Since the Corvette’s inception it has represented performance with an unmistakable image. Granted, over the years the car has gone through a rough and burley phase, to a subtler and downright anemic phase but those times are behind us and we clearly are living in the golden age. Today’s Corvette is a world-class car in every description. Its styling is breathtaking, its performance is literally second to none, and its driveability is truly amazing, literally measured by the seat of your pants comfort and performance.
So, image the Cheshire cat grin when we had the opportunity to take a 2017 Corvette Stingray coupe resplendent in its Watkins Glen Gray metallic with Jet Black interior for a week. We picked up our ride at NCM Motorsports Park … or as I like to refer to it, the Corvette test track in Bowling Green, Kentucky, across the freeway from the museum and the factory. It’s a glorious place.
Mitch Wright of the NCM Motorsports Park is our yearly contact and he’s always good for a 20-minute test session to show us what the new Corvettes are capable of, which I might point out is a great deal more than the average Corvette driver uses. (The 184-acre complex has two circuits: East and West. These can be combined into multiple configurations ranging from a high-speed loop of 1.96 miles to an extended 3.15-mile technical course.) This year he took out us for some hot laps to get us acquainted with our luxurious and performance appointed ride. (Forewarned is forearmed!) Let it be said that the Z51 with the T1 suspension (and a host of other appearance and performance options) is all the car you will ever need on the street but perfectly matched for track days should you find yourself into that type of weekend fun? (And if you’re not then why did you buy this car?)
We found ourselves in the South between events with a week to visit shops and make the rounds between Knoxville, Tennessee, and Bowling Green, Kentucky. So, needing a rental car what better way to move the staff of Vette around then in a Corvette! Chevrolet hooked us up and we picked up our machine and were ready to hit the four lanes, two lanes and a few backroads all leading to a great experience and a really good opportunity to see what the new Corvette is all about.
his isn’t you budget-beater of a ride (but then no Corvette is) but rather a 2017 Corvette Stingray coupe with the Z51 package, LT1 6.2L V-8 (0-60 in 3.7 seconds). The base price on our Corvette was $60,450 but to this we added $29,920 in options (which includes the 3LT preferred equipment group, exposed carbon-fiber ground effects package, black wheels with yellow stripes, eight-speed transmission with paddle shift, Z06-style carbon spoiler, see-through removable roof panel, and an assortment of numerous other goodies). Into this mix throw in destination charge of $995 and our latest ride comes in at a robust $91,365 … but we aren’t finished! To this we asked to have an additional $4,317 worth of performance options included: T1 suspension ($3,315), carbon-fiber underbody braces ($253.98), Z06 quarter-panel vents ($198.90) and the Z06 grille with camera ($550). Now we have our $95,682 rocket.
When you own a car like this gas mileage isn’t one of your determining factors, plus you will also be purchasing a premium blend of fuel. Although the Monroney window sticker tells us that this Corvette has a combined city and highway of 19 mpg with a city number of 15 mpg and a highway number of 26 mpg. Our experience for combined city and highway, where a great deal of the 700 miles was spent, including hot laps at the NCM Motorsports Park, enough city driving to get a good feel for how this car handles in traffic and plenty of time highway cruising we came up with an overall average of 26.4 mpg. Frankly we were very happy with these numbers. Clearly, if you spend more time on city streets or “lead footin’ it” around town and your mpg will be significantly lower.
From the introduction of the C5 up through the current C7 the Corvette has made tremendous performance (handling and engine) gains that has placed it at the top with the world’s best. Our coupe was a pleasant drive, although we believe the Michelin summer only, run-flat tires did contribute to some of the road noise that we could hear, but more likely the stiffer T1 handling bushings also added to this blend of road noise. But then the Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP tires are an amazing performance tire. These are mounted to the optional satin black finish with yellow stripe wheels featuring the Jake logo in the center cap—nifty touch. We did have the opportunity to drive at speed for several hours in a Tennessee downpour and we must say to our delight the Corvette was docile and easily controlled … point in a direction and it went along gladly.
Of course, with the amazing Chevrolet MyLink premium Bose audio system with 8-inch color touchscreen housing Bluetooth capability, Apple CarPlay (or Android) makes for a sound system that’s irresistible, allowing one to continually take advantage of the high-level of listening experience.
Our Corvette was outfitted with the 3LT preferred equipment group, which for $9,745 is a healthy selection of interior accessories designed to make your ride as comfortable as any luxury car. Of the 3LT goodies the one that will spark your curiosity, and a desire to get out there and use it, is the performance data and video recorder with navigation. As it gathers real world data on your performance driving it also captures video that you can play back on your computer. This becomes a teaching tool to enhance your driving capabilities. Don’t be too disappointed when you find out that you aren’t the next world driving champion in the making. (None of us are!)
Our Corvette began its life with a Z51 package that includes (but not limited to) a dry-sump oil system; performance gear ratios; electronic limited-slip differential; large front brakes (13.6-inch vs. the stock 12.6-inch); slotted brake rotors; enhanced shocks, springs and stabilizer bars; performance exhaust; differential and transmission cooling and heavy-duty engine cooling (all very worthwhile); aero package; and Michelin Pilot summer-only tires (285/30ZR19 and 335/25ZR20) mounted to the 19x8.5 and 20x10 wheels.
Not satisfied, we opted to turn it up a notch, so to speak, as we had our Z51-equipped Stingray next outfitted with the T1 suspension (PN 23336064). This is truly designed for those who plan on attending track days and driving their Corvette the way it was intended, and breed, to. By taking the Z51 package and adding the T1 you end up with a true racetrack capable missile. The T1 comes with new stabilizer bars, lower control arms with stiffer handling bushings, and track-optimized passive shocks. The roll stiffness has been increased (40 percent front and 20 percent rear). For the racers in the crowd this kit is homologated for SCCA’s Touring 1 Class.
To the T1 we also opted for the optional carbon-fiber underbody braces (PN 23385708), which are about 17 percent lighter than the aluminum braces they replace yet maintain the same torsional stiffness. They are also a direct replacement for all the C7s, including those with Z06 or non-Z06 packages.
Since our Corvette is outfitted with the enhanced cooling within the Z51 package we thought we would go up one more rung on the cooling ladder. The Z06 quarter-panel vents (PN 2337352) are another addition our Stingray was graced with by offering larger openings for increased airflow to the transmission oil cooler and differential cooler. This yields approximately a 25 percent airflow increase over the standard Z51 package at track speeds, according to Chevrolet.
One last goodie and that’s the Z06 grille with camera (PN 84020980). While the grille has enhanced airflow characteristics to the radiator and brake cooling ducts, the resulting front end airflow shows an increase of 17 percent, again according to Chevrolet, compared to the standard Z51 front grille. Designed to enhance on-track performance the camera is a nice touch to the data center and captures the sights out front of your Stingray.
At the heart of any Corvette since 1953 until the present the engine, and in present day, the transmission play instrumental parts in the way a Corvette performs whether on the highway or at the track. The latest Corvettes are no different. Nowadays we find neatly nestled between the fenders a LT1 6.2L (376 cubic inches) V-8 with VVT with direct injection and cylinder deactivation (this is where you get those crazy fuel economy numbers from). Power is a very respectable 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque but with the optional enhanced exhaust system, as ours was equipped, the numbers bump up to 460 hp and 465 lb-ft. Matched to this V-8 is a standard offering seven-speed manual while our Stingray is equipped with the optional eight-speed paddle-shift automatic.
The old adage about you can’t go any faster than you can stop is especially true with a car like the Corvette. It has all the giddy-up and go one could possibly have a thirst for around town or at the track but matched to this there had best be some “whoa.” The Corvette comes with Brembo four-wheel-discs with four-piston fixed calipers at the corners. Since we have the Z51 package the larger 13.6-inch front rotors are pressed into service along with the color-keyed yellow Corvette calipers matching the wheel stripe.
Back to the engine. The LT1 found under the hood of the Corvette has been around for several years (2014). The Corvette engineers have mastered the subtleties of everyday driving and have given us a truly high-performance engine that’s capable of driving through town in the most heinous of traffic or down a sublime country road all the while making us feel as if the engine is always running at its optimum. The beauty behind all of this power is that it’s Mother Nature friendly with its very low emissions, high gas mileage standards, and ease of driving. It should also be mentioned that squeezing more power out of the LT1 is also doable. Chevrolet’s preferred means of “power-adder” is to offer the LT4, which is a supercharged 6.2L V-8 that offers 650 hp and lb-ft … making it the most powerful Corvette ever offered. From a performance standpoint it takes you from 0-60 in 2.95 seconds as opposed to the more “pedestrian” 3.7 seconds of our Stingray. Either way you have a world-class ride.
Driving our Stingray from NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to places such as the Coker Tire car collection in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a handful of hot rod shops in between made for an enjoyable week. It didn’t matter whether we were gliding along on the interstate, country roads or caught up in traffic in Nashville, the drive to and from NCM was everything you would want a week with your own Corvette to be.
Miles and Miles in a $95,000 Corvette
By Taylor Kempkes
As the newest and youngest member of the Vette crew, I’m not first on the driver list when we snag a Corvette press vehicle. But, the time must come when the new guy gets a go, too, right? My time finally came while on the road when Editor Brian Brennan tossed me the keys to our 2017 Corvette Stingray for our drive from Bobby Alloway’s shop outside Knoxville, Tennessee, back to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where we would return it to NCM Motorsports Park. While I didn’t get the chance to wring it out on a track, it was still a blast to cruise the 300 or so miles on I-40 east and I-65 north. For a nearly six-figure performance car equipped with Chevrolet’s Z51 package and then the T1 sport suspension, I was surprised at how well the Stingray soaked up the bumps on the highway while still cornering as flat as can be around the on and off ramps. Another feature of the Vette I appreciated was the sound system. Unlike some others I work with who have been around this hobby much longer than I, my ears still work quite well. So to take advantage of that, I connected my iPhone to Apple CarPlay and blasted some Jimi Hendrix through the Corvette’s nine-speaker Bose audio system. At the end of the day, the 300-some highway miles had flown by and it was time to give it back.
Photos by Robert McGaffin
Video by Taylor Kempkes