The arrival of the Stingray convertible is reason to rejoice for open-air devotees, even though the C7 coupe, with its removable roof, already offers much of the drop-top experience. But, as Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter puts it, “There’s nothing like taking away [the coupe’s roll-over bar] and having nothing between you and the sky.”
The good news for convertible buyers gets better, too, because there’s supposed to be no performance penalty to pay compared to the coupe. That’s because, as with the C5 and C6, the C7 was designed from the start to work as either a coupe or a convertible without requiring structural differences. “The suspension tuning is exactly the same, the parts numbers are the same,” emphasizes Juechter. “In terms of chassis rigidity, the convertible is as stiff as the coupe with its roof out.” The 30-pound heavier convertible is also just as quick as the coupe. Chevy claims both models do the 0-60 mph sprint in just 3.8 seconds (when outfitted with the optional Z51 Performance Package).
In short, Chevrolet says that the C7 convertible offers the best of both worlds: open-air enjoyment and the performance we’ve lauded in our earlier tests of the coupe. Does the drop-top Stingray deliver on this promise? There was only one way to find out, which is why, in early December, we found ourselves in Palm Springs, with two days to drive three very different C7s.
First, though, let’s back up to the convertible’s genesis. Chevy introduced the new Stingray in coupe form back in January 2013. Compared to its C6 predecessor, the C7 boasts numerous technological and performance advances. These include, but are not limited to: a standard aluminum chassis (formerly seen only on the high-performance Z06 and ZR1 models); a carbon-fiber hood and roof panel (the material was likewise previously reserved for the Z06 and ZR1); an all-new, 455-hp, 6.2-liter LT1 V8 engine, which features direct fuel injection, continuously variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation; a seven-speed manual transmission; the Driver Mode Selector, a dial on the center console used to put the car in (bad) Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport or Track mode; bigger brakes; Michelin Super Sport run-flat tires; and, as part of the Z51 package, an electronic limited-slip differential and even larger Brembo brakes. Thanks to all these changes, the base C7 has better roadholding and straight-line acceleration than the C6 Grand Sport.
In addition to the new goodies under its composite skin, the C7 introduced a new design language to the Corvette canon. Gone are the smooth, rounded forms found on the the C5 and C6; in their place are angles and scoops and vents. While opinions on the new aesthetics are mixed, the C7 certainly looks far more aggressive than its immediate predecessors, as well as earlier models.
The Stingray convertible isn’t quite as menacing as the coupe, but it’s more attractive to our eyes. With the top down, it comes across as sleeker, smaller and more lithe. Just as important, removing the hard top’s roof does away with the chunky rear quarter windows, our least-liked aspect of the coupe design. Sure, it’s a shame to lose the coupe’s flowing roofline, but the convertible’s lightly sculpted rear deck, vestigial headrest fairings and rear spoiler don’t suffer in comparison. (With the top up, the C7 convertible reminds us a bit of the somewhat awkward C5 hardtop, with a slightly too-small greenhouse sprouting from the middle of a long body.)
Beyond the folding canvas top, reworked rear deck and associated changes, such as relocated top seatbelt mounts, and the traditional “waterfall” that flows from the deck down to the transmission tunnel, there’s only one visible difference between coupe and convertible: The air inlets located atop the coupe’s rear fenders have disappeared, replaced with ones underneath the car. When talking with Chief Engineer Juechter about that small change, he mentioned that it meant the convertible, unlike the coupe, wasn’t “track certified,” a phrase we’d heard a few times before. “We invented that term,” Juechter explains. “What it means is that a pro-level driver can jump into the car, go out onto a track all alone and go as fast as he can—so, turning qualifying laps—for 24 hours, with stops only for tires, fuel, food and sleep.”