A Star is Born

In a week behind the wheel, we subject a 2014 Z51 coupe to backroad blasts, track torture and the streets of San Francisco.

December 19, 2013

Also from Issue 87

  • Supercharged C6 Convertible
  • 1981 Coupe/Late-Model C3 Buying Tips
  • Larry Shinoda
  • 1988 Coupe
  • 1999 Hardtop
  • Tech: Stingray Seats
  • 1964 Small-Block Coupe
  • Racing: C6.R Retrospective
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Eyes fixed, gait determined, the teenager made his way, zombie-like, towards me. I was refueling my 2014 Corvette Stingray press car at the gas station across the street. Upon arriving in front of the C7, he let out a long, pent-up “Wow!” Given his skinny jeans, funky hair and body piercings, I assumed he knew little about the new model and was merely responding to its bold lines and bright yellow paint. I was wrong.

“It looks so much better in person,” he exclaimed, offering an opinion I would hear repeatedly during the week I spent with the car. Then, unexpectedly, he launched into an informed and thoughtfully delivered critique of the C7’s styling: “There’s a lot of California in the nose,” he said, obviously referring to the Ferrari model, not the state. This teenager knew his cars and was fully conversant about the brand-new Corvette in front of him. This car moved him—literally. He evinced exactly the response that Chevrolet had hoped to generate from his age group. Just as this thought crossed my mind, the teenager said, “Enjoy your Stingray,” and walked off.

I had just received the Z51-equipped coupe the day before and was nearing the end of a two-hour journey from my home in San Francisco north to Maxwell, where I was to meet up with a bunch of Corvette enthusiasts for a backroad cruise. This Hooked On Driving-organized event, which included a track day at Thunderhill Raceway Park (see page 38), had brought together members from a number of different Northern California clubs and no less than 71 Corvettes. As it turned out, mine was the only C7—and, boy, were these folks excited to see it. The moment I pulled up to the Maxwell Inn, our lunch spot and gathering point, the car was mobbed. Hardly had I exited the vehicle when a stocky older gentleman gave me a big barrel hug. “Thanks for bringing it,” he enthused.

Though many of these folks had seen the Stingray at various shows over the past year, there was just something about seeing one on the road that really got their juices flowing. The questions soon flowed forth, too. “What to you think?” “What’s the 7-speed manual like?” “What kind of mileage are you getting?” I tried to answer them the best I could, happily sharing my enthusiasm for the car. But I was interested in getting their take on the Stingray, too.

Overall, the consensus among these Corvette cognoscenti seemed to be that they liked the styling. As with the skinny-jean kid, they felt it definitely looked better in person. Some people, though, said that it would take more time for the C7 to grow on them. Interestingly, the only recurring bone of contention did not concern the taillights—the sore point for many initially—but the large swath of black plastic beneath them. “It’s too much for me,” said Lee Brant, who has owned eight Corvettes over the years. He and several people felt that it should be painted body color. However, Brant did add that it can take him a while to warm up to new Corvettes, including the C5 and C6. Says Brant, “I didn’t like ’em for years.”

Jere Habein, who owned a C2 and two C3 in the past, and currently owns a pair of C5s, had no such problems with the C7’s appearance. “The styling really captures my attention,” he said. “It has a really Euro, exotic, race-car look. I like the edginess of it.” Habein said “there is no question” he’s going to buy a Stingray. His only a quandary was deciding on the exterior paint. “Every color looks good,” he added.

A week in the Stingray confirmed my positive initial assessment. It is indeed a significantly improved Corvette, with incredible handling, impressive straight-line performance and more refinement. The extended seat time did, however, add some nuance to my opinion of the C7, including some wrinkles that went unnoticed during our initial half-day test.