an extra $5,000 so the starting price is $58,800 with the Z51 performance package; my model had nearly $15,000 in options, giving it a total MSRP of $74,365.
The drive: At a base price of just under $55,000, the Corvette is the most accessible high performance sports car on the market. The bang-for-your-buck cliché is epitomized by the Corvette and it is most evident behind the wheel. On the first leg of my trip from Chicago to Bowling Green, I encountered rain, sleet and generally unfavorable conditions for a convertible sports car. It was fine. There was no slipping or spinning of wheels, thanks to safety and stabilizing options such as throttle, ride and traction controls.
There are 5 modes to choose from while driving, covering 12 performance parameters. Traction control is standard on Touring, Eco and Weather modes, though you can shut it off with the push of a button just below the gear box. In Weather mode, electronic throttle control (ETC) helps drivers manage the road in slippery conditions by restricting torque to the rear wheels. In other words, you’re less likely to spin the wheels from a stop. Active handling and magnetic ride control also keep the car balanced. In Sport and Track mode, traction control is off, giving the driver a more aggressive and rawer experience with the road.
Eco and Touring mode are the most fuel-efficient because they fully utilize the Vette’s three-headed approach to maximizing fuel economy: Variable valve timing, direct injection, and cylinder deactivation, which GM calls active fuel management. Essentially, at constant cruising speeds between 45 and 65 mph, 4 of the 8 cylinders will shut off. Don’t worry, you won’t notice any delay when you need all 8 to go.
And it goes, holy Zora, does it go: Going from 60 to 100 puts no strain on the engine and does not affect the driver. If there wasn’t a passing landscape of vehicles or milemarkers, it would be hard to notice the difference in speed. There is no vibration in the cabin, no shaking from underneath, only your flagging fuel-efficiency numbers in the vehicle info display.
I averaged 26 mpg at an average vehicle speed of 67 mph over 430 miles. In rain. On the way back north to Chicago, in and out of construction delays, at an average speed of 57 mph, I averaged 25 mpg.
Admittedly, I’m not the best to compare it to other high-performance sports cars. I’ve driven a Viper and it was too much to handle on a daily basis; I’ve ridden in 911s and felt like I was in a race pod; I’ve driven 5.0 GTs and while the Mustang is fun and awesome in its own right, it is the teenager to the Corvette’s adult. Driving the Corvette is like finding the perfect burger or the perfect lover—I needn’t look anymore, lovely cheeseburger.