One stretch of horribly rough Monterey, California backroad was all it took to become convinced of the Stingray’s greatness. We’d already traveled over what we thought was some pretty bumpy pavement, and were impressed with our Z51 coupe’s ability to soak up the punishment, even with the Magnetic Selective Ride Control shocks in their stiffer Sport setting. Then the road got worse, much worse. We maintained our fast pace, however, reveling in the sharpness with which the new Corvette turned into corners and how planted the rear remained out of them.
Then, after cresting a rise, a huge dip suddenly appeared before us. With no time to brake, we did our best to hit it square—the pinpoint accuracy of the steering helping us take aim—and held our breath, waiting for impact. It didn’t come. The Stingray absorbed the sharp compression with no drama—no front-end scrape, no rebound bobble, no straying from our intended path. A C6 would not have fared so well, and it’s hard to imagine any sports cars handling such a nasty bit of road with more aplomb.
To be honest, we were smitten the moment we slipped into the cockpit of the 2014 coupe, which was fitted with the Z51 Performance Package and a manual transmission. The new steering wheel is fantastic. Our hands immediately found a comfortable perch, thanks to the perfect contouring and placement of the thumb rests and the ideal thickness of the rim. The wheel’s slightly smaller 14.1-inch diameter feels right, too. The Corvette team within Chevrolet decided early on that the C7 needed to have its own steering wheel, a Corvette first. They got their way—a seemingly small victory, but one that speaks volumes about the extent to which the Corvette has been transformed for the better.
The next thing we noticed was the supportive embrace of the standard seats. Finally, the Corvette has seats that hug the shoulders, a quality we could appreciate even while the car was stationary, as that added support allows the rest of your body to relax. Finding a comfortable seating position was a snap; the basic ergonomics of this vehicle are so good that very little fiddling is required.
Initially, we didn’t play around much with the new configurable, digital instrument cluster, as we were content with the default setting. Suffice it to say the various screens allow an incredible amount of adjustability and are all highly legible; in no way is the Stingray’s high-tech instrumentation a second coming of the ’84 Corvette’s disappointing digital dash. A cursory sampling of the touch-screen navigation system on our loaded 3LT tester was enough to tell us that it represents a huge advancement over the previous one. Though the C7 has more systems integration than its sixth-generation predecessor, we were glad to see a bevy of dedicated buttons and dials still in service, allowing us to quickly adjust the climate control to our needs and get on the road; we just couldn’t wait any longer.
We summoned some revs from the LT1, eased out the clutch and were off. Initially, the twin-disc clutch felt a little springy, but we quickly grew accustomed to it. The new seven-speed manual transmission is a pleasure to operate, with nice, short throws and a solid mechanical feel. We noticed a bit of notichiness, particularly in the shift from second to third, but that’s to be expected from a car with only 500 miles on the odometer; the cog swaps will no doubt become smoother over time.
With some freeway miles to cover before we reached the twisty stuff, we had the opportunity to get the transmission into seventh. It really isn’t all that weird to have the extra gear. In a way, seventh is the new fifth; once again having top gear up and away quickly felt normal. Despite the gearing being so tall—the top three cogs are all overdriven—the engine still pulls in seventh, needing no downshifts to keep up with the flow of traffic or compensate for hills.