Is there a red-blooded American out there who doesn’t get turned on by the new Corvette Stingray? After driving this yellow monster for a few hundred miles, the answer is probably no. The Internet’s abuzz about its taillights and those who can’t afford it bemoan its $51,995 base price, but everywhere we took it people went nuts. Every gas stop took an extra five minutes while people shot photos and asked questions. On the road, we were awash in unsolicited thumbs-up. Park it anywhere and watch the crowds gather, cell phone cameras snapping away.
We spent a day last summer tooling around the twisty roads of Monterey, California, and the surrounding wine country, sampling base models, Z51-equipped cars, seven-speed manuals and automatics. Most recently, we got the yellow monster you see here. It’s got the base—no Z51 handling package, no Magnetic Ride, no navigation—but it does have the upgraded 3LT interior and dual mode exhaust. The only other options of note were the chrome wheels, automatic transmission and yellow brake calipers. All in, the sticker was $67,155 (including $995 destination). Knock off the 3LT interior and your price drops by $7,000—subtract another two grand if you can live without the chrome wheels.
While at first we were disappointed we couldn’t track test a Z51/seven-speed stick car, we ultimately felt this was opportune time to see how good the new C7 is without it. The answer is very good indeed. Besides, everyone else has tested the Z51, so this would be something different.
One advantage to the automatic is you actually get a better gearing for drag racing than either of the seven speed manual combos with the 3.42 gears. With the auto you get a 4.02 first gear and a 2.56 rear gear. While that 2.56 gave us pause, it actually gives you more gear out of the hole than even the Z51/manual combo. If you opt for the Z51 with your automatic, you get a slightly improved 2.73:1 ratio out back.
First the positives. The ride quality is superb, regardless of whether you’re in the Tour, Sport or Track mode. Yes, it deteriorates slightly in the more aggressive modes, but you’d need a seriously sensitive posterior to complain about it.
You want horsepower? This car’s got it—torque, too. On the Super Chevy Dynojet, it made 410.88 SAE corrected rear wheel horsepower and 419.71 lb-ft of torque. Even better, it produces 400 lb-ft of torque at the wheels from 3750 to 5250 rpm. (For comparison’s sake, our last Grand Sport automatic test car made 394 hp at the wheels.)
The built quality is outstanding. Not a squeak or rattle to be found, plus the quality of the cabin’s materials is first class. The base seats are superb. They are supportive on track, comfortable over the road (we had no complaints after a three-hour stint behind the wheel). Some more substantial Corvette enthusiasts may find them snug, but we found them just right. We’d definitely recommend trying the optional Recaro seats on for size before checking off the option box, because they just might not be what you want or need—especially if you don’t plan on autocrossing or doing open track events.
If you care about fuel economy, we averaged 25.9 mpg over the 170-mile journey home from our track outing, despite some extended periods of cruising that found us ever-so-slightly exceeding the speed limit. Ever-so-slightly. By 80 mph or so. Passing slower traffic on two-lane back roads is as easy and hitting the blinker, pulling out and nailing the throttle. Do this and we guarantee by the time you pass the offending motorist, you’ll have accelerated from 50-100 mph. It happens quickly and will bark the tires on the upshifts. We would like to shake the hand of whoever programmed this six-speed automatic. He’s the hot rodders’ friend.
Speaking of which, the paddle shifts function far better than they did on the C6. There’s no guessing anymore. Pull the upshift paddle and it happens almost instantly. Except on the road course—we’ll get to that in a minute.
We pulled into the track at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Florida, and couldn’t wait to get on the drag strip. We had three-quarters of a tank of fuel and let the car cool for 40 minutes or so after our three-hour trek down. Density altitude was 1,685 feet above sea level (82°, 65 percent humidity, 30.03 barometer).
From past experience with stock automatic-equipped Corvettes, we knew all we really had to do was put the shifter in D and stand on the throttle for maximum performance. The computer takes over regardless of the fact that you’re in Competitive Track Mode and feeds throttle in as it sees fit. After a short burnout to clean the Michelins, we pulled to the line, staged shallow, and put one foot on the gas and one on the brake. When the light came on, we matted the throttle and held on. I knew we got away good and from my peripheral vision saw a 1.75 60-ft come up on the scoreboard. The e.t. slip read 11.84 at 117.99—holy fiberglass, Zora. That was the quickest stock automatic run we’ve ever experienced in a Corvette. A back-up pass with the car hot was 11.85 at 117.83, proving the first run was no fluke.
After another 40 minute cool down, we got a little more aggressive on the line. By taking the slack out of the drivetrain by power-braking ever so slightly, the e.t. dropped to an amazing 11.768 at 118.86. The back-up pass was even better: Hot, the Stingray went 11.736 at 118.76 (1.726 60-ft). Getting more aggressive at the line and/or trying to shift manually had no positive effect on elapsed time. We could not beat the computer, so it was off to the Palm Beach International road course.
In the short time we’ve been testing on this 2.034-mile track, 11-turn track the quickest lap time for a stocker was by a ’12 Camaro ZL1, a 1.31.41. In the Vette, we went a best of 1.31.14 (there’s a 1.31.56 on the embedded video here). While it looks to be leaning a lot in photos, you didn’t really feel any of this on track. The car felt totally composed. The only bad news to report is the transmission overheated rather quickly, the oil temps skyrocketed and the brakes faded. We couldn’t get two laps in without bringing the Vette in for a cool down. While some would say we shouldn’t have been on such a fast track with a base Stingray, we maintain any Corvette should be able to do multiple laps on virtually any track at any time.
Our advice: If you’re going on track, consider the Z51 mandatory. If you just plan on cruising it with the occasional autocross thrown in for good measure, the base suspension is all you need. This is the most refined Corvette ever, with more grip than most customers have skill level. Considering it ran the third quickest quarter-mile time in Super Chevy testing history for a stock Chevy behind the C6 ZR1 and Z06, we can’t figure how you could go wrong either way.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Body styles / driveline: 2-door hatchback coupe with removable roof panel or 2-door convertible; rear-wheel drive
Construction: composite and carbon-fiber body panels, hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components
Manufacturing location: Bowling Green, Ky.
LT1 6.2L V-8
Displacement (cu in / cc): 376 / 6162
Bore & stroke (in / mm): 4.06 x 3.62 / 103.25 x 92
Block material: cast aluminum
Cylinder head material: cast aluminum
Valvetrain: overhead valve, two valves per cylinder
Fuel delivery: direct injection
Lubrication system: wet sump (Stingray)
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Horsepower L hp / kW @ rpm: 460 / 343 @ 6000 (SAE-certified)
Torque (lb-ft / Nm @ rpm): 465 / 630 (with available performance exhaust)
Max. engine speed (rpm): 6,600
Recommended fuel: premium recommended, not required
EPA-estimated fuel economy (city / hwy):
Type: six-speed paddle-shift automatic
Gear ratios (:1)
Final drive ratio: 2.56
Front: short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring, monotube shock absorber
Rear: short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring, monotube shock absorber
Traction control: StabiliTrak electronic stability control
Steering type: variable-ratio rack-and-pinion with electric power assist
Steering gear ratio: 12.0 to 16.4
Turns lock to lock: 2.53
Turning circle, curb to curb (ft / m): 37.7 / 11.5
Type: front and rear power-assisted discs with four-piston fixed front and rear calipers
Rotor diameter (in / mm):
front: 12.6 / 320
rear: 13.3 / 338
Rotor thickness (in / mm):
front: 1.18 / 30
rear: 0.90 / 23
front: 18-inch x 8.5-inch
rear: 19-inch x 10-inch
Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat
Wheelbase (in / mm): 106.7 / 2710
Overall length (in / mm): 176.9 / 4493
Overall width (in / mm): 73.9 / 1877
Overall height (in / mm):
48.6 / 1235 (coupe)
48.6 / 1235 (convertible)
Track (in / mm):
63 / 1600 (front)
61.7 / 1567 (rear)
Curb weight (lb / kg): 3298 / 1499 (coupe)
(% front / rear): 50 / 50
Headroom (in / mm): 38 / 962
Leg room (in / mm): 43 / 1092
Shoulder room (in / mm): 55 / 1397
Hip room (in / mm): 54 / 1371
Interior volume (cu ft / L): 52 / 1475
Cargo volume (cu ft / L):
Coupe: 15 / 425
Convertible: 10 / 283
Fuel capacity (gal / L): 18.5 / 70
Engine oil (qt / L): 7 / 6.6
Engine cooling system (qt / L): 11.3 / 10.7
20.5 mpg (observed, one-week test)