2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Setting the Bar

By Author: admin, Date: Feb 24, 2015
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Words by Brad Olson
Photos by Jennifer Jensen

To fans of the C7 Corvette Stingray, everything I write in this article will be redundant. The 2015 Stingray has been reviewed by almost anyone with a publishing outlet: other car magazines, automotive blogs, personal blogs, home journals, self-help journals and so on. 

On top of that, given that you are a reader of Auto Exotica, the odds are pretty high that you have already driven it yourself (if you haven’t, stop reading and drive it. Now!). 

C7 MAGIC

For the last half-century or so, the Corvette has been the de facto reference for performance cars in America. The Corvette has traditionally posted better numbers than a majority of the cars it has been compared to, though it has consistently fallen short in the subjective elements. 

General Motors had a knack for setting internal metrics to determine the success of their cars. This system failed, and GM slowly deflated into bankruptcy. The new GM has recognized the old ways did not work, and they now pay heed to the likes of Consumer Reports, ride-and-drive feedback, along with enthusiast rants and raves, which has allowed the company the ability to quantify the qualitative determining what we consumers really want. 

The result is perhaps the best overall performance car ever produced.

Now it should be said that this same system created the Cadillac ELR (good in several ways, but fatally flawed), the Cruze (rent yours today!) and the Malibu (please stop), along with the exceptionally nice Impala (yes, it is a genuinely good car). 

So, the new system does not work consistently, but it can work. 

The real magic for the C7 Corvette has been the dedication, focus and skill of Tadge Juechter, chief engineer for the Corvette, and his team.

We met Juechter a few months ago and took the time to thank him for his efforts on the Corvette program. 

Our publisher told Juechter that the C7 is: “The first Corvette that I sincerely want to own.” 

A short discussion bore out the reasoning behind her comment, and Juechter stood proudly by, visually pleased with the result he has achieved.

C7 AS A DAILY DRIVER

Aesthetically the new Corvette is a very clean car from most angles leaving only the tall rear-end as my personal point of contention. The lines are aggressive, purposeful and balanced. The interior is excellent overall, very functional, comfortable and easy to use. We could say more, but that would just take space away from the beautiful photos we have, so scroll through the images below and make your own conclusions.

The biggest advantage of the Stingray with the Z51 package is when you actually use it because, unlike many of its performance-car peers, the Stingray is useable as a real-world car.

The new Stingray is an excellent driving platform with abilities that seem to shift and adapt to the driver’s desires. The car is not limited by oversteer or understeer, and the driver can implement either depending on the mood when behind the wheel. 

There is a fine balance in the aluminum chassis, and the new engine is a deep-and-throaty V-8 tuned to sound exactly as it should. The LT1 V-8, rated at an SAE-certified 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet (with the optional performance exhaust that was on our tester, the standard output is 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet) pulls smoothly and powerfully just about anywhere in the rev-range. That is the benefit of a naturally aspirated engine: power anywhere. 

The brakes never exhibited any fade even after hard runs through the winding canyon roads you see in the accompanying images. 

NO FEAR FUN

The steering is not quite as direct or full of feedback as I would like. However, the chassis feeds back so much information that the Stingray was perhaps the most fun car I have driven on such stunning roads. 

By “fun” I don’t mean just plain fun, but fun as in lack of fear when pressing hard at the helm. It is a very fast car with high limits, and it is easy to find yourself driving at 11/10ths with a 10/10 brain. So yes, the situations this car can get into scare you. 

But the Stingray’s performance is so broad, approachable and honest — not to mention tempting — that it is very hard to resist doing things you would never consider in many other cars. It doesn’t hurt that the Stingray is also a very forgiving car, partially due to the driver’s aids, but more so from excellent chassis tuning.

I like to divide performance cars into two basic, overlapping groups: cars that can cover ground fast in the real world of unknown roads, and cars to drive around known tracks and roads. The Z51 Stingray is perhaps the one of the best cars to do the former. 

The new Corvette is a car that is fast and fun in almost all conditions, a car that can be adjusted in a blind corner, at speed, and a car that can stably dissipate speed when an unexpected deer turns up half way through that same bend.

DRIVING MODES

I spent the majority of my time in the ’Vette with the driver-selected mode set to “Sport.” 

This setting worked best for me as it allows a little slippage and drifting, but it will subtly catch you before you are exiting the road backwards over a cliff. There are five different driver-selectable modes in the Stingray. 

The Weather setting has more aggressive stability and traction control, but I can’t say how good or bad it is since I’ve had perfect weather every time I’ve been behind the wheel. There is also a Track setting, which is well named, but on real roads, the need and the desire to use it just was not there for me. Tour mode provides a softer ride with a more subdued engine and exhaust note. It is great for covering the more boring ground in the 95% of the world we live in without fatigue or bother.

The final setting is Eco mode and is exactly what it sounds like. 

When the car is in Eco mode there is a small V-8 symbol on the dash that changes to a calming green V-4 symbol under lighter loads. The biggest perk is instant economy rises into the 30-mpg range while cruising. 

NO COMPROMISES

This is extraordinary and gets to what is perhaps most special about the car: not cylinder-deactivation but the Stingray isn’t limited to one set of performance parameters. The car can be changed to suit many unique and differing situations. 

The fact of the matter is usable performance means comfort and not wasting time or gas, while still being able to take advantage of opportunities to slip through traffic as they arise. 

Almost every other car I can think of has trade-offs. 

If you want to go very fast, you will get a car that has a harsher ride with less sound insulation — all while burning more gas. If your typical drive consists of being trapped on boring roads with traffic, you may seek a car that runs more economically while being more cosseting. 

The Stingray, while it’s not going to rival a diesel Golf for economy or range, is not compromised. 

It can morph to fit whatever role is needed. We live in an era of amazing and flexible extreme performance cars, but none that I am aware of is so able to adjust with such a breadth of abilities, without real trade-offs.

SOMETHING SPECIAL

The Daytona Sunrise Orange Metallic car featured in the gallery was actually a pretty basic version of the C7 Corvette Stingray — a 1LT with Z51 performance package. 

Options included performance seats, which were comfortable over long periods of time but did not have a cooling feature, and a performance data recorder (including a navigation system). 

Was this interior a match for a trimmed-out 911 interior? No. 

But it was usable, functional and much better than any other Corvette interior. Ever. Suffice it to say we were in no way disappointed with the interior of this Corvette, which is perhaps the most stunning statement made versus any previous Corvette. 

Price comparing the ’Vette to a Porsche 911 presents some pretty stunning disparities. The car featured herein came to just under $70k as-tested. Matching up the options on a 911S to this Corvette ends up at more than $115k. 

We love 911s. Our entire staff is possessed by that ineffable soul they somehow possess. 

The new Corvette, though, is something special.

REVELATIONS

The 911 has better steering and feel. A trait that is so hard to quantify but is definitely there. Also, the apparent sophistication and build quality in current generation 911s is superb, and even a loaded ’Vette will not come close.

Conversely, the eagerness of the C7 Stingray, the rawness and sound of its power delivery, its honest fun and its toss-ability are all beyond a “normal” 911. The actual sophistication and usability of the Z51 Stingray also surpasses the 911 in many areas, with an active differential, very sophisticated stability and traction control, performance recording and adaptable displays.

All in, subjectively and objectively, each car has its marginal advantages and disadvantages, and ignoring money, it’s really a toss up which I would get to fill an empty slot in my garage. 

And that is a revelation. 

There’s no “yes, but” anymore with a Corvette. It is, quite simply, a superb car. It is the bar against which every performance car is now measured.

Perhaps the more salient comparison and choice to be made is which Stingray? Z51 or Z06?

Stay tuned. And, seriously, drive one.

Originally published in 2015

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