Chevrolet introduced the 2014 Corvette Stingray ahead of the action-packed Detroit auto show, revealing sharp-edged styling, more power, a better-dressed interior, and impressive materials technology.
Corvette history is full of body and interior freshenings being passed off as new cars. Even the fifth and sixth-generation Corvettes share much more than a passing resemblance. But this seventh-gen Corvette (aka C7) shares just two parts with the outgoing car, while remaining true to the car's 21st-century persona. This is a new machine.
The core formula remains unchanged, with wedge-like styling, beefy V8 up front driving the rear wheels, and two seats in a form-fitting cabin. However, it is sharpened at every corner.
The C7 looks more modern, even ready to transform into an Autobot. The lines, vents, flares, and lights all give the car a more premium appearance. I'm still warming up to the C-pillar—a new feature! Since 1978, the Corvette has just two pillars with a dramatic, bubble glassback. Here, there is a counter-flat back glass and little side windows, reminding of the Nissan GT-R. The exterior boasts a carbon-fiber hood and roof panel, in addition to underbody panels, to shave weight. (See more C7 photos.)
The new engine is dubbed LT1, a moniker that has been used twice before--with a carbureted small-block back in 1970 and more modern, fuel-injected V8 in 1992 that breathed new life into the C4 (and later the Camaro). This latest iteration will be used in other GM products, ensuring fuel efficiency is a key attribute.
Here, the LT1 produces a Chevrolet-estimated 450 horsepower and 450 lbs.-ft. of torque, up 20 hp over the 2013 model. The new engine is teamed with a choice of a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic or seven-speed manual transmission, each fitted to the rear to aid weight distribution.
The frame for the base car is all aluminum, boasting 57-percent greater stiffness than before, while shaving almost 100 lbs. (With the C6, only the high-dollar Z06 and ZR-1 had aluminum frames.)
To aid performance, the C7 offers a next-generation magnetic ride control system, with quicker-reacting shocks that can transition from holding the road to absorbing harsh impacts in the blink of an eye. The Z51 performance package returns, offering heightened grip to the tune of a claimed 1 g in lateral acceleration. The driver is able to select from three modes to dial in the appropriate personality for the task, making attitude adjustments among a dozen systems, such as the electronic limited-slip differential, exhaust, transmission, launch control, and stability control. Yes, it even adjusts the active exhaust system to optimize performance and sound.
Chevrolet is claiming that 0-60 mph sprints will be at a rocket-like sub-4 seconds--blazingly quick. (Chevrolet says their current Corvette runs 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds.) If Eco mode is selected, the car will favor four-cylinder operation until hard acceleration is summoned by the right foot.
The cabin is treated to a significant transformation, addressing a critical weakness with the outgoing car. The C7 will be offered with a choice of form-fitting bucket seats (sporty or track-ready), neither of which sound particular coddling for an older buyer. All examples will be decked in soft-touch materials, with aluminum and leather trim. Digital screens abound, and the convenient heads-up display returns.
With a guest list for the event numbering 1,000, our hands-on time was decidedly brief. Based on the Chevrolet briefing, the C7 is the best Corvette ever. Sure, I've heard that message before. And while it was true, here the boasted car appears more substantial. We'll know more once we spend more time in it, preferably at high speeds.
The Vette goes on sale "third quarter" this year. Start saving, either for the C7 or a great deal on a discounted C6.
See our complete 2013 Detroit auto show coverage.