“For the exterior, the first goal was that we needed a new upper,” says Bennion of the Corvette coupe’s greenhouse. “Basically since 1978, the Corvette upper in its layout hasn’t really changed all that much. In ’78 we went to a bubble backlight, single basket handle and single removable roof panel. We said we need a different solution.” What he and his team came up with was the incorporation of C-pillars and rear quarter windows, something never before seen on a Corvette coupe. The single removable roof panel remains, now constructed of lightweight carbon fiber, as does the “basket handle” roll-over hoop, yet both are now more seamlessly integrated into the car’s greenhouse.
The new “upper” significantly alters the appearance of the car. “For us in exterior design, the DLO, the daylight opening, that’s a big design element,” says Bennion. “You do a nice shape there and from 50 yards away, you’ll see that as a different car.”
But the move to three rear glass panels instead of one also has functional benefits. The amount of glass has been reduced, thus lowering weight. The rear hatch itself is smaller and its struts are now buried inside the C-pillar, making for a cleaner-looking storage area. There is price to be paid, however, as the quarter-glass design eats into cargo space somewhat. But according to Bennion, “It was a negligible loss.” He also maintains that rearward vision was not seriously compromised.
Changing the Corvette’s rear end was another design goal, as Bennion and his team felt that it had hardly changed between fourth, fifth and sixth-generation models. The distinction between upholding tradition and stagnation can be a narrow one, but Bennion felt the latter had occurred. “We had to be critical of ourselves,” he says. The design they came up with is arguably the most controversial aspect of the car—certainly based on the reader feedback we’ve received thus far—but then creating a “bolder, more expressive” Corvette was yet another goal.
Far more sculpted than its predecessors, the C7’s tail features trapezoidal taillights with indirect LEDs and lit reflectors—real cutting-edge technology. The vents that flank the taillights are not styling cues; they work in conjunction with fender-mounted heat exchangers. Now set four in a row, the exhaust tips (4.25 inches in diameter with the optional dual-mode exhaust) are surrounded by the integrated diffuser. The rear end now looks much more complete, with no exposed mechanical bits to be seen under the car. The aftermarket is going to have a lot less to work with when it comes to the C7’s rear end.
Bennion and his design team also wanted to re-do the Corvette’s front end, but the impetus for this was driven more by aerodynamics than styling and was directly influenced by lessons learned on the racetrack. Since the C3, the Corvette has used a rearward-tilted radiator fed by cooling air from beneath the car. This arrangement was ditched with the C7. “The first thing we did when we started this car was we changed the front-end architecture to adopt the forward-tilt radiator,” says Bennion. “We’ve learned through Corvette Racing that a front-breather with the exit out the top of the hood is really the most efficient way to go. You benefit your cooling, you benefit your downforce and there is a drag reduction.”