The Corvette is back in awe-inspiring Stingray guise. Jonathan Crouch reports on an American car claiming cornering prowess to match the best of its European rivals. Which would make this a very unusual US supercar indeed.
The Corvette Stingray is a machine that deserves to be taken very seriously. If you like the idea of a car that's just as capable as a really good Porsche 911 but costs less and is loaded with charisma, here's your ride. With 455bhp and a price tag just north of sixty grand, it looks solid value.
After much conjecture, the C7 generation Corvette has arrived and although it's certainly a more evolutionary design than some were expecting, it's nevertheless a model that's got the chops to shake up the established order. Its predecessor had established a reputation for being a car that handled well and went like stink and later versions of the C6 even started to feel reasonably well screwed together inside; certainly a long way ahead of the plastic dungeon that was the C5 'Vette interior.
The C7 improves perceived quality again but if you want Audi-style soft-touch, silcon-damped everything, you're probably looking at the wrong car. The Stingray is all about a charismatic V8, big performance and all the other things that you suspect might one day be legislated out of existence. Get it while it's hot.
Let's put a couple of misconceptions about the Corvette to bed. It's not a big and heavy car. This Stingray model doesn't take up much more space on the road than a Porsche 911 and it weighs 1,562kg - significantly less than even an entry-level V6 Jaguar F-TYPE. It also does the go, stop and steer thing like no Corvette to date. It'll go quicker through a slalom and hold higher lateral g figures than a Porsche Cayman S and it'll outbrake one from 60mph as well. All UK cars are fitted with the Z51 performance pack, which includes an aero package, upgraded suspension and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Larger wheels (19-inch front and 20-inch at the back) and brakes (345mm front, 338mm rear) are also included. The C7-generation car's magnetic ride control suspension has been specifically tuned for British roads, so ride quality is a big step forward compared to the C6.
Downsides? Well, you'll be sitting on the wrong side of the car. We were promised right-hand drive Stingrays and Chevrolet is still insisting they'll arrive but for the time being at least, you change gear with your right hand. There's a choice of a seven-speed manual or a six-speed auto box. Go for the manual - it auto blips the direct injection engine on the downchange and requires a lot less effort than the old stick shift. A popular option will be the performance exhaust system which sees the engine's output climb to 460bhp and 465lb ft. Even without it, the Stingray will get to 60mph from standstill in less than four seconds.
In both coupe and convertible forms, the styling has divided opinion, being notably more angular than its immediate predecessors, with more than a hint of Nissan GT-R and Ferrari 599 about some angles. The twin round lights at the back that were a Corvette identifier have been swapped out in favour of more angular lamps. I don't think it's as pretty a car as the C6 but it looks a good deal more aggressive. The quad exhausts look utterly OTT but since when was subtlety a Corvette prerequisite?
The cabin is better finished than ever before although the seats feel as if they've been designed for fifty-something Americans and could probably use tighter and more supportive side bolstering for the European market. Corner the car hard and you'll probably find yourself bracing yourself against the rather unyielding door card with your left knee - which isn't ideal. The instrument pack is something quite special, with the old gauge cluster replaced with a digital unit, showing conventional info in the default setting, switching to a large tachometer in 'Sport', while 'Track' mode reveals a lateral rev display inspired by the Corvette C6.R race car. The stitched leather steering wheel is a quality item but some of the minor switchgear still looks a bit parts bin and the paddle shifters are cheap - unforgivable when you're spending over £60,000. That said, even the cheapest surface material inside, a sort of powder-coat black finish, has a nice texture to it.
Although it's impossible not to look at the US pricing and feel a bit wistful (from $52k), the fee of just over £60,000 that Chevrolet charges for the Stingray in the UK includes the Z51 pack and a few other trick bits as well. Remember that it's fairly easy to specify a Porsche Cayman S to this sort of money and that a base 911 with 110bhp less costs over £12,000 more. To buy a 911 that'll dice with the Stingray, you need to drop over £100,000 on the specialist GT3. Advantage USA.
Standard equipment includes the tablet-inspired Chevrolet MyLink connected radio with two 8-inch display screens (with a screen personalisation option), USB port, SD card and auxiliary input jacks, as well a centre screen that lowers for device storage. Options include metallic paint (£600), tintcoat paint (£1,000), satellite navigation (£1,450) and black aluminium wheels (£550). As before, the car is offered as a coupe or a convertible.
You don't buy a 6.2-litre V8-engined sports car and then get a bit precious about fuel economy, but Chevrolet has improved the efficiency of this Stingray quite markedly. The Corvette's big, lazy engine means that you can achieve some very good economy figures when you're cruising and this model is no exception. The engine will happily thrum along at 3,000 rpm at motorway speeds in 4th gear. Drop it into the super tall 7th and it's ticking over at a mere 1,300rpm. In these conditions, you'll get the best out of the cylinder on demand technology and may well get around 32mpg. Drop the hammer and you'll get closer to 10mpg.
Residual values are tough to figure, but the Corvette's burgeoning reputation as a 'proper' sports car and its relative exclusivity should buoy things up to a certain extent. The only worry is that left-hand drive cars will be devalued when right-hand drive imports commence.
The Corvette Stringray doesn't need to try too hard to impress. It appeals to a very different clientele in this country compared to the US. Over there, it's the car for the 55 year old plumber made good, something you treated yourself to when you retired early. Here it's a different proposition. It's a car that will be seen on track days and will be used hard. Few will be disappointed with their decision to choose the Corvette over, say, a Porsche Cayman S or a BMW M4. It even manages to make Nissan's GTR look a tad expensive.
It won't be for everyone though. If anything, the styling on this C7 generation car is brasher than what's gone before, although the interior is a far more pleasant place to be. Perhaps that's indicative of its manufacturer's increased confidence in the car. It might appear overblown and over here, but the American car stereotypes about handling and ride are laid to rest for good by the awesome Stingray. Sports cars don't get much better than this.