Is this the most fervent car launch in recent memory, or what?
Thanks to the internet, not to mention the numerous leaks over the past twelve months or so, by now you probably know everything there is to know about the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette.
You know that the all-new ‘Vette resurrects the legendary Stingray name for its entry-level variant, sharing only two major parts with the previous generation C6 Corvette. It has a new chassis, new LT1 V8 powertrain and a wildly evolutionary exterior design, not to mention the biggest change in the interior ever, with real carbon fibre, aluminium, hand-wrapped leather and magnesium-framed seats.
Advanced driver technologies on the 2014 Corvette, which goes on sale in the third quarter of this year, feature a five-position Drive Mode Selector and a new seven-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Matching or six-speed automatic. You also probably know that the 6.2-litre V8 combines direct injection with Active Fuel Management, variable valve timing and, yes, pushrod-operated valves. As for the body, it incorporates a carbon-fibre bonnet, and a composite fender with a new aluminium frame hiding underneath for a 50:50 weight balance.
But there’s more to the C7 than the internet will tell you, and that’s why I am in an industrial warehouse at the edge of Detroit to dig deeper.
Seven things you didn’t know about the seventh Corvette
1.The night before the 2013 North American International Auto Show, GM packs me in a car and drives me to an industrial warehouse on the edge of town. Shattered windows, graffiti, and slanted rain greet me as I emerge from my ride wondering, “Have they brought me here to kill me?” As you’ve no doubt surmised, the answer was no — my dear pals at GM had brought me to a posh, artsy loft district (of the sort artists colonise before the corporate types move in) for the unveiling of the long-awaited 2014 Corvette.
This model has been static for so long that, to be honest, I hadn’t given the 2013 and its earlier iterations any attention in a long while. But the wait was worth it and, when I saw the new car’s modern design aesthetic and, conversely, clear link to the Stingrays of past, I was determined to learn more.
Over the course of the auto show, I hounded every GM executive I could find, trolling the mysteries of Corvette lore to bring you these seven nuggets of wisdom.
The new Vette’ might not have been a Stingray had things gone differently — GM waited right up until the end of design before deciding whether to associate this car with the ‘Ray’s mighty lineage. “We had to be satisfied the car advanced Corvette design and engineering far enough to earn the Stingray badge,” said chief Corvette engineer Tadge Juechter. “If we didn’t approach it that way, marketing would slap a Stingray badge on there every time sales were down — but we don’t work that way.”
2. Even GM admits the last Corvette was a bit lackluster inside, but not surprisingly given that confession, the new interior remedies this problem. “The Corvette has always had a heritage of stunning, electrifying visual appeal on the exterior,” said Tim Lee, GM vice president, Global Manufacturing, and president, International Operations. “Go sit in the new Corvette. Really, for the first time that stunning execution applies to the interior as well. The Interior [in the past] has been… not perfect, let’s put it that way. Go sit in this car.”
3. Despite bankruptcy, the fairly long shelf life of the previous ‘Vette (dubbed C6 in GM-speak), and more and more challenging environmental regulations in the car’s main market (the US), GM has been working on this new Corvette (C7 that is) since the day after they debuted the C6. “We’re always thinking about the next generation of the car,” said Juechter, “we’ve been working on this car [points to C7] since we finished that car [points to C6].”
4. The new Corvette, while clearly an extension of the Corvette DNA, uses only two physical strands of the old car. “That’s an all-new car, said Tadge Juechter, “there are only two parts carried over from [C6] aside from fasteners, lubricants — things that are commodities.”
5. It’s not intended to be a Viper slayer — despite the inevitable comparisons cropping up on the internet. “The Viper’s a very niche product,” said Juechter, “we try to be more things to more people. I’m not going to trash talk… but I’ll tell you something good,
I’m really impressed with those guys, on a shoestring budget, to be able to bring that car back — good for them.”
6. Making a car like the new ‘Vette more fuel efficient, has the somewhat counter-intuitive result of adding weight to the car in the form of cylinder deactivation technology and other bells and whistles — weird, right? Get heavier in order to use less fuel. Good thing the new aluminium chassis is 57 per cent stiffer than the previous generation and about 45kg lighter. “When it shifts from V8 to four-cylinder operation, [fuel efficiency improvement] is typically about 10 per cent.
But, even though it only takes 12 horsepower to push the car down the road at 80kph, you’re not using cylinder deactivation all the time. I can tell you that I personally drove the new car, albeit in camouflage, which is high drag, on the highway, and I got 32mpg, just at steady speed,” Juechter offered.
7. Seven is the magic number: more gears wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing in this package: “[The industry is] into a marketing one-upmanship now, where people want more and more speeds. In an engine with the broad torque curve that this one produces, you don’t need to shift down three or five gears; it produces a lot of torque at any rpm. In fact, up to 4,000rpm this engine produces as much torque as the 7.0-litre engine in the C6,” said Juechter.