Corvette Stingray Coupe
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“Iconic.” It’s possibly the word most overused in the last decade. Randomly applied to everything from ’70s television has-beens to retail establishments, and from shoes to athletes, it’s been rendered practically meaningless. But in the case of the Corvette, the word still carries the weight of a blacksmith’s anvil.
Love it or hate it, for more than 50 years, the Vette has unapologetically stood as a universal symbol for homegrown American performance. So when Chevrolet announces it has a new one in the pipe, people get weird. Rumors of mid-mounted engines, piles of carbon fiber, and turbocharging swirl. But now that the drapes have finally sloughed off the new C7 Corvette Stingray—yes, the famed name returns on the base car—we have only truth.
Looks Aren’t Everything, But They’re Very Important
As we surmised weeks ago, the C7 Corvette takes more of an evolutionary philosophy—although it shares just two parts with the outgoing car—while also sprinkling in some revolutionary details. The C7’s body casts much the same shadow as did the C6’s, but the new car is peppered with more-pronounced creases, larger and more numerous vents, and an angrier front fascia and headlamp treatment. In the front three-quarter view, the tiny hint of Maranello we previously noticed in the C7’s nose is clearly evident. Both the hood and roof are constructed of carbon fiber. The profile is visceral; a stretching, sinewy form emphasized by the subdued B-pillar and a rakish backlight. There’s also a rear quarter window. But the stylistic element likely to draw the most commentary is the treatment of the taillamps; although the quad-lens presentation follows Corvette tradition, the new lights’ rhomboid shape and the dogleg cutout in which they reside are certain to be polarizing. For their part, Chevrolet says they wanted them “not only to say ‘Corvette, but new Corvette.’ ” A quartet of trumpet-like exhaust pipes exit from the center of the rear fascia, one of the few details made clear in the numerous spy photos we published over the last year.
The Dirty Bits
A naturally aspirated Gen V small-block 6.2-liter pushrod V-8 sits under the hood; it spins a rear-mounted transaxle via an aluminum torque tube. Dubbed the LT1, GM estimates the engine will make 450 horsepower and 450 lb-ft in base form, making it the most powerful standard Corvette to date and our (and GM’s) early estimate has 0–60 times clocking in at less than four seconds. Cylinder deactivation is standard, even with the manual transmission, and Chevy says the C7 will best the C6’s 26-mpg EPA highway estimate. Two active exhaust systems are available; the base setup uses its active valves to tame noise during four-cylinder cruising. An optional dual-mode system has extra valves that open a less-restricted path for airflow to both increase performance and sound bad-ass.
Transmission options are a six-speed automatic or seven-speed Tremec manual—yes, a seven-speed unit, with four shift gates. The manual transmission also features active rev-matching on both down- and upshifts courtesy of patented GM technology. We’re told that it’s fully defeatable for when you’re in the mood to blip yourself. A Z51 performance package will bring an electronically controlled limited-slip diff; closer gear ratios for the manual gearbox; dry-sump lubrication to prevent oil starvation in racetrack settings; additional cooling for the brakes, differential, and gearbox; larger brakes; and aerodynamic bits to increase high-speed stability. Z51s also get 19-by-8.5-inch front and 20-by-10-inch rear wheels and tires, up from the standard 18-by-8.5- and 19-by-10-inch package. Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flats were developed specifically for the C7.
The C6’s full-length hydroformed rails have been traded for multi-part aluminum assemblies on each side that combine extruded crash structures, cast cradles front and rear, and a section of tubing (at the passenger compartment). The center tunnel was reengineered, too, in order to beef up the chassis sufficiently to again have a removable roof panel. This is, remember, the base car: Among C6s, only the Z06 and ZR1 had aluminum rails, and Chevy says the new setup is 57 percent stiffer and 99 pounds lighter than the old steel frame. Weight distribution is said to be an even 50/50 split.
The standard Brembo brakes incorporate four-piston fixed calipers, 12.6-inch front rotors, and 13.3-inch rear rotors; Chevrolet claims 35 percent more swept area than before. The Z51’s discs measure 13.6 inches up front and 13.3 out back, and all four are slotted.
Hollow, cast-aluminum lower control arms in the front save weight and allow finer tuning of the suspension. One feature that does carry over to the C7 is the transverse leaf spring, although Corvette engineers defend its use by pointing out that it’s made from a lightweight, engineered composite and that it packages well. The shocks come in three flavors: 1.4- and 1.8-inch Bilsteins in the base and Z51 cars, respectively, or magnetorheological Magnetic Ride Control as an option on the Z51. Chevrolet tells us to keep our test equipment peeled for 1.0 g on the skidpad from even the basic model.
The steering is an electrically assisted, variable-effort setup, and GM claims to have re-engineered the system from steering wheel to rack, resulting in a five-fold increase in stiffness. Effort is controlled in conjunction with the Driver Mode Selector (DMS) on the center console; it offers setups for snow and rain, eco, tour, sport, and track-only. The DMS ultimately effects up to twelve parameters in each of its settings: gauge cluster info, the throttle, automatic gearbox shifting (when equipped), cylinder deactivation, the active exhaust, magnetic shocks (when equipped), the Z51’s limited-slip diff, launch control, and the traction and stability control systems.
Take a Markedly Improved Seat
Driver and passenger space are divvied up equally, but the majority of the dash fittingly is dedicated to the driver. The move to an electronic parking brake let interior designers reclaim some real estate on the console for a storage area, and clears the way for shifter action befitting of a Corvette. Chevrolet says the interior is probably the most fully upgraded part of the car, and you won’t see any molded plastic anywhere. Even the lowliest cars will be “fully wrapped” in vinyl trim, although leather and carbon-fiber accouterments can be specified. The steering wheel is smaller than before, for more immediate steering feel, and the central screen can be motored out of the way to reveal an extra cubby.
Seating, a longtime sore spot for many Corvette fans—including us—has also been addressed. For the first time, buyers will have the option of two different seats: a standard seat engineered for long-range comfort and a true competition-type seat. (We first caught a glimpse of an upgraded seat in spy photos last year.) Both use a magnesium frame in place of the current cars’ composite frame, and have cutouts to accommodate a five-point harness.
It takes cojones to resurrect a name like Stingray, and the Corvette team held off until they were sure the car’s styling and technical punch were worthy of the moniker—even automakers as storied and vast as GM have but a few truly iconic nameplates on the shelf. The new C7 Corvette Stingray will launch in the second half of 2013, along with the Z51. Is it iconic? We’ll have to wait years to determine that, but it definitely looks promising. Damn promising.