Considering that the interior is the most-maligned aspect of the current Corvette, it comes as no surprise that Chevy set lofty goals when it came to designing the Stingray’s cockpit. “We set out to transform and reinvent this interior,” says Interior Design Manager Ryan Vaughn. “The Corvette is all about the driving experience, so we wanted to make this interior ergnomically designed for the driver. Everything is very cockpit-like and driver-oriented. We also set out to bring a new level of materials and craftsmanship to the interior. It’s got premium materials throughout: hand-stitched, leather-wrapped trim, soft-touch points—even where the driver’s leg touches the center tunnel. Authenticity was important, too: Everything has a function, everything’s there for a reason. If something looks like carbon fiber, it’s real carbon fiber. It if looks like aluminum, it’s really aluminum.”
“The seats were a huge push for this car,” says Vaughn. To better serve the varying needs of Corvette customers, he and his team came up with two designs—a standard GT seat and an optional Competition seat: “The GT seat is the great all-around sports-car seat; the Competition sport seats are very aggressive.” Both are more supportive than the current seat, but increasing stiffness was also a big priority, as recent Corvette chairs have been widely criticized for their general floppiness. Stouter magnesium frames work in conjunction with a hard back panel to prevent flexing and bending under load.
One of the challenges of making stiffer, more supportive seats was that they had to fit in ostensibly the same space as found in the current Corvette. One of the ways the designers accomplished this was to re-engineer the placement of the airbag. Instead of it being integrated into the seat, it is now housed in its own separate module so that the seat itself could be slimmed down as much as possible. “It allowed us to squeeze more into the space that we got,” explains Vaughn.
When Juechter and his engineering team put in the request for a smaller steering wheel, the interior-design group was handed a huge challenge. That’s because in order to reduce the wheel’s size while still maintaining its multi-button functionality, they had to completely redesign the airbag module. What they came up with was the smallest such module in GM history. “That was the enabler,” says Vaughn.
When it came to the wheel’s shape, thickness, stitching and button placement, the interior team really sweated the details. “A lot of working went into the six and nine positions, making sure they feel right, that the seam lays nice and flat, so you don’t feel it when you grip the wheel,” explains Vaughn. “We let the arc of your thumb determine where the switches are placed.”
A similar driver-focused approach was taken in the design of the Stingray’s instrument panel; it wraps around the driver to make sure every control is close at hand. At the center of the instrument cluster is a reconfigurable 8-inch hi-def video screen with Tour, Sport and Track modes, all of which display a a central tachometer. An analog speedometer is always off to the left.
The infotainment screen is within the “reach curve” of the driver. Though the system offers a number of functions such as navigation, a conscious decision was made to retain plenty of dedicated buttons, knobs and switches. “It was all about achieving the right balance between the touch functionality and hard buttons,” says Vaughn. “There are things that are more intuitive and natural to control with the screen, and there are things you want to just be able to do a blind poke, without looking, and hit the right button or find the right knob. Simple is better.”