I wish I could tell you that the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible is the car that we were promised it would be. That car was supposed to be the sports car that we Gen Y-ers would tack on to our walls. For those of us with more sophisticated tastes, maybe it'd be matted and framed first and hung in a loft.
But it's not.
Just twice during my weekend with the Adrenaline Red Corvette Stingray did I get compliments from people my own age. The other dozen or so times were from people old enough to have midlife crises—and, more importantly, actually old enough to afford the car. The 20- and 30-somethings who pine over Porsche 911s and Jaguar F-Types will undoubtedly continue to do so, keeping Vette worship with a little distance. But that's not because the Corvette is lacking in any way, besides the fact that the car smells like melting plastic on a hot day. In fact, this new Vette is one hell of a car.
Model and PriceJust as we received our Corvette for the week, GM's invisible hand poked it with a $2,000 price increase across the board. Since the seventh-generation Corvette has been such a hot-seller, our 2LT-optioned Corvette wound up with a $65,790 price tag, including $995 for destination and handling. Starting at $58,995, our convertible came bestowed with $4,210 of 2LT goodness that included heated and cooled seats, auto dimming mirrors, a 10-speaker premium Bose audio system, and a color head-up display, among other options.
Also thrown in were a multi-mode exhaust with electronically controlled baffles that open for a throatier sound ($1,195), navigation ($795), and red-painted brake calipers ($595). Speaking that the convertible can be optioned out to more than $80,000, our car was likely the way how many will be ordered, with standard seats and lacking the hyper Z51 performance package. A six-speed automatic transmission is available for $1,350 in lieu of the standard seven-speed manual equipped in our tester.
Safety and Key FeaturesOur 455-horsepower bruiser wasn't as unwieldy as one might think. In fact, the car almost seemed too refined. Put into Normal mode, there was a faint rumble from the Vette's 6.2-liter V-8 engine, but it wasn't until we selected Sport mode that the car's brash American soul let its presence be felt--and heard.
Inside, the Corvette is adorned with aluminum, leather, and stitched vinyl panels. Its red seats reminded us of the bygone 1980s, but the leather felt smooth and buttery instead of lacquered over with enough chemicals to make it feel like plastic.
And despite its small interior space, the Corvette comes with an abundance of safety features including front and side airbags for both passengers, six months of OnStar standard, and a backup camera on Chevrolet's 8-inch MyLink display. Because of its relatively scant sales numbers, neither the IIHS nor the government have crash-tested the Stingray.
Family Friendliness and UtilityDropping into the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette doesn't require much more effort than having two hips that work. That includes replaced hips. It's pretty easy. But when you get into this car, its tightly bolstered seats immediately remind you that this is not your paunched uncle's 1989 Corvette. That car had 230 horsepower and could barely get out of its own way.
The 2014 Corvette is a precise tool of speed. With firm electric power steering and a small-diameter steering wheel, the car feels nimble, at least when you get used to its generous 74-inch width and front fenders that arc into your field of vision, making you feel like you're deep within a cocoon of a car. But this car is a grand tourer; accommodations for passengers are spacious, and with 10 cubic feet of trunk space, even with the top down, it was designed to fit two golf bags. Chevy may say it's trying to skew younger, but clearly its engineers are well aware of what its most loyal customers enjoy doing in their free time in Palm Beach.
Comfort and QualityAs sports cars go, we found the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette plenty supple on normal roads and were acutely aware of how well-behaved the Vette's tires were on potholed surfaces. Dare we say it, but the Corvette was nearly as refined as the 2014 Jaguar F-Type we drove late last year, despite lacking $32,000 on the price tag and 500 pounds on the scale.
Also surprising was just how much better the Corvette Stingray's interior is over previous generations'. Panels feel substantial; the switches and buttons are high-quality and look like they were crafted in harmony instead of just bolted-down bits of injection-molded plastic. If you see aluminum on the dashboard, it's the real thing. Even without many options, the car felt like it was punching above its weight.
Our gripes? The glove compartment door felt flimsy, the convertible top took ages to fold down, the trunk would often take two or three tries to close, and, perhaps the only problem all Corvettes have ever had: The petrochemical smells radiated from the car's fiberglass panels in the sun.
How it DrivesNone of those qualms really seem to matter when you get it out on the road, though. The 2014 Corvette costs two-thirds as much as a Jaguar F-Type V8 S, but it handles more confidently. On our favorite canyon road in Malibu where many sports car drivers meet on weekends, a skeptical BMW M3-owning bystander wanted to see for himself, so we offered up a ride. With 455 horsepower and some of the grippiest tires we've had the pleasure of helping wear down, the BMW owner came away from the experience looking like a kid who had just ridden Space Mountain for the first time.
The Chevrolet Corvette has always had that innate ability, even when it was a pile of junk in the late-1970s and into the '80s. This time around, though, it's a far more complete package—not just a brute with ample power and mean looks. Shifting through its bolt-action seven-speed manual was a breeze, and the Corvette's easy-to-reach rev-matching paddles behind the steering wheel made us feel like rockstars of the winding road.
In previous rear-drive sports cars we've had the privilege of driving around the same Malibu roads, we've noticed some considerable rear-end tugging in aggressive cornering—known as oversteer. But the Vette remained neutral as could be. Rarely did we have a chance to let all of the car's power loose; it's an insipid amount of force that most people wouldn't have the slightest clue how to handle. But it's rewarding for anyone who even has the faintest idea of what he or she is doing.
Fortunately, the Corvette is just as easy to drive around town at slow speeds, too.
SummaryNot once did I drive with the top up on the 2014 Corvette Stingray from the moment I left work on Friday until I arrived at work on Monday, some 160 miles later. All the while, I averaged right around 15 mpg in some of the worst traffic in this hemisphere, logged plenty of miles driven under all sorts of conditions, and happily came away from the Vette with the utmost respect for the car.
The 2014 Corvette Stingray has few natural competitors, especially for the money. At its price point, only the Porsche Boxster S really holds a candle. Optioning it with all of the performance goodies would yield a car whose price would come in around $70,000 and would still easily run with—or run past—the Jag F-Type and Porsche 911, despite costing some $25,000 to $50,000 less.
At one point, it could be said that the polish of the foreign rivals was worth the extra cost, but not so anymore. While it lacks some of the panache of the Deutschlanders and Britons, the margin is almost insignificant. Of course, no matter how good the new Corvette may be, it's not going to stop retirees buying them with automatic transmissions to use in Memorial Day parades anytime soon. Unfortunate, maybe. Off-putting for young people, definitely. But old people have money, and at least they're doing their part to keep the Corvette's legacy on the road for another 60 years, if not longer.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $65,790
EPA City: 17 mpg
EPA Highway: 29 mpg
EPA Combined: 21 mpg
Cargo Space: 10 cubic feet
Estimated Combined Range: 388.5 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Above Average