Chevy actually does this test with all its cars, and while it may not be as rigorous as 24 hours of continuous driving, it’s much tougher than what the average owner would do to his or her C7 at a track day. According to Juechter, the reason the convertible does not make the cut (unlike the Stingray Z51 coupe, the Camaro Z/28, ZL1 and 1LE, and the V-series Cadillacs) is that its underbody ducts don’t provide enough airflow to the rear-mounted transmission and differential coolers to keep temperatures in check. That wasn’t really a concern during development, however. “With the convertible, we envisioned the owner going out, doing a couple of hot laps, and coming back to the pits,” Juechter explains. “Besides, you can’t do real track driving without a roll bar, anyway.”
Speaking of roll bars: The engineers considered fitting pop-up roll bars, like those used on the current Porsche 911 Cabriolet, but decided against it, for two reasons. “First of all, they’d increase mass,” says Juechter, who notes that the C7’s A-pillars have been beefed up to provide significantly more roll-over protection than Federal law requires. “Second of all, when we analyzed all the roll-over accidents of the C6, we realized they wouldn’t work. If you manage to roll a car like this, it’s going to be a high-speed, high-energy event, and you’re not going to roll over once; you’re going to flip up in the air and come down like an airplane crash.”
Dropping into the convertible’s cockpit is just like dropping into the coupe’s; we spotted no differences, not even the button that raises and lowers the roof. “It’s behind the steering wheel,” says Corvette Product and Marketing Manager Harlan Charles, who was showing us around a line of convertibles. “Now, this 3LT car has the optional suede on the A-pillars, as well as on the door panels, and that’s real carbon fiber on the dashboard….”
Corvettes have long been criticized for poor cabin design and materials, but Charles is very proud of the C7’s cockpit. “We were done with hearing all that,” he says. “We said, ‘We’re going to do it right.’”
They certainly did. Compared to the C6, the C7 features a much-improved interior. As we’ve reported, the seats, long a Corvette whipping boy, are now properly supportive, and the optional Competition Sport seats feature serious bolsters. The steering wheel is now top-notch, fully on par with those made in Germany or Italy. The materials, especially the optional ones, have noticeably raised the level of refinement in the cabin. While the C7 costs about the same as the C6, it definitely feels more expensive inside.
The fully automatic roof—a first for the Corvette—adds to that impression. Once you’ve found it, just press and hold the button down. (Alternately, press the relevant button on the key fob and watch the top drop with no one inside the car.) First, the rear deck panel just aft of the cabin motors up into the air. Next, the top unlatches itself from the windshield header, folds back and drops into a well. Finally, the elevated rear deck panel settles back down and locks in place. A loud beep lets you know when the 21-second process, which can be performed at speeds up to 30 mph, is complete.
With the top stowed, it’s time to push the engine stop/start button on the dash. The 6.2-liter V8 wakes up with a modest grumble, we slot the optional six-speed automatic transmission into Drive, wave good-bye to Charles and go.