The next Corvette

This post is not about …

… nor is it about (though it is related to) …

This is about the world premiere, at the Detroit Auto Show, of the seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette, on sale … in the third quarter of this year.

2014-Chevrolet-Corvette-056-medium
© General Motors

One has to be more discerning than me, apparently, to see the similarities between the C2 in the background and the C7 in the foreground. At least now we know what it looks like, since we knew what it would not look like.

© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors

2014 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayWhy is this important? Ask GM:

Corvette’s legacy was forged 60 years ago this month when it was introduced at the General Motors Motorama show in New York City. The Corvette wasn’t born an icon, however. It earned its reputation as America’s sports car through decades of continual refinement and fundamental engineering advancements. …

For nearly all of its history, Corvette’s design, performance and technology has been influenced by the lessons learned on the racetrack. It is a pillar of the development process established by Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette’s first chief engineer, through overt and covert racing initiatives, leading up to the factory-backed Corvette Racing program’s 2012 American Le Mans Series championship in the production-based GT class.

Corvette’s iconic status is reflected off the track, as well. In popular culture it has numerous co-starring roles to its credit, from “Route 66” on television (1960-64) to the namesake big-screen performance in “Corvette Summer” (1978) – and countless cameos and supporting roles since. Corvette has inspired songs, artwork and video games, including the current version of the Gran Turismo series, where the seventh-generation appeared in pre-production camouflage. There is even a Corvette child’s bed from Step2 featuring functional headlights.

In other words, what you get in the Corvette you can’t, or don’t, buy may be available in a more affordable car later on. Corvettes get people in the showroom. Corvettes generate positive media attention for GM, as opposed to what GM has been getting (and earning) recently. And, most importantly given GM’s finances, Corvettes make money for GM. (As do pickups, which will be getting a variation of the Corvette’s new engine.)

(Political point: Vice President Joe Biden bought a new Corvette in 1967. He reportedly still has it. Sen. John McCain (R–Arizona) has one too. And if I ever meet Biden, I’m going to ask him why he wants to prevent others from owning Corvettes.)

My first impression of the C7’s styling is that it does bear one resemblance to the C2, specifically the first C2 — quite busy. The interesting thing about the five-year C2 is that GM Styling took things off the car, to the point where the 1967 C2 was the cleanest-looking Corvette of that generation. I don’t mind the look, but I wouldn’t say that a miniwindow behind the B-pillar bears much resemblance to the C2’s wraparound rear window.

© General Motors
© General Motors

Truth be told, this view looks more like the C2 than the side view.

The C7 is the first Corvette to be called a “Stingray” since the last C3, as GM’s news release puts it, “And only a Corvette with the perfect balance of technology, design and performance can wear the iconic Stingray designation.” (“The perfect balance of technology, design and performance” does not describe the last few years of C3s, but never mind that.)

“Like the ’63 Sting Ray, the best Corvettes embodied performance leadership, delivering cutting-edge technologies, breathtaking design and awe-inspiring driving experiences,” said General Motors North America President Mark Reuss. “The all-new Corvette goes farther than ever, thanks to today’s advancements in design, technology and engineering.”

And what might “today’s advancements” be?

  • Advanced driver technologies, including a five-position Drive Mode Selector that tailors 12 vehicle attributes to the fit the driver’s environment and a new seven-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Matching that anticipates gear selections and matches engine speed for perfect shifts every time.
  • An all-new 6.2L LT1 V-8 engine combines advanced technologies, including direct injection, Active Fuel Management, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system that delivers more power while using less fuel. …
  • Track-capable Z51 Performance Package including: an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling, as well as a unique aero package that further improves high-speed stability.

That’s the tech. What about how it looks?

  • Lightweight materials, including a carbon fiber hood and removable roof panel; composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels; carbon-nano composite underbody panels and a new aluminum frame help shift weight rearward for an optimal 50/50 weight balance that supports a world-class power-to-weight ratio.
  • A sculptured exterior features advanced high-intensity discharge and light-emitting diode lighting and racing-proven aerodynamics that balance low drag for efficiency and performance elements for improved stability and track capability.

The last bullet point should be good news for those who have complained about Corvette interiors for years:

  • An interior that includes real carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather materials, two new seat choices – each featuring a lightweight magnesium frame for exceptional support – and dual eight-inch configurable driver/infotainment screens.
© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors
© General Motors

I assume from looking at these photos and from what I’ve read that the C7 has some sort of high-tech instrument panel, in that the driver can program which gauges he or she wants to see. The extent to which that’s good depends on how much information can see. (Speedometer, tachometer, fuel and engine temperature can be seen on cars a fraction of the cost.)

The engine sounds good, although I remain skeptical of any cylinder-deactivation technology. (On the other hand, if the driver keeps his foot down, the cylinders won’t deactivate.) My bigger concern was that Chevy was going to do something stupid and sell it only with a V-6 (first reports were a twin-turbo V-6 to be precise, but a V-6 is a V-6) and a flipper-shifter automatic. Either of those would have terminated my interest in the car, because a manual transmission is required for a true driver experience, and anything besides a V-8 is an abomination to that car.

Here is the most controversial part of the car:

© General Motors
© General Motors

Corvettes have had two taillights per side (usually round) since the first C2. If you think these taillights look like they came from the Camaro, you are not wrong.

The interesting question will be pricing, which hasn’t been revealed yet. The C6 was arguably the best performance bargain on the planet, as measured by dollars per horsepower. The most expensive, most powerful Corvette cost less by that measure than the least expensive Porsche Boxster. And if price is a concern, you do not want to know the Ferrari California’s cost per horsepower. The question is whether the tech and interior upgrades have priced the new Vette where it is not so much a performance bargain.

Of course, I can’t really say whether the Corvette is a success or not until I get to drive one. (Hint, hint, Chevy dealers reading this.)

One thought on “The next Corvette

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