I should start off by saying that I’ve never been a huge Corvette fanboy. I’ve always had respect for the brand, and in my driving lifetime at least, it has always been a pretty amazing vehicle for the money. That being said, there’s no getting around the fact that the Corvette has never really be a car to lust after. As a boy, I never had a picture of a C4 hanging on my wall. Even coming to more modern times with the C6, as awesome as that vehicle has been, it’s not a design or a vehicle that is as lust-worthy as its competitors. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to get behind the wheel of almost every iteration since the C5. The only one I have yet to jump into would be the ZR1. I’ve even had the privilege to review a Lingenfelter C6 pushing out 630-horsepower. The thing is, though, the more and more I drive them, the better and better they get. This new generation, the C7 built from the ground up, is no different in that regard. This car has been blowing me away as I make it my daily driver for a week and put it through the paces.
Let’s take a look at what makes this car really stand out. The Corvette has always had a pretty basic shape. With a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup – despite rumors of a mid-engine model – there’s not too much you can do with its basic profile. You’re always going to have a long hood, tight cabin, and short rear-end. Although the profile remains basic, the styling has taken a drastic turn. Moving away from flowing, sensual lines into a more aggressive, sharp, and edgy design has given the C7 a new look. The new frame is made of lightweight aluminum instead of steel in an effort to save weight. Thanks to new build techniques, the chassis alone is 99-pounds lighter than last year’s model and 57-percent stiffer. They have also moved toward using more carbon-fiber for body panels like the hood to help save weight and keep the center of gravity as low as possible. All of these efforts round up to a curb weight of just 3,298-lbs for the C7 which is about the same as a similarly equipped C6, but it’s where they lost the weight and the nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution that counts. The engineers have also stated that if they didn’t have to worry about fuel economy, the C7 could be even lighter.
What used to be the biggest point of ridicule for the Corvette is now one of its finer features. It’s no secret to any automotive shopper around the world, nor to the top brass at GM itself, that the interior of the Vette has never matched up to its competition or potential. This has all changed with the C7 as everything inside this cabin is covered in premium materials including soft rubbers, Napa leather, or even genuine carbon fiber. This interior feels very handcrafted and luxurious and it’s packed full of the technologies drivers have been asking for and have come to expect these days. Taking your first sit in the drivers seat is all it takes to realize that the fighter jet inspired cockpit focuses solely on the driver and driver engagement. This is even more apparent when you check out the passenger seat and see the climate controls placed to the right of the passenger vent so they don’t have to bother with reaching over into the driver’s space.
The driver’s information display is one big LCD screen in the middle of an analog speedometer on the left and a fuel tank and temperature gauges on the right. You can pick what you want displayed on the screen in the middle; anything from a large rpm tach, digital speedometer, or even tire heat or G’s you’re pulling. This is a great setup that’s useful, but the thing you really want to keep your eyes on is the full-color heads-up display. This allows you to never take your eyes off the road ahead and still know exactly what is happening with your vehicle.
To the right of the driver, nestled into the cockpit and angled toward the driver is an 8-inch infotainment display. This is a big area where the Corvette needed lots of love, and luckily, that love was given. The new system works great and looks great as well. All of the buttons are easy to reach and easy to figure out so you’re not constantly looking over trying to figure out what you’re doing. You also get controls on the steering wheel to make simple, everyday actions even easier.
It’s not all great, though, as the two biggest gripes I have with this car both still come from the interior. One is the steering wheel itself; the thing you’re looking at and touching the most. The leather wrap is very nice and at 14.1-inch-diameter, I really like the small size. What I don’t like is the fact that the cheapest looking and feeling part of the whole interior is the middle part of the steering wheel. The other thing I’ll pick on is the paddle shifters. These are also plastic and feel pretty cheap. I could be fine with that if they worked halfway decent. Pulling back on the paddle, you don’t get a sense at all that you are doing anything even remotely mechanical. They really leave you with a dead feeling and it’s almost better just leaving it in automatic and letting this great transmission, which we’ll get into, do its thing. If I could describe the feeling, I would say it’s like closing a door in a house with foundation problems. You can push or pull it, but it inevitably gets stuck right before its ready to latch – you always have to give it that last little shove to get it to close all the way. Yes, that’s what these paddle shifters feel like but enough nitpicking, let’s move on.
Let’s look under the hood and see what the Corvette’s really about. Yes, this car still has a massive V8 and it lives up front sitting just behind the front wheels. This is the formula that’s worked for decades, and at least for the C7, this is how they’re still approaching it. That engine is a 6.2-liter V8 dubbed the LT1. It features an all-aluminum block with direct injection and continuously variable valve times and pushes out a healthy 455-horsepower and 460-lbs.ft. of torque. This is now the most powerful standard engine Chevrolet has ever offered on a Corvette.
I eluded to the transmission matched up to this great engine earlier, but here comes the details. We’re talking an 8-speed automatic transmission, all new for 2015. This transmission was specifically designed for this car to enhance performance and efficiency. Yes, you can still get a 7-speed manual gearbox, but this big 8-speed has some really nice technological benefits. It also delivers shifts at a world-class speed that rivals the best dual-clutch transmissions out there.
The GM engineers had to do some pretty fancy stuff to pack this 8-speed transmission into its tight packaging. The transmission sits over the rear axle and just fits into the space available. The engineers also say they developed this transmission to withstand a load of 650-hp and 650 lbs.ft of torque so we expect to see this in some higher power variants coming soon.
All of this adds up to a drive that is unlike any Corvette I’ve driven. This is easily the best driving Vette with a lighter, more precise feel than ever before. If you’re used to the front-heavy feel in generations past, you’ll be surprised when you hit a corner in the C7.
The suspension has been significantly overhauled with hollow lower control arms and new aluminum rear tow-links that save almost 11-lbs over the previous design. The steering has also been upgraded with GM moving to an electric system for even more weight savings. They’ve made sure to keep as much feel as possible by stiffening the steering column by 150-percent and the torsion stiffness by 600-percent. This means the C7 is 5-times more rigid than the C6 before it, but now benefits in lighter weight, more economy, and driver modes available with the electronic steering. Most of the time, I would say I prefer the old hydraulic steering but they’ve really done it right in the C7 and the steering just feels spot-on.
Looking at the field of competitors, the Corvettes sits with some serious names. It’s often put side-by-side on the track with the likes of the Viper, Ferrari’s, the GTR, and now the BMW M4. These are all incredible names and usually cost massive amounts more than the Corvette. Even with all that is new in the C7, you can pick one up starting at just $54,000. Our Stingray Coupe with the 8-speed auto and a few other performance and appearance packages topped out at $67,445, which is a great deal for how much car you get. That should be no surprise, though, considering that’s what the Corvette has always been about; bang for buck.
Living with the C7 Stingray everyday isn’t that much different than living with any other vehicle. Although you can’t carry more than one extra person along with you, you can’t carry much luggage or groceries with you, you get noticed anywhere you go, and you have a massive V8 engine ready to propel you into warp speed at a moments notice. Other than these few details, it’s pretty much like driving any other vehicle. In all seriousness, though, the driving dynamics are not intimidating. You can cruise in this car all day long without ever feeling consumed by power. It’s also pretty comfortable for such a compact vehicle. The bucket seats are some of the best ever put into a Corvette and could be some of the best in anything in its price range. The steering is light and direct so maneuvering the car in a parking lot is easy. It doesn’t gulp fuel like other high-performance vehicles, you’ll actually average some pretty decent mpg if you’re not being hard on the throttle. This is easily the best Corvette I’ve ever driven, but it’s also just a great car; a great sports car in its own right. If you have the means and you’re looking for a car to rock your world, it’s hard to go wrong with the C7.