The Chevrolet Corvette is an icon, now in the third year of its seventh generation, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as a C7.
The 2016 Corvette is available with two engines and as a coupe or convertible. The Stingray uses a 6.2-liter V8 making 455 hp and 460 foot-pounds of torque, and can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds. The Z06 uses a supercharged 6.2-liter making 650 horsepower and 650 foot-pounds of torque; with the 7-speed manual transmission the Z06 can accelerate 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, and with the 8-speed automatic it can do it in an eye-popping 2.95 seconds.
From the start, the C7 was designed with a solid aluminum body structure as a convertible, with the coupe top bringing extra rigidity; historically, convertibles have been created from coupes, so there has always been flexing and shake. That’s a thing of the past, at least with Corvette engineering. Many good things result, from no interior rattles to much better cornering at speed.
The 2016 Stingray and 2016 Corvette Z06 get new options and color-coded interior and exterior design packages with special wheels, a carbon fiber hood, and special convertible tops. There will be 500 models made with the C7.R Edition package that mimics the fantastically successful factory racing cars.
Other new equipment for the 2016 Corvette includes a flat-bottom steering wheel, a power latch for the rear hatch, and an available front camera to prevent hitting the low spoiler on sidewalk curbs.
For all the performance, the Corvette still gets good mileage, with an EPA-estimated 21 mpg Combined city and highway. The Z06 with its humongous 650 horsepower is rated 16 mpg.
The latest Corvette has a supercar look, and it looks fast standing still. It’s got a long and low hood and swept windshield. As a theme, it flaunts sharp lines and crisp angles, an array of creases and vents, planes that intersect and warp. It’s as striking for the times as was the original split-window Stingray in 1963. And the Z06 has even wider fenders and an array of aerodynamic add-ons. Some observers don’t love the European styling and the Camaro rear end.
The cabin is surprisingly luxurious, even the Z06 with its performance theme. Premium or soft-touch materials, available in deep colors, fully wrap the interior. Napa leather and other upgrade interior materials are available.
There’s either a standard GT seat or Competition Sport seat with more bolstering. The GT seats are supportive, comfortable despite the low-slung cabin, and good for long periods behind the wheel. The Competition Sport seats are designed for smaller guys, so we suggest trying them on before buying.
The instrument panel is simple and focused on the driver, making it clear that the Stingray is about performance. The center stack has a carbon-fiber surround that looks like it came from a six-figure supercar.
Leg and head room are good for six-footers, and there’s lots of room for personal bags under the rear hatch or in the convertible’s trunk. The soft convertible top with raise and lower at 30 mph, so if you’re caught in a sudden thunderstorm in a traffic jam, you’re covered. The top is tight and affords good rearward visibility.
Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system in the Corvette is on par with that in European and Japanese super sports cars. The available Performance Data Recorder logs audio and video including while the car is being valet parked; but mostly it makes available a data overlay of key performance parameters.
The C7 Corvette is bred for performance. It can run with cars that cost twice as much. Its 6.2-liter V8, designated LT1, makes all the right sounds, and pushes the car through the quarter mile in 12 seconds with the 7-speed manual transmission, which mates great with the engine. The paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic, designed and built by GM, is a tenth quicker. It matches any dual clutch, and in fact Chevy says it beats the Porsche PDK shift times by 80 milliseconds, an eternity in the world of performance transmissions. During our test miles on the street and the track, we found that the 8-speed does a remarkable job using the paddles or letting the transmission shift itself, programmed by the Drive Mode Selector.
The Performance Traction Management system helps the driver control the car at race speeds. Even with the electronic aids shut down, the Stingray shows off remarkable poise and balance. Flat cornering, over 1 g of lateral grip, nimble reflexes, and accurate electric power steering yield satisfying times for the enthusiast. The Stingray transmits feedback to the driver so it’s easy to feel what the car is doing.
If that weren’t enough, a Z51 package is available to make the Stingray’s performance even hotter. It includes lighter wheels, bigger brakes, an electronic rear differential, adjustable dampers, and tweaked aerodynamics including a rear spoiler. The Magnetic Ride Control is available on Stingrays without the whole Z51 package, along with the wheels and spoiler.
The Corvette Stingray offers the best bang for the buck among high-performance cars.
Driving impressions by Bengt Halvorson. Sam Moses contributed to this report.