First Look: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette

A. J. Mueller

Four years ago, the Corvette team first weighed the idea of reviving the historic Stingray moniker for the C7 Corvette. They made the decision only six months ago. It took that long to come to a verdict because neither design VP Ed Welburn nor chief engineer Tadge Juechter nor marketing manager Harlan Charles would make the call until they could confidently say their car delivered the looks, the performance, and the character to live up to the 1963-67 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.

As automotive design editor Robert Cumberford notes in his analysis, the seventh generation of America's sports car is unmistakably a Corvette without resorting to pastiches. The new Vette accelerates quicker, stops shorter, and grips harder in corners. And Corvette engineers promise an enlightened driving experience. The C7 Corvette is, by every measure, worthy of the Stingray name.

Corvette tradition soldiers on under the hood as well, with a new small-block V-8. The 4.4-inch bore spacing has roots in 1955, and the 6162-cubic-centimeter displacement is a remnant from last year's Corvette, yet the number of carryover parts in the new LT1 is in the single digits. New features include variable valve timing, direct injection, and cylinder deactivation, which turns the 6.2-liter V-8 into a 3.1-liter V-4 during low-load cruising. Overhead cams were left out in an effort to keep the engine height -- and the hoodline -- low, and engineers didn't shrink displacement because a smaller engine means fewer opportunities to operate in four-cylinder mode.

"There won't be a Corvette if we don't care about fuel economy," Juechter says. "We can't drag General Motors' Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers down." To that end, the C7 should deliver incremental gains over last year's 16/26 mpg EPA city/highway rating. Fortunately, a more efficient engine also leads to a more powerful engine. The LT1 sees modest output improvements over the old LS3, to 450 hp at 6000 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. Chevrolet promises a 0-to-60-mph time of less than four seconds.

To keep pace with the Porsche 911, the Corvette will introduce the industry's second seven-speed manual transmission when it arrives in late 2013. The seventh gear stretches the ratio spread from 5.32 in the C6 to 6.33. Curiously, a Corvette with a clutch pedal will also come with paddle shifters. In manual cars, they activate and disable the automatic rev-matching program. We're grateful to hear there's a defeat for the software, but paddles are awfully prominent for a feature you're un-likely to toggle between very often.

The automatic transmission is still a six-speed married to the engine via torque converter. That it's not a dual-clutch gearbox or an eight-speed is a matter of torque: no one sells a dual-clutch transaxle that can handle the LT1's torque (unless Porsche is interested in becoming a Corvette supplier), and Chevrolet wasn't in a position to develop one; additional gears offer negligible benefits for the big V-8 engine that makes so much low-end torque.

"When we can offer better fuel economy and better performance with more gears, we will do it," Juechter says.

The one significant improvement we can have now is a pair of proper shift paddles, larger than in the C6, with the left handling downshifts and the right managing upshifts.

A driving-mode selector located just behind the shifter signals the Corvette's arrival to the electronic age. Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport, and Track modes alter up to twelve parameters: the digital gauge cluster, throttle mapping, shift points, cylinder deactivation, active exhaust, electronic limited-slip differential, steering effort, magnetic ride control, launch control, stability control, traction control, and Performance Traction Management. The C7 also makes the daunting transition from hydraulically assisted steering to electric power steering. We're hopeful, though, as General Motors has shown increasing prowess at calibrating electric steering, with the Camaro ZL1 serving as a testament to the engineers' capabilities. Feedback should also benefit from a steering structure (the rack, the column, the tilt/telescope mechanism, and their mountings) that is five times stiffer.

The C6's suspension arrangement of control arms and transverse leaf springs carries over, but fitting Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires as standard equipment will help the base Corvette produce a lateral-grip figure in excess of 1 g. The old car's sliding- caliper brakes have been replaced with fixed four-piston Brembo calipers front and rear that chop the 60-to-0-mph stopping distance by eleven feet. That puts the base C7 on par with the Z06.

Until Z06 and ZR1 replacements arrive, the Z51 performance package is the hot ticket. It features revised gear ratios, a dry-sump oil system, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, brake-cooling ducts, slotted rotors, and transmission and differential coolers. A lip spoiler and an underbody tray help it generate more downforce than a ZR1. The Z51 package is also the gateway to Magnetic Ride Control, the adjustable magnetorheological dampers suited for both lumpy roads and glass-smooth racetracks.

An aluminum frame, once the exclusive domain of the Z06 and the ZR1, is now the base for all Corvettes. The main rails are hydroformed, the crash structures are extruded, and the suspension mounting points are hollow cast for strict control over strength and weight, with wall thickness varying between two and eleven millimeters. Abandoning steel yields a structure that is 99 pounds lighter yet 57 percent stiffer than the C6 Corvette's. Another 37 pounds have been scraped from the body. The featherlight balsa wood sandwiched in the floorpan has been replaced with structural foam. The hood and roof are carbon fiber, the underbody trays are lighter, and the composite body panels now come from a lower-density material.

Those weight savings quickly evaporate, however, when the Corvette is fitted with the equipment needed to meet modern expectations and safety standards. The new engine hardware and infotainment electronics add more than 30 pounds each. The torque tube between the engine and the transaxle is now steel, rather than aluminum, to quell vibrations during four-cylinder operation, and the door beams are beefier to perform better in new crash tests. So when Chevrolet announces the official weight figures later this year, expect a slight increase over the C6's 3208 pounds.

The C7 is also larger, measuring 2.5 inches longer than its predecessor and within 0.2 inch of the Porsche 911. It is 1.3 inches wider and 0.4 inch lower, and, to keep weight distribution in check, the front wheels have been pushed forward one inch. The proportions are unmistakable, though. The C7's impossibly low hood, tall rear fenders, and wide stance are inspired by the outgoing Grand Sport model. The departure is most dramatic in the tapered greenhouse that sports the Corvette's first rear-quarter window since the 1962 model. The split rear glass, however, teased on the 2009 Stingray concept and rumored for production, was tossed. Designers say rearward visibility was decent but that the styling looked forced on prototypes. Instead, much of the C7 conversation will center around its squarish, Camaro-esque taillights. "These are our pop-up headlights," Juechter says, referencing the controversial move to fixed headlamps for the C6. That car's single-bulb round taillights may be iconic, but internally they were known as RV lights for their simplicity, and they didn't offer much of a stage for showing off the LEDs that the design team wanted to incorporate for the C7. The stylized solution also provides a connection to the vents, which serve as an outlet to the air inlets on top of the rear fender. Those vents send fresh air over the transmission and differential coolers and create a low-pressure area at the exit that improves aerodynamics.

As expressive as the exterior is, Juechter characterizes the interior makeover as the single greatest change for the C7. At the top of the upgrade list were the seats and the steering wheel, perennial shortcomings for the Corvette. Chevrolet sent the interior designers to the track and then benchmarked Porsche and Recaro seats for lateral support. The result is two different seats to accommodate the Corvette's divergent customer set: a GT version and a Competition Sport seat. At the very least, the results look promising. And while the bolsters get larger, the steering wheel shrinks from 14.6 inches to 14.2 inches.

Eight-inch screens are nested between analog gauges in the cluster and in the center stack. That center panel is canted toward the driver, and a grab handle in the console isolates the passenger from the touchscreen and the physical controls. The only consolation is a small rocker with a digital readout screen below the passenger-side dash vent that controls the temperature for that half of the cabin. At least passengers will be aware that they're riding in a $50,000-plus car. All interiors are fully wrapped in either premium vinyl or leather, with carbon-fiber, aluminum, and microsuede trim.

The seventh-generation Corvette advances America's sports car with a more aggressive aesthetic, more advanced technologies, more power, and a more fitting cockpit. But the most exciting prospect of the C7 is something very familiar. When we look at the new Corvette, we get the same feeling as when we see a '63-'67 Sting Ray: we want to drive it.

POWERTRAIN
Engine:
16-valve OHV V-8
Displacement: 6.2 liters (376 cu in)
Power: 450 hp @ 6000 rpm (est.)
Torque: 450 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm (est.)
Transmissions: 7-speed manual 6-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel

CHASSIS
Steering:
Electrically assisted
Front suspension: Control arms, semi-elliptic spring
Rear suspension: Control arms, semi-elliptic spring
Brakes: Vented discs, ABS
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport
Tire sizes F, R: 245/40R-18, 245/35R-19

MEASUREMENTS
L x W x H:
177.0 x 73.9 x 48.6 in
Wheelbase: 106.7 in
Weight: 3300 lb (est.)
Weight dist. F/R: 50/50% (est.)
Fuel mileage: 17/27 mpg (est.)

1 of 3
88xray
I'm sorry, IMO, this is a styling abortion.Why?  It looks cartoonish and overdone, a pastiche.Too much going on, too many vents, grills, creases, etc., etc.  Overall effect:  it looks way too busy (compare it to the genuinely beautiful Ferrari 458 Italia -- simpler, cleaner and graceful).  And the rear end  =  really terrible.  A Camaro look on a car that costs $25,000+ more??   Very smart.  It even looks like a Camaro at the rear from the side.  And the too big quad tailpipes also look 'fanboy/rice rocket style 4" exhaust' and cartoonish.Must have been styled by a committee w/the head of design (Welburn?) either asleep, AWOL or on drugs.
Also, it's f....king longer, wider and heavier.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  It should be shorter, slightly narrower and lighter w/a downsized V8 still yielding supercar performance w/better fuel economy (and even nimbler handling due to decreased size, width and weight  --  "Earth to Chevy....Ever heard of Colin Chapman?"). The interior's ok, but also a little overdone.  Since the steering wheel is supposed to be an improvement, why does the center pad look like a glued on afterthought, rather than an integral part of the wheel??  The arch over the instruments flowing into the side handle on the center console has been done a few too many times elsewhere in recent years.I wanted to love this car.  Long been a fan since I owned a 1964 327 Sting Ray Coupe -- one of the best of the many sports cars I've owned over the years. This is a shame.
jbernard
You know, the c7 is one of those designs where once the luster wears off, its not that exciting. As a matter of fact, from c-pillar and rearward, its somewhat cheap looking, even ugly. It lacks a maturity that the previous car, in all its RV-tail-light glory managed to retain. The diffuser look needs to be toned down, the vents are functional but the slats in them should be abandoned, and the tail-lights...oh the tail-lights...they, in their execution appears cheapish and to omit what may arguably be one of the most heritable features of the brand is just plain foolish, regardless of intent (LED's are great, but not entirely necessary, and to that, it would've been possible to retain the LED's if desired). I'm sure it'll sell, but there is something very immature about this design.
rogerxcohn
well, most of the negative comments are about tail lights ( may have a point there) or the color scheme on ONE show vehicle. If you looked at the rest of the photos you would see body colored vents and interiors that were not red. As far as it being an overweight boulevard cruiser...0-60 under 4 seconds. Weight is only guessed at being heavier. if it is probably only a couple of pounds (less than those golf clubs you drive a round with all the time) if at all. I didn't see any complaints about the headlights that look like they were copied from a 458 Italia? I think its beautiful and can't wait to drive one. I can only imagine the performance from the Z06 and ZR1. The so called base car matches the old Z06 already. So, factoring that in may (base) be not too expensive after all.  All the vents are functional so I doubt they were just stuck on there. There is a lot of performance in a very low profile. The heat has to go somewhere.So, I think it is awesome and much more than I was expecting. But, I still wouldn't be surprised by a tail light change in the next model year.
jbernard
The rear end seems somewhat disjointed to me but, minor quibble aside, I really do feel bad for the SRT boys...
TT-Moto
There's no arguing GM made some much overdue improvemts and enhancements to the C7 Corvette, but I'm sorry none of that can excuse the fact that Juechter and his team used Camaro tail lights. Nor is the fact that the C7 is going to be heavier acceptable, IMHO. Juechter can spin the Camaro lights anyway he wants but there was a very legitimate reason to eliminate the pop up headlights, not so with the tail lights. As far as his suggestion that the round lights limited them in some way, I call that bs.Maybe Juechter and his team should take some notes from Ferrari, better yet you guys can seriously learn a thing or two from the Viper team. Not only did SRT deliver a Viper true to it's origins, but they improved it in almost ever aspect and reduced it's weight. Good luck with C7 sales, I won't be a buying another Corvette any time soon.
Streamliner
The vast majority of new Corvettes are purchased by "middle aged" men. Why then, did they design this new Vette to appeal to the Power Rangers crowd? Sorry, but this car looks like something a 16 year old kid would want. The car is over the top aggressive and way too "video game" for this middle aged guy. And that interior! Interiors, where no matter what color you order, half of it is black, are CHEAP LOOKING! If I order a red interior, I would like an ALL RED interior, like the beautiful Corvettes of the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's. I don't care how quick or how techno this new Vette is, for my money, I'd much rather have a new Porsche Boxster. Have you seen the new Porsche interiors? Drop dead GORGEOUS! I am very sorry to say this, but Corvettes are still for guys who think a platinum Visa card is a big deal, that chicks dig gold chains and that Sizzler is a great steak house.
browniebear2153
agree? disagree?
browniebear2153
Sales on all remaining C6's should soar
browniebear2153
The side view looks like a Mazda from the 1980's, great tail-lights from the Chevy Malibu and the added price of plus $10,000 over the C6 (which was really a C5 1/2) must be created by the finance geeks. It was long rumored that Chevrolet was going to discontinue the Corvette, well the account finance geeks may finally have found a way; price the vehicle totally out of reach of the "average" buyer.Mazda sales should  go up 500%. 
The Corvette is becomming a boulevard cruiser - the final replacement for the Lincoln Mark VII.
TheClassicCarFactory
Regardless of what we were all expecting this car to be, it is a quantum improvement over the C6 in every way - especially design - except for the tail which seems a tad "busy"; I don't mind they took libberties with the tail lights - what I mind is that the design they settled on looks like they just raided the Camaro parts bin.....i bet these will be the first change on the next update......probably back to round :)
JK Mcneely
Great looks. Fantastic technology. Just don't know why they gave it Camaro tail lights and a Nissan GT-R roofline. Why change from the classic Vette round/oval tail lights? From behind, it is not easily recognizable as a Corvette.
Uncle Stabby
I agree with the comments about the functional venting being available in body color. Other than that, think the car is a beautiful, respectful, but not slavishly retro interpretation of its forebearers. The most important non-kinetic part of the car is the interior which always reeked of Rubbermaid, no matter how much low-rent leather they slathered all over it. I hope that the Corvette will approach Volkswagen/Audi levels of material refinement at long last. And in the SIWOTI department, in your photo gallery, the '68 C3 is actually a '71 and the '84 C4 is at least a '92. I know, I know, it's the generation you're showing, not the year, but it's annoying to your many devoted car pedant readers.
jwoj
Exciting car! An update worthy of the new name - if it drives as promised. Even if they only updated the interior, this would have been a success :-) Looks like the new Viper is going to get spanked - by a base Vette! Looking forward to the convertible, as well. It's becoming harder to look unique, and you can see a few other cars in this new Vette's design, but it comes together well, overall, and in a way that doesn't betray its heritage.Four head-scratchers, though. 1. I hope you can get body-colored vents, rather than only the black because it looks a bit too busy, 2. the taillights should have been more rounded, at least paying homage to cars from the Stingray on. I heard they thought they were too prosaic: wrong., 3.) gimmick alert! The paddles to turn on and off the rev-matching feature for the manual (a very cool 7 speeds) are massive overkill. You either turn that feature on or off. Unless there's an explanation coming, it's out of whack for a car that is otherwise nicely maturing. And, 4. the side vent behind the front wheelhousing looks like it was an afterthought. Seems like someone said, "Dammit, we forgot that vent! It has to be there! Okay, where can we fit this thing in?" It could have been much better integrated.Smallish things for a nice leap forward! Can't wait to see a test.
rogerxcohn
@Streamliner Chicks don't dig gold chains? Really? Most women think any credit card or guy with a job is a big deal

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