In Americana, few things are as iconic as is the Chevrolet Corvette. From the concepts of the 1950s to the current generation, they are universally loved as collectible works of automotive beauty. For the sports car industry, the 'Vette pioneered the "Coke bottle" design concept, brought advanced lightweight body work to the masses, and has crafted seven generations of a model name synonymous with classy American style. Here's our hands-on look at the latest of those.
For most of its history, the Chevy Corvette has seen its Stingray model as the best selling of the car's options. This holds true today as well, with the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray still offering the most performance, style, and premium comfort for the buck. This two-seat piece of rolling art is available as either a removable-top coupe or a drop top convertible. In either case, a big, throaty V8 powers the rear wheels through a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.
Gizmag didn't just drive the current-generation 'Vette, though. We drove the Corvette Stingray in both its convertible and coupe forms and with both a standard shift and automatic transmission. No skimping at this joint.
The styling this seventh-generation (C7) Corvette carries is at once sinuous beauty and powerful muscle. Onlookers are treated to the classic hourglass shape of the 'Vette's historic appeal with all of its feminine undertones. The shoulders of this lady are strong, but thin and well-rounded, dipping quickly to the thin waistline that begins at the door. This flares out into wide, powerful hips that promise plenty of movement.
Under all that innuendo lies an engine and drivetrain that motivates this car extremely well. A 6.2-liter V8 pushes 455 horsepower (339 kW) and 460 pound-feet (624 Nm) of torque through the transmission. A performance exhaust option raises HP by five points and adds a lot of throat in the process. The base transmission is a seven-speed manual with automatic rev-matching. An eight-speed automatic is an option. Both transmissions have a launch control mode and power the rear wheels exclusively.
Several performance tuning options, including the aforementioned exhaust treatment, are added through the Z51 option package. This adds a performance-tuned suspension, an electronic limited-slip differential with cooling, and improved gear ratios in the transmission. An optional magnetic ride control allows the driver to tune the suspension through button-push selection. Our test vehicles included all of this.
Chevrolet says that the Corvette Stingray has a 0-60 mph (96 kph) time of 3.7 seconds on the track. We managed just under five seconds in the coupe with a manual transmission and just over five seconds in the convertible with the automatic. Not surprisingly, driving with these kinds of numbers means that the EPA rating of 29 mpg (8 L/100km) on the highway is unrealistic. When driven nicely, though, the Corvette can make that estimate. Be forewarned that it requires gargantuan quantities of self-control to drive that way in this car.
We also note that real performance geeks who have little interest in everyday drivability and comfort can look towards the supercharged Corvette Z06 model with its 650 hp (485 kW) and 650 lb-ft (881 Nm) of torque and tuning to match. Zero to sixties nearing 3 seconds are possible in this version of the 'Vette.
All of that exterior beauty is matched, for the first time in the Corvette's history, by the interior's quality. Previous generations of the 'Vette, back to the beginning, were notoriously skimpy in interior refinement. Not so with the C7. It begins with a driver-centric layout, including a canted center stack, and excellent materials choices.
Seating is very firm, but well-balanced and comfortable, offering plenty of bolstering for security during the drive without becoming confined. Seating upgrades in the Z51 package add adjustable side bolsters to go with the adjustable lumbar that's standard. Sport seating is also available.
All Corvettes now have five drive modes, selectable by the driver: Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport, and Track. Each changes the throttle response, steering assist level, and transmission vectoring as well as how the stability control systems operate. Adding the optional Magnetic Ride Control also adjusts suspension dampers with these settings. Weather mode optimizes for inclement weather driving, although a rear-drive sports car is not likely to do well in snow or on ice however much tuning you give it. Eco mode optimizes fuel efficiency. The other three each do unique things to the car's feel, with the Tour mode offering the most cushion and comfort while Sport and Track each move progressively towards performance driving at the expense of comfort.
Also improved for the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the infotainment system. An 8-inch MyLink touchscreen interface is featured in all Corvettes of this generation. This screen slides away to reveal a hidden, felt-lined compartment behind, with an integrated USB plug as a stash point for electronics. Also included in the Corvette is another 8-inch information screen embedded into the instrument cluster, providing a host of vehicle information and options for the driver. Some upgrade packages add a heads-up display for the driver as well. This shows at the bottom of the windscreen and is easily adjustable with options for various outputs to be included. A simple three-switch control system to the left of the wheel on the dash operates the full-color HUD, including one for dimming or switching it off.
The infotainment system in the 2016 Corvette now comes standard with Apple CarPlay and, in models built later in the year, Android Auto. This allows the smartphone user to project some apps to the infotainment screen and utilize them from there, often with hands-free voice interaction available. Also featured in some packages is the very fun and useful Performance Data Recorder, which records driving through the car's front-facing camera with various overlays available for recording speed, performance, or other metrics. This also doubles as a recording device for valet service when the car is in Valet Mode, letting the owner know what was done with the car after the keys were handed off. All recordings are saved on an SD card which mounts in the glove box (it locks when in Valet Mode).
Out on the road, the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a smooth, gliding machine that fits its namesake. It's not only beautiful to look at, but it's lovely to drive as well. Performance aside, for everyday driving around town or on the freeway, the Corvette is unmatched in its category. Thoroughly enjoyable sensations, from the low tone of the exhaust to the perfect road feel in the pedals are all indications of the C7 Corvette's design.
In the convertible, the top can be raised or lowered at up to 30 miles per hour (48 kph) and in the coupe, the 13-pound (6 kg) carbon fiber roof lifts off easily and stows in the rear hatch with secure, integrated mounts. There are few things in life as satisfying as is driving a Corvette Stingray, top down or off, on a sunny summer's day. The 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the best that American automotive has to offer the world. And it's brilliant.