Tired of Italy and Germany hogging all the sports car limelight? I sure as hell know I am. That’s why I’m over-the-frickin’-moon to see the Chevrolet Corvette C7 Stingray debuting at the 2013 Detroit Motor Show. A perfect antidote to the Ferrari 458 and Porsche 991, the all-new Stingray is a formidable piece of asphalt-grilling equipment that promises to deliver improved performance, slightly better fuel economy and a much-needed hike in build quality over its C6 predecessor.
As the ‘Vette’s interior has always attracted negative criticism, the GM engineers put a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears into making it better. And the effort seems to have paid off this time. A sleeker, more contemporary cockpit design. The liberal use of real aluminium and carbon fibre dashboard inserts. Bespoke sports seats crafted from hand-stitched Napa leather. Yep, no longer do you have to cringe with embarrassment every time you slink in behind the steering wheel.
You even score cool gizmos like a heads-up display, Magnetic Ride Control (as seen on the Camaro ZL1) and something known as the Driver Mode Selector. A bit like Audi Drive Select, the latter allows drivers to optimize the car for their particular driving preference and road conditions via five settings: Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track. Topping things off nicely is an advanced infotainment system (featuring Chevrolet MyLink and high-definition radio) as well as enhanced OnStar with 3D navigation maps. A 10-speaker sound system including a bass box and two subwoofers should keep the audiophiles happy.
The exterior is another radical departure for the Corvette badge. Not only in terms of raw aesthetics but construction too. Determined to shed weight, the designers skinned the C7′s aluminium chassis with lots of gravity-cheating materials. The bonnet and removable roof panel, for example, have both been fashioned out of carbon fibre. The fenders, doors and rear quarter panels are made from a light but incredibly robust composite. All of this has seen the Vette’s kerb weight drop by 45 kilograms. Doesn’t sound like much, I’ll admit, but it’s good enough to give the C7 a better power-to-weight ratio than both the Porsche 911 and Audi R8.
Speaking of power, the Stingray comes armed with a 6.2-litre LT1 V8 engine. Fitted with direct fuel injection (a first for Corvette) and variable valve timing, it kicks out 335kW and 610Nm worth of torque. Chevrolet claims that these figures are good enough to propel the C7 to 100km/h in under four seconds, making it the fastest ‘entry-level’ ‘Vette of all-time. To keep the polar bears happy, the development team also spliced in a smart feature called Active Fuel Management. How does it work? Well in normal mode, the engine uses V8 power during acceleration and V4 power when coasting. Switch over to Eco mode and the engine remains in V4 mode to maximise fuel efficiency.
In terms of transmissions you can choose between either a six-speed automatic or a seven-speed manual with Active Rev Matching – a clever bit of tech that automatically blips the throttle when changing down a gear. Because, you know, Heel-and-Toe is just so last year.
Stacked up against the outgoing C6 model, the C7 sports a slightly longer wheelbase (+25mm) as well as a wider track (+25mm front and rear). Complemented by 50:50 weight distribution and a considerably stiffer chassis (+57%), we can expect the car’s handling to be sharper than ever before. Yes, it still has those infamous transverse-mounted leaf springs at the rear but it’s a tried-and-tested recipe that seems to work very well. Just look at how successful the Corvette Racing team has been at highly competitive motorsport events like the 24-Hours of Le Mans. Like they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Those wishing to better mirror the on-track antics of Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen will be able to specify the optional Z51 Performance Package that bolts in the following go-faster bits: an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling, as well as a unique aero package that further improves high-speed stability.
The undisputed star of this year’s Detroit motor show, you can expect the new Corvette C7 Stingray to go on sale in North America during the third quater of 2013. And, man, I hope it manages to bloody a few European noses when it does…