Fish out of water: The 2014 Corvette brings back the Stingray
You'd have to go back in time a long way to find the very first rumor about the C7 Corvette; the next-generation Corvette has been one of the most anticipated and talked about new car debuts of the past several years. At the Detroit Auto Show, Chevy finally ended the speculation and opened the seventh chapter of the Corvette, a chapter that's driven by a story of past meeting future. Like it or leave it, the new 'Vette is officially here.
As has been reported for years, the new Corvette is a very thorough redesign. The exterior relays this message to the naked eye, but it's also true inside, underneath and around the corners. Only two parts are carried over from the sixth-generation, and GM says that the car is actually more all-new than the very first 1953 Corvette, which borrowed some parts from its contemporaries. From the chassis, to the body, to the powertrain, to the interior; this is a glistening new sports car.
While it's been completely overhauled and modernized, the 2014 Corvette is still inspired by legends past. The new model brings back the Stingray nameplate used on the second- and third-generation Corvettes.
"Stingray is one of the hallowed names in automotive history," said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design. “We knew we couldn’t use the Stingray name unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy. The result is a new Corvette Stingray that breaks from tradition, while remaining instantly recognizable as a Corvette the world over."
There's plenty to talk about here, but it's hard to start anywhere but the body. You can argue that the past few Corvette generations have been relatively evolutionary updates with one or two notable changes in each – the loss of classic pop-up headlamps on the C6, for instance.
The seventh-generation leans far more toward revolutionary. While certain lines, curves and angles are classic Corvette, the overall package comes across like a completely different beast – arguably more Ferrari than Chevy. In fact, between the big grille and LED-lined headlamps, I felt like I was staring at an F12 Berlinetta with body kit when looking at the Stingray head on.
While GM might want to sidestep any comment intimating it copied Ferrari, it would certainly agree with the assessment that the 2014 Corvette Stingray is very different from past generations. It explains that, while elements like the profile and dual tail lamps are familiar, no single element is repeated from previous generations.
"For the new Corvette to be called a Stingray, it had to deliver an incredible, purposeful visual impact – just as the original did in 1963,” said Tom Peters, exterior design director. "That visual impact is evident in fighter jets and the Stingray animal itself. Their beauty comes from their purpose, designed to cut through air or water as quickly and efficiently as possible. As with aircraft and living forms, every transition on every surface of the Corvette Stingray serves a purpose executed with beauty and proportion."
Corvette landed short of bringing back the iconic split rear windshield of the 1963 Stingray, but it gave the new car a distinct profile arrived at by aerodynamic optimization from the Corvette Racing program. The aerodynamics show up in the new grille, hood vents, front fender vents, tail lamp vents, rear fascia air outlets and rear spoiler on the Z51 Performance Package.
As I walked around the perimeter of the Stingray under the bright, relentless lights of the Detroit show floor, certain design elements spoke quite loudly – specifically, the low, swept-back profile that melts into the shoulders, the vertically oriented headlamps, and the sinister tail lamps that look like they belong on a Batmobile-inspired concept car. Unlike in the C6 and predecessors, where the cabin stood distinct from the well-defined, undulating profile line, the C7 cabin blends more seamlessly with the rest of the body. The car stands lower than the last generation at 48.6 inches/1,234 mm (versus 49.1 inches/1,247 mm of the C6). There's also a removable roof panel.
The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard-model Corvette ever. The new LT1 V8 engine displaces 6.2 liters and puts out up to 450 horses and 450 lb-ft of torque – up from 430 hp and 424 hp in the 2013 model.
The engine has an all-aluminum block; new cylinder-head design; new sculpted piston design; optimized oiling system; tri-lobe camshaft; and domed rocker covers. It also integrates new technologies like direct injection, Active Fuel Management and continuously variable valve timing. Active Fuel Management shuts down half of the cylinders when they're not needed during light-load driving, helping to conserve fuel. GM says that this technology does its thing without interrupting the driving experience.
"The Corvette LT1 represents the most significant redesign in the small block’s nearly 60-year history – building on its legacy to make one of the world’s best engines even better," said Sam Winegarden, vice president, Global Powertrain Engineering. "More than just great horsepower, the LT1 has been optimized to produce a broader power band. Below 4,000 rpm, the torque of the Corvette LT1 is comparable to that of the legendary, 7.0L LS7 out of the current Corvette Z06."
All that means that the new Corvette promises to be both the quickest and most fuel efficient standard 'Vette ever. GM estimates the 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) time at under four seconds and believes the 450-hp Stingray will get a grade of 26 mpg highway from the EPA.
The new LT1 will be assisted by buyer's choice of a new seven-speed manual transmission or a six-speed paddle-shift automatic optimized for fuel savings. The seven-speed manual includes a driver-selectable Active Rev Matching feature that anticipates the next gear and readies the throttle for smoother shifting.
Chassis and Engineering
Not only does the Corvette Stingray look different, it should drive different. At least that's the what GM intended. In an effort to make a more intimate driver-road connection, the automaker began by stretching things out. The 177-inch (4,495-mm) overall length is more than 2 inches longer than the outgoing Corvette, and the 106.7-inch (2,710-mm) wheelbase is an inch longer. The tracks are widened by nearly an inch, and the 73.9-inch (1,877-mm) overall width is more than an inch over the 2013 model. The model is more stable as a result, and GM says that it will be more adept at tight turns.
Moving upward, the new aluminum frame is 57 percent stiffer and just under 100 pounds (45 kg) lighter than the old frame. The increased torsional rigidity improves handling and reduces noise. The body that covers that frame is also lighter and uses carbon fiber in the hood and removable roof panel. The underbody panels, meanwhile, use carbon-nano composite construction, a blend of carbon fiber and traditional composite material. Overall the new body is 37 pounds (16 kg) lighter than the C6 body.
The Stingray retains the short/long-arm suspension design in the front and rear, but does get new suspension components, including hollow lower control arms, which cut about 9 pounds (4 kg), and new aluminum rear toe links, which save 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg) over the previous steel links.
The new electric power steering system was honed for responsiveness and control and includes a stiffer steering column. Available in the Z51 package, a smart electronic limited slip differential uses a hydraulically actuated clutch to shift torque based on factors such as speed, steering input and throttle position.
The driver can adjust 12 drive parameters at the twist of a dial. The Drive Mode Selector located next to the shift knob shuffles between five driving modes: Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track. The different drive modes change settings related to the gauge cluster configuration, Active Fuel Management, steering, active exhaust, electronic limited-slip differential and others. The system encompasses launch control, traction control, Magnetic Ride Control and StabiliTrak stability control.
Other standard equipment includes Brembo brakes, 18 x 8.5-inch front wheels and 19 x 10-inch rear wheels. GM hasn't listed a curb weight just yet, but it does say that the C7 has a 50/50 weight distribution.
As a result of all the redesign and tweaking, the new Corvette with Z51 Performance pack can ring up 1g of cornering acceleration – comparable to the 2013 Corvette Grand Sport.
The Corvette interior has been the subject of much derision over the years, and GM was determined to change perceptions in the new generation. It started with a wraparound cockpit inspired by a fighter jet. The pair of magnesium-framed seats feature enhanced rigidity for better support. The steering wheel has been downsized to 14.1 inches (360 mm) to give the driver a better connection with the wheels and road.
Two high-resolution eight-inch screens display driver information, and the center screen has touch functionality with gesture recognition. The car's infotainment system includes Chevrolet MyLink, high-definition radio, and enhanced OnStar with 3D navigation maps. A premium 10-speaker audio system is available as an option.
The Stingray delivers better comfort and support to both passenger and driver. A steel-reinforced grab bar on the center console gives the passenger an extra point to grasp during fast sprints and corners. It also provides a separation between passenger and driver, similar to the one used in the Jaguar F-Type. Soft-touch materials on the edge of the driver-side console provide a comfortable bracing point.
Available interior materials include Napa leather, aluminum, carbon fiber and microsuede.
"An honest interior starts with authentic materials," Chevy explains about its approach. "If it looks like aluminum, it is aluminum. If it looks like carbon fiber, it is carbon fiber. When it's leather, it's Grade A leather."
The 2014 Corvette Stingray will be built at GM's Bowling Green, KY plant later this year. It goes on sale in the third quarter. Prospective buyers will have to wait to find out just how much sting this ray will inject into their bank accounts. The first model – Model 0001 – will be auctioned off at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale collector car auction this weekend with proceeds going to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
Source: General Motors