The Europeans have long excelled in building beguiling sports cars - low-slung testosterone-laden works of art that can out-run and out-handle just about anything on the road. America’s answer to the growing post World-War II fleet of so-called “grand touring” models from makes like Jaguar, MG, Triumph and Austin Healey was the Chevrolet Corvette. Unveiled to an enthusiastic crowd as a concept car at General Motors’ 1953 Motorama exposition in New York City, the racy fiberglass-bodied two-seater was subsequently rushed to production in a mater of months.
While early versions were dismissed as being more poseurs than performers, the venerable ‘Vette developed a raw sporting nature during the formative years of rock-and-roll, that would truly come into its own during the go-go space-age 60s and flex its mightiest muscles during the turbulent 1970’s.
Myriad sports cars would come and go over the course of the last six decades, but through it all what’s been dubbed “America’s sports car” would both survive and thrive, outlasting and out-pacing the competition. An all-new version of the Corvette - only the seventh generation in the car’s storied history - was revealed at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and brings back a designation from its golden era: Stingray.
“Stingray is one of the hallowed names in automotive history,” says General Motors’ vice president of global design Ed Welburn. “We knew we couldn’t use the Stingray name unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy. The result is a new Corvette Stingray that breaks from tradition, while remaining instantly recognizable as a Corvette the world over.”
Completely reengineered from the proverbial ground up with an all-new chassis and powertrain, Chevy says the 2014 Corvette Stingray shares just two parts with the outgoing model, and is the quickest, best handling and most fuel efficient standard issue ‘Vette ever.
The car’s seductive, sleek design features an aggressive front end with cat’s eye headlamps that flow into a pair of muscular front fenders and reside above a wide and narrow lower air dam that gives its face a snarling quality. Flowing lines reach rearward into a tall and broad-shouldered rear end treatment. Addressing one of the current model’s nagging weaknesses, Chevy designers upgraded the Stingray’s two-seat interior with a new driver-focused dashboard that features an eight-inch video display and extensive use of high-quality materials.
Under the Stingray’s long carbon fiber hood resides a brand new, technologically advanced 6.2-liter V8 engine that’s expected to generate a scenery-blurring 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, and reach 60 mph in less than four seconds. Teamed with a seven-speed automatic transmission that includes a manual-shift mode, Chevy says the new Corvette will beat the current version’s 26-mpg fuel economy rating in highway driving.
Lighter in weight, though more structurally rigid than before, an ideal 50/50 front-to-rear weight ratio, reengineered steering and suspension systems and an array of sophisticated chassis-control hardware promise truly tenacious handling. A new Drive Mode Selector allows the driver to tune 12 separate performance attributes according to five different driving situations, including one for use on wet roads and another that enables the engine to run on only four cylinders to garner maximum fuel economy.
What’s more, a Z51 Performance Package will be offered for weekend racers that includes such enhancements as an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling and specific aerodynamic tweaks made to improve the car’s stability at breakneck speeds.
Pricing has yet to be determined, but we expect the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray to start at around $59,000 when it reaches dealers’ showrooms this fall. A convertible version will likely join the coupe in early 2014.