Can you drive the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette in the snow? Of course you can. After a weekend of sledding around metro Detroit in a Stingray -- a convertible, no less -- I'm happy to report it's not only doable, it's pretty fun.
Is it the ideal winter car? No, it isn't. Frankly, I'd probably have been better off running around in a late '90s Jeep Cherokee with four-wheel drive. But at Automobile Magazine we test-drive cars throughout the year, and when the key fob for a Laguna blue Stingray landed on my desk this past weekend, I wasn't about to pass it up. I'd driven the C7 Corvette only once before, during a group test last fall in western Michigan when we evaluated several new models for our Automobile of the Year (which the Corvette won) and All-Stars awards. This time, I had the Stingray all to myself to do whatever I pleased.
It was cold and clear and the roads were dry on my drive home. The Stingray warms up quickly, thanks to its small cabin and excellent heating system. The rumble of the V-8 engine and the growl of the exhaust note provided a nice soundtrack for my commute. The magazine deadline had just passed, and I was behind the wheel of the seventh-generation Corvette on the open expressway. I cracked the windows and soaked it in.
The next day, a trip into the city with my wife was on the agenda, as we had found out about a free tour of an historic skyscraper and thought we'd check it out. Our route took us down Detroit's main thoroughfare, Woodward Avenue, all the way from the northern suburbs to the core of downtown. On the drive into the city, the new Corvette attracted plenty of attention. Dodging potholes was the main challenge, and parallel parking was no trouble thanks to the Corvette's back-up camera. Later in the day we headed to Costco, where maneuvering the parking lot was a bit trickier because outward visibility in the Corvette isn't great: You're low to the ground. The A-pillars are huge. The fenders bulge. And of course, everyone has to stare or, sometimes, glare as you pass by. Apparently it's rude to gun the engine.
The first half of the weekend had passed uneventfully. Then the snow started falling.
We crossed town that night for dinner with the family. The drive there was a bit tense, as the fading daylight and rapidly falling flakes severely reduced visibility, but in the end it only took marginally longer to get to the restaurant than it would have in better weather. The baked ziti was excellent, although the snow was looming in the back of my mind throughout the meal. Once we were satiated, we stepped outside into thick snow. The roads were a mess.
We were facing a 20-mile drive home in a rear-wheel-drive sports car that cost more than $67,000. Fortunately, this Stingray was shod with winter tires. Treading carefully, we creeped through the darkened streets covered with wet, slippery snow. The Corvette performed well, and I'd like to think I did, too. No jerky movements or immature antics. (After a winter marked by seemingly endless appearances of the polar vortex, I've lost any desire to slip around in the slush.) The Stingray was sure-footed through turns. Despite 455 horses being sent to the rear wheels, I never felt like a loss of grip resulting in a spinout was imminent. My confidence in the Stingray grew as we inched closer to home, and my wife was comfortable enough to read her Kindle throughout the drive. We arrived safely, and even crawled up our icy driveway without getting stuck. It was actually a pretty satisfying ordeal, uh night.
The snow settled in overnight, and Sunday was sunny and clear. Time to shovel. I moved the Stingray in the street so I could clear the driveway, and while parked it was buffeted -- twice -- by snowplows storming through the neighborhood. One rig fishtailed precariously close to the Vette before tagging a curb on the opposite side of the street. I decided it was time to move the car before luck ran out.
At this point, having survived a treacherous drive the previous night and then spending half the day shoveling, it seemed like an ideal time to actually have fun in the Stingray convertible. I dropped the top, pulled up my hood, and donned aviator shades. The Corvette easily slipped out of the drift created by the plows, and I cruised the side streets. People leaned on their shovels and stared. I pulled onto Woodward, which by now was salted and clear of snow and accelerated under an overpass in sport mode as the exhaust chortled and rumbled off the ancient concrete. I dipped south of Eight Mile into Detroit proper, soaking in the vacant State Fair Grounds before looping back north. More engine reverberations. More stares. It didn't feel that cold, what with the seat warmers cranked and the heater blasting. I turned on the radio and tuned in to the Detroit Tigers spring training game. Maybe summer isn't so far away, I thought. Then a jagged piece of snow dislodged from the cowl and shot up the windshield and over my head. The on-board thermometer read 13 degrees.
I eventually drove home, parked the Vette, and put up the top after having thrown a punch back at Old Man Winter. Yes, you can drive a Corvette in the dead of snow season. Just use common sense and get a set of winter tires. And, if you're going to drive a Vette in winter, you might as well get the convertible. Believe it or not, it's more fun in the snow.