Sweet Spot

Also from Issue 88

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Sweet Spot 1
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It takes less than five minutes on Palm Springs’ surprisingly potholed roads to form three impressions that turn out to be lasting. The first is that the Stingray’s chassis is really stiff. Compared to the C6’s steel frame, the C7’s aluminum one is more than 50-percent stiffer (despite weighing 100 pounds less), and that’s evident in the way only the car’s suspension seems to be affected by the bumps and lumps; there are no creaks or rattles from the car itself.

Impression number two is that the LT1 has tons of torque. You can drive the C7 around with your big toe and still keep up with traffic. Push a little harder on the throttle and it pulls ahead. Plant your foot and it’s gone. While the engine’s 460 lb-ft of grunt is noticeable around town, we later discover that it plays an even bigger role on twisty backroads, where shifting from third to fourth, or fourth to third, or even fourth to second, proves mostly optional.

And the third lasting impression? The C7 convertible with the base suspension (referred to internally as FE1) isn’t a particularly soft-riding car. It’s not unduly firm in terms of overall ride quality, but rather than absorbing sharp bumps, the car passes a lot of them along to the driver, particularly at around-town speeds.

The flip side to this final impression is that, on the wonderfully winding mountain roads around Palm Springs, the Stingray convertible drives, as promised, just like the Stingray coupe. (As Charles puts it, “Even with the base suspension, the C7 is a still 1-g car.”) Quick turn-in? Check. Seemingly endless grip? Yep. Massively powerful brakes? Oh, yeah. Stupendous power on demand? You know it.

Interestingly, the FE1 Stingray works better the harder we push it. To our hands and butts, the car doesn’t feel entirely happy to be driven merely briskly. Driving at a six-tenths pace, we find ourselves sawing at the steering wheel in corners, making minor corrections to the car’s line, and stumbling over the brake pedal, which has a slight dead zone at the top of its travel that makes delicacy a challenge.

But when we up the pace a few notches, the base-suspension Stingray comes into its own. Pushing harder on the brake pedal reveals excellent feel and modulation. Loading up the superb Michelin run-flat tires clamps the Stingray onto our chosen line, and the C7 doesn’t relinquish its grip as we feed in the power—and more power, and more, until the g force is nearly pressing us against the door panel. When the traction control starts limiting the fun, we switch the DMS from Sport to Track mode, which frees up the rear end to move around a bit. As the turns come faster and faster, the C7 simply gobbles them up.

The six-speed automatic isn’t the ideal partner for this adventure, but it’s reasonably accommodating once we slot the gear lever into M (for manual). Doing so increases shift speeds and entirely locks out automatic gear changes; if you don’t use the shift paddles situated behind the steering wheel, the engine will simply run into, and stay on, its 6,600-rpm rev limiter. The automatic isn’t as responsive to our requests as a dual-clutch manual transmission, like Porsche’s PDK or Ferrari’s F1, so some forward thinking, and early shifting, is required. But what sounds like a negative actually adds, in some ways, to the experience; although we’re working a little harder, it’s very rewarding to time everything just right and roar smoothly through the turns.

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