New Corvette brings legitimacy to Chevy sports cars

The all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray's provocative exterior

The all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray's provocative exterior styling is as functional as it is elegant. Every line, vent, inlet and surface has been optimized to enhance the car's overall performance. (Credit: Scripps Howard News Service / Chevrolet)

The word "awesome" is overused in everyday conversation and should be reserved for things that really deserve such a reaction.

Like the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

Chevrolet revived the Stingray name for the seventh-generation Corvette that made its debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


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"We knew we couldn't use the Stingray name unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy," said Ed Welburn, General Motors vice president of global design. "The result is a new Corvette Stingray that breaks from tradition, while remaining instantly recognizable as a Corvette the world over."

Stingray was first applied to a prototype racecar that inspired the second-generation Corvette introduced in 1963. The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray split-window coupe has retained a place of honor among collectors and enthusiasts for decades.

Corvette's original fiberglass-bodied concept was introduced at the General Motors Motorama exposition at New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel, on Jan. 17, 1953, with production beginning six months later. As the first large-scale mass-produced car to feature an all-fiberglass body, Corvette's exterior was lighter than steel, improving the power-to-weight ratio. Fiberglass also enabled greater design potential for the curvaceous body than could be stamped out in a conventional steel press.

Styling evolved significantly during the Corvette's first generation, but many design cues that would become synonymous with the car were established, including the long dash-to-axle proportion, dual round tail lamps and a dual-cockpit-style interior. All first-generation cars were convertibles.

First-generation Corvettes are known to collectors as "solid axle" models, because they were built on a modified Chevrolet passenger car architecture that featured a live rear axle. It was powered in the first two years by the Chevy inline-six engine, dubbed "Blue Flame" in the Corvette. The Small Block V8 came in the car's third year of production.

As an iconic sports car that inspired many rivals, Corvette has never had any trouble drawing attention. It's a serious car for serious enthusiasts but available at about a fourth of the price of Ferrari.

Among potential rivals emerging from the Detroit show was an Acura NSX concept that is expected to go into production in Ohio on a date to be disclosed.

The all-wheel-drive NSX concept has a V6 engine and a pair of electric motors to generate torque for better cornering control and improved handling, according to Acura.

Although the NSX is stunning and cunning, it lacks the heritage and the monstrous V8 engine of the Corvette.

The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard model ever, with an estimated 450 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds of torque that send it from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds.

Even with those credentials, the Stingray's makers managed to increase fuel efficiency beyond the 26 mpg average of the current model.

The new Corvette shares only two parts with the previous generation, riding on a new frame structure and chassis, a new powertrain and supporting technologies, as well as completely new exterior and interior designs.

The interior includes carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather materials, two new seat choices -- each featuring a lightweight magnesium frame for exceptional support -- and dual eight-inch configurable driver/infotainment screens

Technological features include a five-position drive mode selector that tailors 12 vehicle traits to the fit the driver's environment and a new seven-speed manual transmission with active rev matching that anticipates gear selections and matches engine speed.

The 6.2-liter, LT1 V8 engine has direct injection, active fuel management, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system that delivers more power while using less fuel.

Engineers lightened the load with lightweight materials such as a carbon fiber hood and removable roof panel, composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels. Carbon-nano composite underbody panels and a new aluminum frame help shift weight rearward for an optimal 50/50 weight balance in the rear-wheel-drive machine.

High-intensity discharge and light-emitting diode lighting are sculpted into the body to great effect, aerodynamically and visually.

A track-worthy Z51 Performance Package adds an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling and aero package to improve high-speed stability.

Two seating choices will be offered: a GT seat for general comfort and a Competition Sport seat with more aggressive side bolstering that keeps the driver's body in place in track maneuvers.

Corvette has always been and will continue to be a low-volume sales product for Chevrolet and General Motors. However, its halo over the entire product line is luminous and adds credibility to the more accessible Camaro.

"We believe the Corvette represents the future of modern performance cars because it delivers more power, more driving excitement and better fuel efficiency," said Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer.

Email Richard Williamson at motorfriend@sbcglobal.net 

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