2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - Four Seasons Wrap-Up
Does the Corvette live up to its promise?
For much of its history, the Chevrolet Corvette has made promises it couldn't keep. America's sports car has always aimed to beat European competitors costing twice as much, and it frequently has put up the necessary performance stats to do so. But from behind the wheel, this bold quest has almost always come up short. Although fast and fun, the Corvette has usually lacked the refinement and attention to quality that makes
a relatively expensive sports car worth that extra money.
The seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette, the all-new flagship for an all-new General Motors, aims to live up to its promise at last. Our first few drives in the car left us so impressed we named it Automobile of the Year. But we still wondered whether the Corvette would be as brilliant over the long haul. To find out, we acquired a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray for a Four Seasons test.
We equipped our Corvette with options that would maximize its smashing good looks, everyday comfort, and commanding performance—all of its best attributes. We started with the Z51 performance package ($2,800), which includes heavy-duty engine cooling, a dry-sump oil system, a shorter final-drive ratio, an electronic limited-slip differential, larger brakes, and a firmer suspension. We also added a performance exhaust ($1,195), which frees up 5 hp and plays a louder tune at the twist of a dial. We knew the Z51's stiff conventional dampers wouldn't play well in Michigan, where the car would spend most of its time, so we upgraded further to magnetorheological dampers ($1,795). They adjust from softer than the base car (Touring) to stiffer than Z51 (Track).
To the interior we added the slimmer, better bolstered Competition Sport seats ($1,995), carbon-fiber trim ($995), a navigation system ($795), and a premium package ($4,210) that bundles a head-up instrument display and upgraded stereo with seats that include heating, cooling, and power lumbar adjustment. Finally, we couldn't resist dressing up the exterior by choosing red brake calipers ($595) and black wheels ($495).
That's a long list of options, yet our final price of $68,060 is still about 17 grand cheaper than a base Porsche 911.
On top of all the goodies, we opted for the $990 privilege of picking up the car ourselves from the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. There we found our white knight waiting for us. We settled into the sculpted red driver's seat, fired up the 460-hp V-8 for the first time, and rolled outside. It didn't seem at all incongruous when a tour group of excited school-age children spontaneously whooped and applauded.
AUTOMOBILE staffers were nearly as effusive when the Corvette arrived in Michigan. "Drove around the office park. Palms sweaty," daily news editor Eric Weiner noted for the logbook. More expensive and more exotic cars visit the Automobile parking lot with relative frequency, yet few drew as much attention from editors and onlookers alike as this one. "So special, so distinctive, and so cool," gushed daily news editor Joey Capparella. "Every time I drive it, I feel inclined to go on an adventure." Many of us did just that. The 'Vette accrued 27,847 miles in its four seasons with us, rolling across much of the Midwest and the Eastern seaboard.
In the crucible of repeated highway drives and hundreds of daily commutes, we were pleased to find that the Corvette, unlike its predecessors, has thoughtful ergonomics backing up its style. The cabin is relatively easy to climb into and to see out of, and the Competition Sport seats comfortably supported drivers ranging up to 6-foot-2. If you're taller, senior editor Chris Nelson warned, the Corvette could be trouble. "A friend of mine taller than me tried to sit in the Corvette, but he couldn't fit," Nelson said. "Of course, he loved it anyway." Meanwhile, the crisp head-up display proved its worth on night trips by allowing drivers to dim the instrument panel and minimize glare. Control buttons on the steering wheel buttons are clustered so that drivers can tap them without shifting their grip on the rim. And a handful of perfectly placed knobs and buttons complement the center touchscreen interface.
The only ergonomic sore spot proved to be the shift linkage for the seven-speed manual transmission, as the tightly spaced gates tripped up drivers hurrying down through the gears from seventh directly to fifth, or from fifth directly to third. (Probably this is a predictable issue with so many gear slots.) Once in seventh gear, the Corvette was happy to purr for miles with half of its cylinders deactivated. Despite driving like teenagers, we frequently saw the 29 mpg promised by the EPA ratings on highway trips and observed a respectable 20 mpg overall.
The C7 also proved its prowess as a sports car time and again. As always, the Corvette is a performance bargain, and this car's 0 to 60 mph time of less than
4 seconds would otherwise command a six-figure price. But the C7 also provides the nuanced driving experience that we prize in BMWs and Porsches. The effort level of the electric-assist steering builds up in a natural way during cornering, while the firm action of the brake pedal proves easy to modulate. And whereas Corvettes of the past had a way of snapping loose at the limits of adhesion, the rear end of our C7 always behaved predictably, whether we were hammering down a back road or sliding through snow.
Mind you, the Corvette hasn't lost its character. Take, for instance, the view from behind the steering wheel over the hood. "One of the most distinctive in the automobile business," one of us said. Not everyone likes it, though. "The long hood makes the Corvette feel bigger than a 911, even though they're close to the same size these days," explains Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa. Of course, no one complained about what lay under that hood. Press the accelerator pedal in any gear and at any speed, and the V-8 delivers a wave of power and a wall of sound that builds until 6,600 rpm. Far from being inferior to overhead-cam competitors, this pushrod V-8 strikes us as an engineering marvel and a rare sensory pleasure.
For all the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7's heroic qualities, it nevertheless sadly lacked the quality we anticipated. Sure, we expect to expend some extra effort and cash while caring for a high-performance machine. That's why we barely batted an eyelash when the rear summer-only, high-performance tires were toast after 17,000 miles. (Yeah, we like burnouts.)
Some issues, though, are difficult to justify. The passenger door wasn't aligned correctly. The transmission liked to pop out of first gear. The differential seals leaked and required replacement under warranty. Worst of all, the fuel pump failed—twice. It happened once in a driveway during the dead of winter and once on the side of a road in rush-hour traffic. We took the Corvette to multiple Chevrolet dealerships and found them unfailingly polite but frequently unable to fix or even acknowledge our problems on the first visit. The transmission, for instance, was deemed to be "working as designed."
Chevrolet says all these issues have since been addressed both on the assembly line and at dealerships. There's now a service bulletin for early 2014 Corvettes that have trouble shifting into first gear. The differential seals have since been re-engineered, as has the fuel pump. (Chevy says the problem had to do with operating on fuel with higher than typical amounts of sulfur.) It's great to hear that Chevrolet is tackling such problems, but we wish the car had been right from Job One.
In this sense, our 2014 Chevrolet Corvette failed to live up to its promise. It's a real shame because few cars have been so promising as this one. "People accept mechanical quirks in exotic machines like the Ferrari 458 Italia, yet somehow expect the far, far less expensive Corvette to perform as unobtrusively and reliably as a Chevy Malibu," notes West Coast editor Michael Jordan.
For all that, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7 executes all the small stuff that makes German cars compelling but also delivers on what makes American cars fun. We never tired of revving the engine in parking lots, charging through highway on-ramps, or making someone's day just by passing them on the street. "It's miles ahead of any Corvette before it, and the engineering behind this thing is truly staggering," says Capparella. "But the actual appeal is way simpler than that. It looks like a Ferrari, goes like stink, and is cheap enough for real people to afford."
Pros & Cons
+ Better looking than
+ Keeps up with cars that cost twice as much
+ Comfortable, practical, and efficient enough to drive every day
- Except for the days
- Seven speeds may be too many for a manual transmission
- Still feels too big
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51 Running Costs
5-yr/100,00-mi roadside assistance
6,522 mi: Oil change, oil filter
14,346 mi: Oil change, oil filter
6,522 mi: Replace sticking traction control button
11,135 mi: Perform front suspension alignment; fix misaligned
20,765 mi: Resurface pulsating
25,475 mi: Replace fuel pump module; resurface front rotors; replace leaking rear-differential seals
27,267 mi: Replace fuel pump
Passenger seat side-impact airbag
Fuel filler anti-siphon grid out
17,167 mi: Mount and balance winter tires, dispose rear summer tires $2,913.62
Observed: 20 mpg
Cost Per Mile
(Fuel, service, winter tires)
($0.75 including depreciation)
*Estimate based on information from Intellichoice
- Our Test Results
- 0â60 mph 3.9 sec
- 60-0 mph 103 ft
- 1/4âmile 12.2 sec @ 117.7 mph
- Skidpad 1.07 g
- Body style 2-door coupe
- Accommodation 2-passenger
- Construction Aluminum spaceframe w/composite and carbon-fiber body panels
- Base price (with dest. ) $54,795
- As tested $68,060
- Engine 16-valve OHV V-8
- Displacement 6.2 liters (376 cu in)
- Power 460 hp @ 6000 rpm
- Torque 465 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
- Transmission 7-speed manual
- Drive Rear-wheel
- EPA Fuel Economy 17/29/21 (city/hwy/combined)
- Steering Electrically assisted
- Lock-to-lock 2.5 turns
- Turning circle 37.7 ft
- Suspension, Front Control arms, transverse leaf spring
- Suspension, Rear Control arms, transverse leaf spring
- Brakes Vented discs, ABS
- Wheels 19-inch aluminum front, 20-inch aluminum rear
- Tires Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP
- Tire size F/R 245/35R-19 (89Y), 285/30R-20 (95Y)
- Headroom 38.0 in
- Legroom 43.0 in
- Shoulder room 55.0 in
- Wheelbase 106.7 in
- Track F/R 62.8/61.6 in
- L x W x H 177.0 x 73.9 x 48.6 in
- Passenger capacity 52.0 cu ft
- Cargo capacity 15.0 cu ft
- Weight 3298 lb
- Weight dist. F/R 50/50%
- Fuel capacity 18.5 gal
- Est. fuel range 380miles
- Fuel grade 91 octane (premium unleaded)
- Performance suspension
- Dry-sump oiling system
- Electronic limited-slip differential
- Slotted brake rotors
- Black brake calipers
- Performance gear ratios
- Engine oil cooler and heavy-duty cooling system
- 19-inch aluminum front wheels and 20-inch aluminum rear wheels
- Aerodynamic package
- 5-mode driver controls
- 7-speed manual transmission w/active rev matching
- Heated exterior mirrors
- HID headlights
- Removable carbon-fiber roof panel
- Carbon-fiber hood
- Chevrolet MyLink w/8-inch touchscreen
- Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity
- USB port
- Auxiliary audio jack
- 9-speaker Bose audio system
- Leather-trimmed seats
- 8-way power seats
- Automatic dual-zone climate control
- Gauge cluster w/8-inch screen
- Power tilt-and-telescopic steering column
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month trial subscription
- Carpeted floor mats
- Corvette Museum delivery- $990
- Magnetic ride control w/performance traction management- $1795
- Performance exhaust- $1195
- Carbon-fiber interior package- $995
- Chevrolet MyLink w/navigation- $795
- Red brake calipers- $595
- Black aluminum wheels- $495
- Personalized plaque- $200
- Competition sport seats- $1995
- 2LT package- $4210
- Memory package
- Power bolster and lumbar adjustments
- Corvette logo on seats
- Color-matched console and doors
- Cargo cover and net
- Auto-dimming driverâs side exterior mirror
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror
- Heated and ventilated seats
- 10-speaker Bose audio system
- Additional 9 months of SiriusXM satellite radio trial subscription
- Universal garage-door opener
- Color head-up display