There's no doubt the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette will ruffle feathers. All-new for 2014, the completely redesigned sportscar infuses a healthy dose of European flair into classic American muscle. While some die-hard 'Vette fans may grumble, the new car's lines, evocative of Italian exotics, might very well attract a wider audience that's younger and globally more diverse. Chevrolet is so proud of its creation they've dubbed it the Stingray, a name executives say is historically reserved for the most significant Corvette models. And, like its predecessors, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray offers the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to power.
Codenamed C7, the seventh-generation Corvette shares only two parts with the previous-generation model: the interior cabin filter and the rear latch for the removable roof panel. Coupes get a standard carbon-fiber roof, while convertibles get a full-power retractable top. Both body styles are built in GM's plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The 2014 Corvette is the most powerful standard production Corvette to date, courtesy of an all-new LT1 6.2-liter small block V8 good for 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. An optional dual-mode exhaust ekes out an extra five horses and five pound-feet of torque. Although the power gain over the outgoing model is moderate, the C7's additional 36 pound-feet of torque helps to keep ample low-end thrust on tap.
Best numbers are achieved with the optional Z51 Performance Package, which adds high-performance gear ratios, an electronic limited-slip differential, unique suspension tuning and more, which work in symphony to skyrocket the Corvette Stingray from 0–60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. Larger tires and brakes help the Z51-equipped Stingray stop from 60-0 mph in just 107 feet.
Fuel-saving technology adds a sensible side to the Stingray, such as direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, the latter of which allows the Corvette to run on four cylinders. Plenty of weight was shaved off, too, thanks to an aluminum frame that's 99 pounds lighter than the steel frame used on the previous model, as well as a carbon fiber hood and other new lightweight materials. The result is an EPA-estimated 17/29 mpg City/Highway with the 7-speed manual.
Five drive modes from Eco to Track change the balance between economy and performance by tweaking twelve elements, including steering, suspension and throttle mapping. Like all of GM's performance cars, the Stingray was tested extensively on the track during the development. The result is a 50/50 weight balance and improvements in handling.
Entry-level Corvettes in the past have been notoriously skimpy on luxury, especially in the cabin. This time around, the interior has been significantly improved with better finish and materials including aluminum trim (carbon fiber is optional), and standard dual, high-resolution information screens that are reconfigurable. Seats are built using an underlying structure of lightweight magnesium and come in two variants: A more comfort-oriented touring option and a sport seat with more supportive side bolstering.
When it comes to specs alone, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette doesn't have any apples-to-apples competitors. Coupe fans looking for high performance in a more practical package might consider the 580-hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 (with the same engine as the C6 Corvette ZR1), Dodge Challenger SRT8 or Ford Shelby GT500. None of these, however, can hold a candle to the Corvette's eye-catching design. Those seeking performance with European refinement and luxury could consider the Porsche Cayman, BMW Z4 or BMW M3, but these are underpowered and overpriced in comparison, making the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray the best performance value for the money.
In shadowy silhouette, the shape of the C7 still looks very much like a Corvette. Throw the lights on, however, and it's clear the 2014 Stingray is a new breed of beast. While the footprint doesn't differ much from the outgoing C6, the Stingray is slightly longer, lower and narrower.
Designers say they used both the stingray (of the aquatic variety) and fighter jets as inspiration. European styling cues appear borrowed from Ferraris and other uber-expensive performance cars. In fact, from the cabin, a glance of the sharp side crease in the side-view mirrors could make one think for a moment that he or she is riding in a Lamborghini. Lines overall are more aggressive an angular, replacing the softer curves of the previous model.
Up front, a more prominent grille is trimmed with mesh and chromework. Headlamps are longer, reshaped and farther swept back, with a row of L-shaped LED daytime running lamps. Narrow side reflectors now arc alongside the front fender.
The hood is more extensively creased, not only to give the Stingray a more powerful look, but to be more aerodynamic. A power bulge houses a functional vent.
The carbon fiber hood on coupes is lighter, helping the C7 achieve a lower center of gravity. Its light weight also makes it easier to remove. A translucent plastic roof is available as an option, but we found it uncomfortable to be constantly accosted by the glaring midday sun, so we don't recommend this option. Convertibles get a power-operated top.
Side lines are more sharply creased, with the stingray badge sitting just behind the front side vents. Sideview mirrors are more rectangular than before. Standard wheels are 18-inch aluminums in front and 19s in the rear; or 19s and 20s, respectively, with the Z51 performance package.
Although the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette in many ways evokes images of European sportscars, the Stingray hasn't completely abandoned its American heritage. This is most noticeable in the rear, with the squarish, Camaro-esque taillights. Bold, center quad exhaust pipes are shiny trumpet-like bells, making the Corvette look as if it had swallowed, then attempted to expel, a mariachi band.
The cabin was historically the Corvette's biggest weakness. While previous generations had an interior that was functional, materials, switches and displays had a decidedly parts-bin look. Not so with the Stingray. Chevrolet knows the new Corvette couldn't succeed based on exterior looks and powertrain alone, and interior designers did a fine job raising the bar with soft-touch materials, higher-end controls and better seats. However, the Corvette still uses extensive bonding material throughout the car, and that fresh-glue smell typical of past Corvettes is still undeniably present when one opens the door.
Immediately it's clear the cabin of the 2014 Corvette Stingray is driver-oriented. Instruments are slightly canted to the left, and the optional carbon fiber trim on our test car graced only the driver's side of the instrument panel. A digital display takes the place of traditional gauges, and changes depending on the drive mode selected. Eco, Weather and Tour modes display trip data, audio and navigation; Sport mode shows a classic analog-like gauge setup, and Track mode shows a competition-focused hockey stick design with lap timer based on the Corvette Racing C6.R racecar.
The passenger, meanwhile, gets a handle on each side to hold on to: One on the door, and another on the right side of the center console. Unlike most vehicles that place controls for both sides of the dual-zone automatic climate control in the center, the passenger's temperature control is located in the far right vent. This allows the passenger to easily control his or her ideal temp without encroaching on what is clearly meant to be the driver's territory in the center stack.
Like Corvettes of the past, the 2014 Corvette Stingray cockpit sits low, nestling driver and passenger deep inside and close to the road. The center console and shifter sit high compared to driver and passenger.
All-new seats are made with a magnesium frame, which makes them strong yet light. Two types of seats are available. The standard touring seat is comfortable and bolstered; an optional sport seat with more aggressive bolstering and cutouts for three-point harnesses will be available later in 2013. Seats adjust four ways and offer a reasonable range of adjustment, but this isn't a road trip car. After a few hours on a test drive, we were sore and numb and needed a good stretch. Leather upholstery is standard, and the optional LT3 package upgrades to buttery, premium Nappa leather with a leather-wrapped dash and door trim.
The steering wheel in the 2014 Corvette Stingray is the smallest that Chevrolet has ever made, and we like it. It's easy to grip and turn, and makes the car feel easy to maneuver. All cars, regardless of the transmission, come with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. We found this odd at first in our test car with the manual transmission. When equipped with the seven-speed manual, the paddles allow the driver to turn the rev matching function on and off. Although we like having the ability to control whether the car will match our revs, we're guessing that Chevrolet fitted every car with the same steering wheel for cost efficiency; the rev matching controls on the manual cars were a creative solution for a wheel with what otherwise would have been extraneous parts.
All models come with a display screen in the center stack, although functions are pretty bare bones in the base model. Navigation is much improved from previous versions of the Corvette (which in the past looked like they could have been running Windows 95), although the map display is not as detailed as we would have liked.
Readily available storage space is scarce in the 2014 Corvette Stingray. A tiny tray ahead of the gear shifter is not quite large enough for a phone. One must instead use a cupholder, or tuck in away inside the center console. Door pockets are narrow and relatively shallow; we were able to cram a standard-sized bottled water in sideways, but had great difficulty retrieving it.
There is little space for bags or purses; we had to put our gear in the trunk, where it slid around like mad during our test drive. There is additional storage for cell phones, wallets and other small items behind the center stack's display screen, but it's not good for quick access. On the plus side, the hidden compartment locks via a security code, making for a safe place to keep valuables while the car is parked.
Although other dimensions of the 2014 Corvette have remained the same or slightly increased, cargo space is even more scant. Coupes offer only 15 cubic feet, and the convertible a paltry 10 cubes with the top up. Typical of other corvettes, the trunk area is wide but shallow, limiting the types of luggage one can carry.
The powertrain of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette really shines. An all-new LT1 6.2-liter small block V8 cranks out 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque (and 460 hp/465 lb.-ft. with an optional dual-mode exhaust). Acceleration is fast and smooth. Maximum torque is still reached at 4600 rpm, but 36 more pound-feet help to keep plenty of low-end thrust on tap.
All the best goodies come with the optional Z51 Performance Package, which adds high-performance gear ratios, an electronic limited-slip differential, unique suspension tuning and more, which work in symphony to skyrocket the Corvette Stingray from 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, according to Chevrolet.
Fuel-saving technology adds a sensible side to the Stingray, such as direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, the latter of which allows the Corvette to run on just cylinders. Combined with a relatively light curb weight of 3,298 pounds for the coupe and 3,362 pounds for the convertible, fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/29 mpg City/Highway with the 7-speed manual.
Five basic driving modes tweak 12 different inputs, including steering, throttle mapping, traction and stability control, exhaust, suspension and more; the Z51's electronic limited-slip differential is also adjusted, as is magnetic ride control on cars so equipped. With the turn of a knob in the center console, drivers can choose between Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track, the latter of which has multiple sub-settings. Tour mode is default, and offers a good balance of comfort and sportiness. As would be expected, Eco mode offers the best fuel economy, while Sport is best for enthusiastic road driving.
One complaint we have about the drive selector is that the traction control on/off switch sits right in the center of the dial, which caused us to accidentally turn off the traction control a few times while searching for our desired mode. We also found it strange that traction control could be turned off in any mode, which didn't make much sense to us when using more conservative settings like Weather and Eco.
In the handling department, the Corvette is agile and easy to toss around, benefits of its light weight, trim proportions and refined suspension. Our drive route took us over some bumpy roads, including those covered in dirt and gravel. Although we kicked up a lot of dust, the uneven, slippery terrain never upset the car, even when driving assertively in Sport mode.
A smaller steering wheel helps to make the car feel more maneuverable, aided by a smaller turning circle that's nearly two feet less than the C6. We found the steering overall to be sharper, more refined and more precise.
In a car with the 7-speed manual transmission, we turned on the rev matching function. Different from some cars, the rev match in the Stingray kicks in when you take the gear out of the gate, instead of waiting until the shifter is fully in the next gear. While this does allow the engine to match faster, we found it took a little getting used to, and learned it was best to throw the car into gear as quickly as possible to maximize smoothness, as opposed to leisurely slipping it from gear to neutral to gear.
Shifts with the 6-speed automatic transmission weren't as satisfying as with the manual. Even though you can shift via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles, the transmission is still a traditional automatic, which means you won't get the lightning-fast shifts of dual-clutch gearboxes. Still, the auto remains the best choice for those who don't want to row through gears around town and in traffic.
Braking is crisp and confident thanks to big power-assisted discs with four-piston calipers on both fronts and rears. Larger, slotted rotors with the Z51 pack help the Stingray stop from 60-0 mph in just 107 feet. The standard Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat tires were created especially for the C7 Stingray, and have asymmetrical sidewalls like those found on racecars. They're plenty sticky, and we brought our test car back from the rough country roads peppered with gravel. Softer tires typically equate to a shorter lifespan, but these offer incredible grip plus a tread wear rating of 300, which means they shouldn't wear out after only a few months.
What's more, anyone who's ever taken off at a green light in a Corvette with cold tires knows it's a recipe for wheel spin. A new tire temperature system in the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette uses a sophisticated algorithm that determines tire temperature and modulates traction control accordingly to maximize grip in every temperature and driving situation.
We were a bit disappointed that the Corvette's throaty exhaust wasn't as loud as we would have liked, even in Sport mode. While it does give a satisfying roar when you really open it up, the exhaust note is relatively tame otherwise.
After our street drive, we tested the Stingray on a large autocross course and played with Track mode and its sub-sets that go in order from more conservative to more aggressive: Wet, Dry, Track 1, Track 2. Here the Corvette Stingray really showed its improvement in chassis, suspension, steering and handling. With the Stingray's predecessors, it felt like you had to really throw the car into the corner. Now it glides in with much more panache. All of the models we've driven have been fitted with the Z51 Performance Package and Magnetic Ride Control with Performance Traction Management. We would like to drive a Stingray without any options to see how it compared.
Once we had the hang of the course, our driving instructor encouraged us to floor it coming out of the apexes; something we wouldn't typically do unless we wanted to take out a bunch of cones at the track-out. But we trustingly followed his advice and, sure enough, the car wouldn't give us any more power than was necessary to power out cleanly. In other words: The 2014 Corvette Stingray, when fitted with all the bells and whistles, makes you seem like a much better driver than you actually are.
We felt pretty confident about our abilities until our instructor swapped seats and took the wheel, switching off all driver aids. He took off twice as fast, effortlessly drifting around every corner and making the cones feel much wider than when we were in the driver's seat. While the Corvette Stingray indeed kept some of its raw, rowdy edge, there was a new sense of refinement, as if the brawny American had spent a year abroad at a European finishing school.
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray raises the iconic sportscar to a whole new level with radical design, a much-improved cabin, increased efficiency and competition-crushing power. Its modest starting price continues to make the Corvette the best performance value for the money.
NewCarTestDrive.com contributor Laura Burstein filed this report after driving the 2014 Corvette Stingray in Monterey, California.