Weeks later, the rains came. I shouldn't have been surprised – somebody up there has a sense of humour.
You know, the Apollo astronauts all drove Corvettes. Let's light this candle.
As anyone knows, a long dry spell followed by light rains creates possibly the most treacherous road conditions this side of sheeting black ice. Oil seeps up from the tarmac, mixing with the water to create a slick sheen that turns highways into slip-n'-slides. And, unlike when there's actually a bit of snow on the ground, everyone forgets this and drives 200 km/h while texting cat pictures to their mom.
What you want is something with all-wheel-drive, the curb weight of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank, and modest power. A cruiser, not a bruiser. A surefooted refuge. Heck, maybe you should even just stay home.
However, what I have instead is a 455 hp small-block-powered cruise missile that looks a bit like Megatron's private robot region. It's got slats and edges and scallops and vents and rear-wheel-drive and something of a poor attitude towards traction. It's a Corvette, the car that put the smack down on Aston-Martin and Ferrari at this year's 24 Hours of LeMans, except this one's missing the fire-suppression systems and I'm not supposed to wear a helmet.
You know, the Apollo astronauts all drove Corvettes. Let's light this candle.
As luck would have it, I'll have the chance to drive the new Corvette in both the rain and the dry. A week or so before this, weather conditions were just about perfect and I ran the car up to Squamish with Dan Heyman for a comparison shootout against the Boxster GTS. That's pretty stiff competition, and there was a certain sad-trombone effect felt upon entering the Corvette's cabin and seeing the sliding shifter of an automatic transmission; but the 'Vette more than held its own.
As with the last Camaro to pass through the fleet out here, this Corvette is optioned skewing to greyscale. It's not the autocrossers' special, but the always-wanted-one empty-nesters' delight. Thus, while this car wears fat tires and staggered 19-inch/20-inch alloys, they're here as part of an appearance package, not the Z51 performance upgrade.
Despite the lack of tell-tale aerodynamic enhancements, this new Stingray still looks great, all boisterous American swagger. The single fussiness to the detailing is a somewhat flat-mouthed gawp in the front end, but aside from that, the car as a whole looks great.
A closer look: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: In Pictures
But then, always assuming you got one with exemplary fit and finish, the exterior of the Corvette was never a problem; it was the inside that really hurt. The exterior yelled “performance!”, but the seats of the old car yelled “bargain!” even louder.
This car smells the same, but immediately feels different. The seating position is a tad on the high side, but the surroundings are well above what they used to be. This instrument cluster needs to go in the Cadillac ATS as of yesterday, and the infotainment could also teach CUE a few lessons. Never mind the Caddy slogan, the Corvette is where GM dares greatly, and in here, they've done greatly as well.
The seats too, since you're wondering, are excellent. GM's design team hand-shaped all sorts of foam inserts, working with both computer modeling and old-fashioned duct-tape to figure out how to dial up the lateral grip while still maintaining comfort. After a few longer low-speed highway journeys, they've nailed the latter, and unleashing the beast beneath the hood proves the former is settled too.
In fact, there's very little to criticize in the Corvette's interior apart from the lack of a “map” button to quickly pull up the navigation screen. Drive mode settings and traction control are integrated into a single knob and button arrangement that's a no-look adjust, there's an easy-reach volume knob on the stereo, and combo of clear instrumentation and head-up display contains everything you need.
Between the exterior looks and the interior execution, the Corvette no longer has to make excuses by being the fastest and loudest thing for the money. Now, it looks like it's worth the price tag just sitting there, something that'll please the cruiser crowd. However, then there's what happens when you depress that rectangular starter button and wake things up.
The 6.2L Chevy V8 here makes 455 hp at 6,000 rpm and a hearty 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,000. It's a wonderful engine, prone to roar and a low-rpm, low-speed metallic impatience. Hit up the highway and it just slots down low and lazy in the rev range.
Today's destination is Pitt Meadows, home to the Corvette club's weekend autocross. A very active club, the Autocross sub-committee of the BC 'Vette association holds events designed both to let novices get a feel for their car as well as allowing more experienced drivers to indulge in a little good-natured rivalry. There are other very fast cars here today (a well-driven WRX wagon consistently posts some very quick times), as well as a full range of Corvettes from early ZR-1 to current Z06.
The latter's an absolute monster, and will end up ripping off the fastest lap of the day. An older couple in a standard-shift Stingray convertible aren't far off the pace – hopping in for a quick ride-along, the grinning gent puts his triple-black car through the cones with a deft-handed clean run. Come the afternoon session, his wife does the same, quicker than some of the young guns out there.
Happily for the event, the skidpad here is an oasis of dry, and once the course is cleared for lunch break, I hammer the automatic Stingray through the turns to get a little idea of what she can do.
More grip and more power than you could ever fully exploit on the street, that's the takeaway lesson. With traction control fully defeated, the Stingray is anxious to spin its stone cold tires, but while the front end doesn't feel fully nailed down, there's colossal grip here, well above a g.
On a hot day, when the 'Vette was chasing a Boxster beneath a leafy canopy, that cigarette boat power-on was all part of the fun. There's simply so much big-hearted V8 thrust here that you can annihilate any straight, and despite the slightly unsettled feeling from the base suspension over tight and broken pavement, there's still plenty of mechanical grip in the corners. Full throttle isn't often used, but instead of feeling like you're holding it back, the Corvette's character is of gleeful co-conspirator. Go on, it urges. Go for it.
I like cars like that. How could you not?
Perhaps what's best about the new Corvette is that it takes that old-school, burly feel of near-unlimited V8 thrust and marries it to a properly-sorted interior. Even the eight-speed auto isn't much of a detriment; thanks to its high gearing, it gives the Corvette very long legs, and a cruising fuel economy not far off a contemporary Porsche. Official ratings are 14.6 L/100 km in the city and 8.2 on the highway, and you'll hit the latter easily.
Never mind the bang-for-buck value the Corvette represents; whatever the price-point, it provides something quite rare to find in the automotive world. Even here, fitted with options that I'd personally leave on the table, it manages to thrill and connect in a way few cars do.
If it'd been the stick-shift version, in blue, with the Z51 package, I likely would never have written this review. I'd have stolen it, and currently be on the run somewhere in the Yukon. I hear it snows there. Can't be any worse than that first day of rain.
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/160,000 km powertrain; 6 years/160,000 km corrosion perforation; 5 years/160,000 km roadside assistanceCompetitors:
Mercedes AMG GTS
|2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray|
|Pricing: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray|
|Base Price: $70,376|
|Optional Equipment: $7,685 – Competition Sport Bucket Seats $2,095, eight-speed automatic transmission $1,900, Dual Mode Performance Exhaust $1,255, Exterior Appearance package $935, Stingray Logo package $770, Red Brake Calipers $625, Battery Maintainer $105|
|A/C Tax: $100|
|Destination Fee: $1,800|
|Price as Tested: $82,055|