We strive to offer unbiased first-impression reviews for every car we put on camera, but we don’t create this show in a vacuum. Both of us read and watch plenty of reviews from other car journalists and we have many friends at large outlets who get cars long before we do. As a result I’d come across many glowing comments about the new C7 Corvette Stingray before I sat into the red on red version we put on camera. One senior editor at Edmunds told me the Stingray was his favorite car of the year. All of this only increased my excitement and skepticism before our time with the new Vette.
I’ve never been a Corvette fan. They’ve always been in that category of cars I respect but can’t come to love. Having driven the previous generation C6 in base, Grand Sport, Z06, and ZR1 variations I’d always found it capable and fun, but larger and heavier than the cars I connect with. Take that insult and add the injury of an interior that would be embarrassing in a mid-level family car with bad seats. I rarely came across anyone who had just become enamored with the Corvette, the proponents were always guys with life long Corvette love affairs. Guys like my father.
First impressions matter, and the Stingray rolled up to the curb with presence and menace. I tossed my bag into the large hatch, a Corvette party trick, and dropped into the passenger side. My co-host, Paul, smiled and revved the engine, rattling the V8 rumble off the concrete. The seat was superb. GM has a long history of marginal seats and these are not only good for GM, but good for any automaker. Ahead of me against the door was my own designated HVAC and seat heater controls. Someone was really thinking about the passenger. Meanwhile, Paul was cocooned in driver’s cockpit of new design and better materials than any prior Corvette and genuinely befitting a $50,000 car. Before we even left the curb I realized GM has come to play hardball with the C7. This was going to be a great shoot.
We drove the Stingray in more conditions than we normally can in our short time with a car. There was a roadtrip of more than two-hundred miles. Fights through traffic with half-conscious zombie-drivers. Blasts up amazing canyon roads in the late day sunshine, as well as sliding summer tires cautiously in fresh fallen snow. Over time and experience I found myself more impressed with the Stingray at every turn.
The numbers don’t tell the story, and as we find on this show, they rarely do. An all new 6.2 liter V8 cranks out 460hp and 465lb ft of torque, numbers eclipsed by nearly all the Corvette’s competition. After the horse-power-wars of the last decade those impressive numbers seem small. Then I remember this is the base Corvette, with the upcoming Z06 promising bar-bragging numbers. Yet any time I bury my foot on the long-travel gas pedal I never once think “This car needs more power”. Sixty comes in four seconds, and triple digit numbers can literally be reached without trying. The Stingray bellows and explodes with any open space challenging the traction control system in any setting, or overwhelming the super sticky tires if you turn the nanny’s off.
In the corners, this base Stingray reminds me of the hundred thousand dollar ZR1. The 50/50 weight distribution and obsessively low center of gravity keep the balance so central that the car feels completely organic. The impressive flat cornering of the ZR1 is available here, as well as its carbon fiber hood and roof, without the six figure price-point. The steering wheel is also noticeably smaller than prior generations, further contributing to the small agile feel. Steering weight and effort are superb, but the info from the tires feels filtered in the same way most electric-assisted systems add a video game veneer on top of real driving.
There’s a small agile feel here that belays the Corvette’s actual size. While the ZR1 felt like a big race car, the Stingray feels small enough to excel in autocross. Considering this new generation is every bit as big as the prior version, I’m surprised to find a small agile companion any time I push this car hard. Between drives we find ourselves discussing the witchcraft involved in making a car this big feel so small.
The Stingray puts me in a bit of a quandary. I try to reconcile my feelings with the facts of this driving experience. The Stingray is so fun and capable I must include it in my personal favorite cars. But I’ve never thought of myself as a Corvette driver and don’t find this redesign very attractive. The C7 has presence and its looks are striking, but I can’t call it beautiful. Yet, many of my favorite cars to drive aren’t all that attractive. I prefer driver involvement and handling fun over poster icons.
To try and find the answer, I turn around and blast back up one of my favorite California roads. The Stingray soon has me smiling. The limits of power and handling are higher than this road requires. The seats hold me tight while the wheel and shifter feel precise. I pull one of the steering wheel paddles to engage the Rev-Match system and suddenly I’m executing matched shifts without trying while the exhaust note rattles off the canyon walls. It makes me lazy, but it’s exhilarating.
That’s when I know. I want this car. I want take it to the track. I want to drive it at the limit on my favorite roads. I want to road trip in it, seeking out great new locations or vacationing with my wife. And the craziest thing about all those desires is the fact… I can.
This Corvette Stingray offers usability and performance at a price nearly accessible by the every man. The GTR, the Viper, and the 911 can rival the Corvette in every area, and surpass it in some, but they all start at $100,000 and climb quickly into the land of absurdity. The C7 needs the Z51 performance pack and the magnetic ride control, creating a do-it-all monster for under sixty-thousand-dollars. Of course, I still can’t hope to afford that, but many can… and it means in a few short years the used price will be something my budget could handle.
Well done, GM. Maybe I am a Corvette guy.