2014 Chevrolet Corvette Driving Impressions

The powertrain of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette really shines. An all-new LT1 6.2-liter small block V8 cranks out 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque (and 460 hp/465 lb.-ft. with an optional dual-mode exhaust). Acceleration is fast and smooth. Maximum torque is still reached at 4600 rpm, but 36 more pound-feet help to keep plenty of low-end thrust on tap.

All the best goodies come with the optional Z51 Performance Package, which adds high-performance gear ratios, an electronic limited-slip differential, unique suspension tuning and more, which work in symphony to skyrocket the Corvette Stingray from 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, according to Chevrolet.

Fuel-saving technology adds a sensible side to the Stingray, such as direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, the latter of which allows the Corvette to run on just cylinders. Combined with a relatively light curb weight of 3,298 pounds for the coupe and 3,362 pounds for the convertible, fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/29 mpg City/Highway with the 7-speed manual.

Five basic driving modes tweak 12 different inputs, including steering, throttle mapping, traction and stability control, exhaust, suspension and more; the Z51's electronic limited-slip differential is also adjusted, as is magnetic ride control on cars so equipped. With the turn of a knob in the center console, drivers can choose between Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track, the latter of which has multiple sub-settings. Tour mode is default, and offers a good balance of comfort and sportiness. As would be expected, Eco mode offers the best fuel economy, while Sport is best for enthusiastic road driving.

One complaint we have about the drive selector is that the traction control on/off switch sits right in the center of the dial, which caused us to accidentally turn off the traction control a few times while searching for our desired mode. We also found it strange that traction control could be turned off in any mode, which didn't make much sense to us when using more conservative settings like Weather and Eco.

In the handling department, the Corvette is agile and easy to toss around, benefits of its light weight, trim proportions and refined suspension. Our drive route took us over some bumpy roads, including those covered in dirt and gravel. Although we kicked up a lot of dust, the uneven, slippery terrain never upset the car, even when driving assertively in Sport mode.

A smaller steering wheel helps to make the car feel more maneuverable, aided by a smaller turning circle that's nearly two feet less than the C6. We found the steering overall to be sharper, more refined and more precise.

In a car with the 7-speed manual transmission, we turned on the rev matching function. Different from some cars, the rev match in the Stingray kicks in when you take the gear out of the gate, instead of waiting until the shifter is fully in the next gear. While this does allow the engine to match faster, we found it took a little getting used to, and learned it was best to throw the car into gear as quickly as possible to maximize smoothness, as opposed to leisurely slipping it from gear to neutral to gear.

Shifts with the 6-speed automatic transmission weren't as satisfying as with the manual. Even though you can shift via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles, the transmission is still a traditional automatic, which means you won't get the lightning-fast shifts of dual-clutch gearboxes. Still, the auto remains the best choice for those who don't want to row through gears around town and in traffic.

Braking is crisp and confident thanks to big power-assisted discs with four-piston calipers on both fronts and rears. Larger, slotted rotors with the Z51 pack help the Stingray stop from 60-0 mph in just 107 feet. The standard Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat tires were created especially for the C7 Stingray, and have asymmetrical sidewalls like those found on racecars. They're plenty sticky, and we brought our test car back from the rough country roads peppered with gravel. Softer tires typically equate to a shorter lifespan, but these offer incredible grip plus a tread wear rating of 300, which means they shouldn't wear out after only a few months.

What's more, anyone who's ever taken off at a green light in a Corvette with cold tires knows it's a recipe for wheel spin. A new tire temperature system in the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette uses a sophisticated algorithm that determines tire temperature and modulates traction control accordingly to maximize grip in every temperature and driving situation.

We were a bit disappointed that the Corvette's throaty exhaust wasn't as loud as we would have liked, even in Sport mode. While it does give a satisfying roar when you really open it up, the exhaust note is relatively tame otherwise.

After our street drive, we tested the Stingray on a large autocross course and played with Track mode and its sub-sets that go in order from more conservative to more aggressive: Wet, Dry, Track 1, Track 2. Here the Corvette Stingray really showed its improvement in chassis, suspension, steering and handling. With the Stingray's predecessors, it felt like you had to really throw the car into the corner. Now it glides in with much more panache. All of the models we've driven have been fitted with the Z51 Performance Package and Magnetic Ride Control with Performance Traction Management. We would like to drive a Stingray without any options to see how it compared.

Once we had the hang of the course, our driving instructor encouraged us to floor it coming out of the apexes; something we wouldn't typically do unless we wanted to take out a bunch of cones at the track-out. But we trustingly followed his advice and, sure enough, the car wouldn't give us any more power than was necessary to power out cleanly. In other words: The 2014 Corvette Stingray, when fitted with all the bells and whistles, makes you seem like a much better driver than you actually are.

We felt pretty confident about our abilities until our instructor swapped seats and took the wheel, switching off all driver aids. He took off twice as fast, effortlessly drifting around every corner and making the cones feel much wider than when we were in the driver's seat. While the Corvette Stingray indeed kept some of its raw, rowdy edge, there was a new sense of refinement, as if the brawny American had spent a year abroad at a European finishing school.

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