Guess who got his paws on a 2014 Corvette Stingray out in the wild this week?
The joy of hooning this hotly anticipated sports car was spoiled only by having to give it back to Chevy at the end of the day.
Are the touted enhancements to the cockpit, performance and road stance enough to put the C7 on the radar of young enthusiasts for the first time in decades? Or just a bald fatty special like the C5?
Much as the pace and V-8 bellow was to be admired in the C5 and C6, the Vette was too Plastic Fantastic to cause much of a sensation to the uninitiated. The old Vette’s key buyer group of Wal-Mart-shopping "rich" people certainly would not help any car’s cool factor.
But the C7 feels about a million miles from those two Extenze-popping machines.
Despite screeching performance and the all-conquering ZR-1, the C6 Vette was mired in image hell based on some of its buyers. An interior so low rent that catching crabs was a real possibility only confirmed suspicions that America’s Sports Car was just for creeps and perves.
Big, big changes for the C7 line. In a dream scenario this week, we found ourselves set loose in the C7. It was the meat of a day that also included a frightening hour in the Nissan GT-R (that left me trembling with delight) and a brief intro to the lumbering and oddly off-putting SRT Viper GTS .
But what to do in that Nirvana moment: a full tank of gas, the brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C7, and a heavy right foot? We cooked the tires, did a few straight-line blasts, and took as many pictures as the camera would hold.
Luckily, the impression this incredible car left is etched in the memory with the staying power of a brain tattoo.
Click past the jump for this exclusive TopSpeed Driven review of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, with nearly 75 all-new, high-resolution images of the production model we sampled.
How Does The C7 Look In Real Life?
The C7 is really quite beautiful and very surprising in person. Despite our first thoughts on the new car last year (bland nose, derivative features, like theGT-R -like fender slash — this is one that really comes to life in the flesh.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - Nose Styling Analysis
What (at first glance) seemed like a mostly featureless nose is actually a clean and classy approach to the front end, versus some garish-looking previous Corvettes like the C5.
Flanked by the all-new LED lights and blinkers, the C7 brings some of the best car-styling elements into the Corvette fold. The lights and side surfaces are certainly at home chasing Ferrari’s, and all the areas that wash out in auto show photos are actually highly detailed.
Flow and structure lines all originate in the lower front hood area, almost like the wind ripples from the flapping Corvette crossed-flags logo. A deep hood shape that looks flat is actually highly three-dimensional, and the nose is quite interesting from up close and down low.
Many of those creases and shapes really help the C7 avoid the previous melted appearance of the C5 in particular. Chevy made some detail tweaks toward the end of the Corvette design program to make the car feel more "international." We can only assume these changes worked really well, because the C7 is beautiful and refined enough to look decent parked in Monaco.
Not something many would say about even the chrome-laden ZR-1 and its glass see-through hood accent.
LED Daytime Running Light and Turn Signal Indicators Detail
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - Profile Styling Analysis
Taut surfaces and powerful proportions come standard, and easily letting the Vette feel at home next to the GT-R and Viper . Costing barely half the price of these other two supercars, the Vette’s ability to look like a $100,000 machine is very impressive.
Some of the details that brought ’surprise and delight’ moments are the blacked-out A-pillars, the carbon-fiber weave of the targa top panel, and the well-placed air vents and ducts. It seems pure and clean, like a shape that can be sketched quickly with a pencil.
Only in that hot late-summer sunlight does it all come together for the Corvette Stingray. Even in the weird electric blue paint of the test car, and without the dark-finish wheel choice: the Corvette C7 is a car whose styling is a visual feast.
Carbon-fiber Targa Roof Panel Detail
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - Tail Styling Analysis
Last on the list of great details are the taillights. Even with classy and new LED daytime lights in front and vertical blades of turn signal blinkers, the brake lights are unfortunately very normal versus even the sequential blinkers of the Ford Mustang GT.
Despite being LED-lit and a new shape with integrated vents in the lower corners: these lights would never make the grade on the Ferrari 458 or F12.
The tail spoiler really helps the C7’s battle stance and aerodynamics at high speeds, but seems a bit cheap up close.
How Is The C7’s Interior?
Even armchair enthusiasts can probably recite verbatim the many, many criticisms about every Corvette interior in recent memory.
Corvette-specific dials and infotainment from the last cars always looked cool for about 30 minutes before its exaggerated fonts and silly technology really started to irritate. Power-actuated doors are still around, so it needs a button push for the door latch to fire open.
The 1-second lag before the door opens is still present and embarrassing for Chevy - at least from inside the car. While probably included for some mechanical reason to make the door lighter, this feature almost single-handedly ruins the CTS-V as well.
Outside, entry is easier than many supercars like the hidden-handle and the original flush button on the McLaren 12C.
The C7’s door opens right away when its button is pushed, and the shrouded shape of the hidden handle is not too annoying in regular use. (Note to Aston Martin, Jaguar and Tesla : hidden door handles are cool but a pain in the butt to use in real life.) Try having to explain to every passenger how to get out while they paw around in vain looking for a door handle. Many non-car-people still cannot figure it out and need to be freed from outside.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - Was There Anything Good in Previous C5 and C6 Corvette Interiors versus this C7?
Yes, good things were there for daily usability in the old Vettes, but all are greatly enhanced for the latest generation. The A/C and insulation of the C7 make the Viper seem unfinished, and the cabin is relatively hushed at a slow highway cruise. The trunk was huge as well in the C7.
So we all know that the C6 plastics very awful, the old steering wheel was shared with everything from the Oldsmobile Alero to the Pontiac G5. Some metallic plastics on the old wheel were barely able to disguise its Dollar Store appearance. Then, the seats were garbage at holding firmly in corners and even had alarming scuttle shake to the seatbacks on bad surfaces.
So, let’s recap: the door handles were awful, the steering wheel was nasty, and the seats needed the help of the central tunnel and door panels to keep you from flopping all around. Almost every touch point was therefore a total fail. Not a great way to win buyers, who often decide in the first 100 feet of a test drive if they will purchase a car.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - How Did the C7’s Interior Feel?
After moving almost directly from the GT-R to the Corvette, the similarities in driving position and some tactile points is very impressive for the half-as-expensive Stingray. The seats are instantly firm and enveloping, the wheel falls right in hand, and the push-button start makes life easier.
The steering wheel itself might take second place to the new Lear Italia seats in terms of its strength, feedback and the finish quality of its double stitched leather. The old wheel was able to flex in your hand at its top rim point. The new wheel feels as tough as nails, with zero of the flex previously suffered by the steering column and even the wheel itself when at max attack.
Brilliantly-weighted controls to the wheel felt eerily similar to the GT-R in a really good way. A quick ratio and good power assist at low speeds instantly vanishes on the road. Firm and tactile feedback informs the driver of what the C7 wants.
The driving position is outstanding, and the surfaces of the C7 cabin actually look really great and premium. The design of the carbon-fiber surface accents inside is fresh and premium, and even shades the McLaren 12C’s extremely awkward-looking weave.
The rest of the car’s cabin feels fantastic. No flex in the dashboard or the grab handle that envelops the main central stack inspire confidence. The infotainment was the best-yet from Chevrolet and beats the GT-R for ease of use. Simple icons and a quick-response touchscreen are great to use.
The leather of the test car seats felt pretty nice from Chevy , but not quite as handsome in pale grey versus the rich browns and tans of the press preview cars.
Lastly, one of the C7’s really intoxicating features is enjoyable with windows up or down: a sonorous rumble then bellow from the four-pack of polished exhaust outlets. In contrast, the Viper and GT-R were not as thrilling to hear.
Trunk Open Detail
How Does The C7 Drive?
The Corvette’s front-hinged engine cover hood feels about as light as it gets while it pops up on its gas-strut hinges. A C7 crossed-flags logo is embossed in the lower hood’s insulation materials, which is a fun detail.
The Corvette Stingray will launch with a heavily-revised 450-horsepower, 6.2-liter, V-8 engine through a seven-speed Tremec manual transmission.
The linearity of the throttle in the naturally aspirated Corvette is one of its best features. Even with stump-pulling torque available all over the tach, the intensity of the experience and the rush of speed really builds with a nice progression.
As the GT-R is a bit more like driving in fast-forward, the Vette is present and in the moment while its exhaust baffles open and the V-8 sings to the heavens. In this regard, the C7 is actually a bit more similar to the Nissan 370Z Nismo that was also on hand for comparisons.
The 370Z is more truculent, however, with heavy controls to the shifter and clutch that are much more like a Viper than the C7. Both the Viper and the 370Z are fairly miserable going slowly, whereas the GT-R and Corvette are happy chums at any speed — even when stopped.
An automatic transmission is on the options list, but the incredible tactility of the C7’s standard manual is pretty hard to beat. While the 370Z Nismo and Viper are snatchy and jerky in slow-speed shifts, the Vette is smooth and refined.
For the full performance specs of the C7, please cruise over to the full review here .
When Is The C7 Available, and How Much Does It Cost?
The Corvette Stingray’s production is currently at maximum three-shift settings to deliver the 2014 Corvette to its eager buyers. A recent report detailed the current 6-month waiting list, which is growing longer every day. Pricing starts just above $55,000.
The first C7 was just delivered last week, so the first-in-line buyers can hopefully expect theirs by the 2013 winter holidays.
What Did You Really Think Of The C7?
So, the Corvette is not only looking much more like the GT-R’s modern and tech style in its new C7 generation, but it also brings much of the Nissan ’s rigidity and chassis composure to the contest. Where the GT-R’s immense strength is present from the moment a wheel turns, the C7 is now just as in-tune to the road and the driver’s mood.
We are as surprised to be typing this as you are to be reading it, but this is the truth we observed with the Corvette C7.
All the rear-drive playfulness of the best hardcore sports cars like the Viper and Nismo 370Z is present in the Corvette Stingray. The outstanding sense of rigidity and handling balance is miles ahead of both of those two brutes, however, and the cabin is much more comfortable in the C7.
And looks to make a GT-R seem a bit too tall in comparison? The C7’s roof is 5-plus inches lower than the GT-R, but the cabins are just as roomy and comfortable for getting planted on track-type driving. A lower seat is always a good feature, and the C7 delivers the rush even when switched off.
The combination of vastly more attractive styling and proportions, far better cabin tech, comfort and confidence and - of course - the roaring and snorting V-8 that is always a willing plaything just a toe tip away.
For even a life-long Vette skeptic, the 2014 C7 Stingray is magnificent. Get that deposit in now.
- Looks great in flesh
- Black carbon-fiber accent panels and vents not too over-the-top of exaggerated
- Still a killer in sprints, but now a whole lot nicer for all the other aspects a sports car should achieve
- Waiting list will get very, very long once more guys get some time in the seat
- Looks really great in white with the dark wheels
- Seeing all the photos up close makes me miss the C7 already