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There’s a price to be paid for the extra connection, however: The FE3 car’s ride is noticeably less comfortable than that of the base suspension. While this suspension setup isn’t too extreme, we do think it does make ride quality an issue for those who want to use their car regularly on less-than-perfect roads, or simply prefer to cruise around.

Likewise, the seven-speed manual transmission would be our pick, but it’s not for everyone. The C7’s clutch is heavy compared to a “normal” car’s, for example, as is its shifter. On the other hand, these require no more effort than in a C6, or any other American car boasting 450+ horsepower. Besides, that heft fits well with the Corvette’s character, and nicely matches the extra steering weight that arrives when the DMS is place in its Sport and Track modes.

This is a good time to mention one of the C7’s most interesting driver’s aids: Active Rev Match. This feature automatically blips the throttle during downshifts to match engine and transmission speeds, thus engaging the lower gear smoothly and quickly, without requiring the driver to be proficient in the black art of heel-and-toe shifting. In our experience, the system, which can be deactivated, works superbly. It can even be a boon to expert heel-and-toers: When hot-shoe Corvette racer David Ray drove a C7 Z51 coupe on track for last issue’s cover story, he couldn’t tell when Active Rev Match was on—the system just sat back and filled in any stray revs Ray didn’t request.

Active Rev Match aside, the 2014 Corvette’s cockpit provides an excellent environment for enjoying the “old school” manual transmission experience. The brake and accelerator pedals are properly placed for heel-and-toe shifting (if you’re so inclined) and the clutch is nicely sprung for hard launches and serious burnouts. While we initially kept bumping the large center console with our right elbow during shifts, we soon adapted and never thought about it again.

This time around, we arrive back at home base with an even bigger smile on our face. But there is still one Stingray left to sample, and we have a feeling it just might be the best one of all.

What was it that made C7 convertible #3 so appealing? In a word or four, Magnetic Selective Ride Control (MSRC). When these optional magnetorheological shock absorbers are combined with the Z51 Performance Package—the resulting suspension is referred to as FE4 (there’s no FE2)—there is a real increase in ride comfort and no detriment to handling.

Ordering MSRC along with Z51 is the ultimate no-brainer option. First, it offers better ride quality than the base suspension. Second, it absorbs bumps better than either the base or FE3 shocks. Third, its stiffness varies both depending on the Driver Mode Selector’s positioning—soft in Tour, firm in Track—and what the road underneath is doing. Finally, ordering both MSRC and Z51 gets you Performance Track Management, five distinct levels of traction- and stability-control intervention inside Track mode. The only downside to MSRC is that you have to pay extra for it, but that’s part of how Chevy keeps the base price down. Regardless, we don’t think there’s a better $1,800 you can spend to improve a Corvette.

We started this story with a question that it’s time to answer. Does the Stingray convertible deliver the best of both worlds, open-air excitement and coupe-like performance? Absolutely. There may be other cars with a $56,000 base price that offer 455 horsepower, but we guarantee none of them can deliver the full Corvette package of power, speed, handling and braking. And to our minds, that’s the real magic of the Stingray convertible.

Also from Issue 88

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