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Functionally Beautiful - Idle Chatter

Editor's Letter - The beauty is in the driving

Jay Heath Feb 7, 2014
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I like to think of Corvette enthusiasts as a fairly open-minded bunch, tolerant of change and desirous of progress. Maybe that's why I find the outbreak of anti-C7 sentiment spreading throughout Internet forums and letters-to-the-editor sections lately so perplexing. Stranger still, the majority of the vitriol seems to flow from people who haven't even driven the car. How to explain the disconnect? As you might imagine, I have a theory or two.

Before we get into that, let's start with a simple statement of irrefutable fact: Discounting the always subjective question of exterior design, there isn't a single area in which the latest Corvette fails to equal or improve upon its predecessor. The Stingray is nimbler, stiffer, more efficient, more luxurious, and easier to operate at the limit in a wide range of driving conditions than was the C6. It also accelerates faster, sticks harder, and stops shorter—no small feats when you consider just how track capable the base sixth-gen had become by the end of its run. (How Chevy manages to sell this comprehensively upgraded machine for only a couple thousand bucks more than a comparable '13 model remains one of autodom's great mysteries.)

Some of the Stingray's detractors profess disappointment at the output ratings of the car's all-new LT1 engine. But to focus exclusively on peak numbers is to overlook what makes this latest small-block so special. While the LT1 tops out at "only" 460 horses, it matches the 7.0L LS7's torque curve from 1,000 to 4,000 rpm. That might not look like much on paper, but I can assure you that from behind the wheel, the increase in low-end urgency is immediately apparent, and easy to appreciate. Factor in meaningful gains in fuel economy and durability, and it's clear there's much more to the LT1 than meets the eye.

Returning to the matter of styling, I give you Irrefutable Fact Number 2: Due to advances in the areas of aerodynamics, heat management, and occupant and pedestrian safety, GM will never produce another Corvette (or any other model, for that matter) with the crisp lines of the Stingray-influenced '63 split-window or the voluptuous curves of the Mako Shark–inspired '68. This may not be a desirable development for proponents of the Corvette-as-static-art approach to ownership, but for those of who enjoy actually driving the cars, it's a very good thing indeed.

Throughout the first three Corvette generations, the development process was largely directed by stylists, who sketched out a car's lines before handing off the project to the engineering corps. The latter group did what they could to adapt these objets d'art to suit real-world driving conditions, but in the end, their mission brief was to work within the constraints of the designs they were given.

The results of this lopsided workplace dynamic were predictable. Early Corvettes were head-turning pieces of rolling sculpture that evinced a maddening array of practical shortcomings. Today the right- and left-brain types work collaboratively, and the results are invariably better for it.

I won't attempt to convince you that the new Stingray is a beautiful car, but I do feel strongly that it is an attractive one. It's also important to note that many of the car's exterior features have significance beyond the realm of pure aesthetics: The numerous scoops and slats supply cooling air to heat-generating mechanical bits, while the angular design theme helps reduce drag and improve high-speed stability.

I understand that it can be difficult to let go of the past, but the Stingray's thoroughgoing excellence in no way diminishes the accomplishments of the Corvettes that came before it. See it, drive it, and give it a chance before you join the chorus of naysayers. You have nothing to lose but your preconceptions.



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