2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray rocks, rolls, and thrills
Few cars that those of us at the Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center review live up to the hype. But every now and then, a new model meets or exceeds expectations.
One of those rare moments arrived last fall with the Tesla Model S, and another unfolded early last Friday morning when we were greeted by a canary-yellow, seventh-generation 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray sitting in our shop. Nearly the whole staff stopped to gawk even before their morning coffee. (That last part is noteworthy.) Once caffeinated, they drifted back, somehow drawn to comment and reminisce.
And why not? The new Corvette is the sleekest-looking American-bred machine in years. Although we’re not normally wowed by such things, the knowledge that under its carbon-fiber hood is an all-new 460-hp, 6.2-liter V8 kindles a certain salivary urge. Besides, about a hundred feet away was our test track, with almost a mile of snaky handling circuit and a Boeing 787-worthy straightaway.
Test program manager Gabriel Shenhar, who’d arranged this two-week loaner from GM, seized the reins first, and I jumped in to ride shotgun and take notes, by which I mean hold on really tight. The passenger side doesn’t offer much to grab on to, though. There’s no “passenger assist grip” on the overhead T-top, and in any case, the passenger is granted about as much autonomy inside this Stingray as a hamster in a science lab. All the controls—instruments, audio, climate system, the works—are angled toward the driver, who gets to preside like a starship captain.
You don’t hop aboard this car; you climb down and nestle in. Still, the cabin doesn’t feel subterranean and claustrophobic like, say, the Chevrolet Camaro’s does. There’s pretty good stretch-out space, a welcoming seat, and a reasonable view out. Cabin quality and fitments are a whole lot nicer than they used to be, too. The switchgear and materials look modern—surrounded by a carbon-fiber motif—and fairly upscale. Not up to, say, Audi levels, but worlds away from the last-generation Corvette’s embarrassing Cobalt-grade interior.
Out on the straight, Shenhar quickly riffled through the seven-speed manual shift, getting all the way up to fourth gear before we hit the esses of our handling circuit and the screaming began. Not from me so much, but from the steamroller-like wide-track Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. The driver can choose from 12 (!) driving modes, altering everything from traction and stability control settings to the exhaust sound. The latter comes from an impressive horn section, four exhaust ports lined up in a neat row right below the back license plate.
We didn’t have time for any of that. I think we were in Competition mode, with all the electronic nannies turned off, because Shenhar seemed to have no problem kicking the rear out in the handling circuit’s half dozen ever-more-challenging curves. This, for a passenger, is a little like hurtling through a 3D video game, except that your body is trying to throw itself out the window in pursuit of the stomach that left first.
Toss, catch, toss, catch, and hold. Shriek, slide, recover. Right, right, then left, right, left, right, right, onto the straight and do it again. On our second trip up the circuit the tail swung out on turn three and Shenhar’s catch came a little late. Oops, on the grass for a moment, then regain the pavement for more pitch and catch. Now we’re getting the hang of it, by which I mean I am hanging from the shoulder belt, and out we go onto the long straight. We lope up to the far end at a brisk 95 mph or so, then square off for a run down the straight flat out.
This is a stretch of just over three quarters of a mile, and I’ve driven well over a thousand cars down that wide ribbon in the past 20 years. Reaching 100 mph is nothing special, but getting much farther north than 120 can be tough even in a really fast car. Shenhar got the Stingray up to 144 mph with plenty of blacktop left for me to exhale once.
Back in the shop, the other test engineers were waiting for their turn, and somewhat relieved that the first run of the day hadn’t cooked anything. A queue had formed, with our testers eager to experience this new thrill ride. The line was long, but well worth it.
We will soon have a true first drive and video. Assuming we can stop playing long enough. . . .
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