Experience the Driver’s Seat: Corvette Stingray

Even in the darkest days of the Great Recession—an economic tsunami that saw General Motors kill off the Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer—it’s a safe bet that no one was crazy enough to suggest that economies of scale couldn’t justify producing the low-volume Corvette.

The iconic Corvette generates extreme passion—and expectations. A hero car has to deliver the goods when you’re ready to turn ‘vette dreams into reality. The 2014 edition, which ushers in the seventh generation of the two-seater, moves the legend forward on several critical fronts. The European styling of the Corvette Stingray (yes, the name is back) is fresh, sexy and aggressive. The makeover moves the look upscale, making the $54,000 buy-in seem like a smoking deal. Of course, as demanded by consumers, other key numbers are improved, starting with the 455 horsepower delivered by a revamped direct injection 6.2-liter V8.

The classiness of a performance Car’s command-and-control center is a make-it-or-break-it proposition for enthusiasts. For 2014, the Stingray finally gets the interior it deserves and buyers have demanded—real leather, aluminum and carbon fiber in a handsome new driver-centric cabin.

Getting the keys to any new Corvette is a blast, but it was practically surreal when the Stingray we were delivered turned out to be a convertible. Chevy claims the C7 (as seventh-generation Corvettes are also known) was designed from the get-go as a drop-top, which explains why the nicely appointed cloth top stows perfectly—flush with the body—in less than 30 seconds.

The only thing that tops open-air motoring might be open-wheel hot laps, but the Stingray makes that easy to accept. We had a blast cruising and occasionally flogging the Stingray. Satellite radio and the Bose system provided the tunes while the Stingray’s 50/50 weight distribution and Michelin performance tires kept everything entertaining, but sure-footed, on those banked transition ramps.

Our creak-free loaner came with the optional performance exhaust system. Along with the five extra horsepower, it would be nice if a $1,195 add-on delivered a meaner sound around town and saved owners the trouble of searching out after-market solutions.

Of course, the Z06 version for 2015 that packs 625 supercharged horsepower may be the (even pricier) fix for that flat note. We’re also intrigued by the new eight-speed automatic transmission that’s reportedly in the pipeline. There’s no rest for the wicked—or Corvette engineers.

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