Droptop Duel

Driving the ’14 Z51 and the ’13 427 Convertible

September 4, 2014
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It’s been a full year since we published our first road test of the 2014 Corvette Stingray. During that time we’ve written stories about a number of C7s, from stock coupes to supercharged convertibles. When we found out we could get our hands on a 2014 convertible from the GM press fleet, we weren’t sure what angle to take on the story—our reviews have thus far been uniformly positive; what else could we say about Chevrolet’s superlative new machine? Then we realized we had yet to drive a C7 back-to-back with a C6. Surely such a comparison test would shed new light on the Stingray. Given the seventh-gen’s increased performance, no standard C6 convertible would do. Therefore we decided to track down a 2013 427 Convertible, allowing us to compare the latest Corvette droptop to arguably the greatest.

Chevrolet had a lot to celebrate in 2013. Not only was it the final year for C6 production, it marked the Corvette’s 60th anniversary. “We wanted to do something really special, something we had never done before,” said Corvette Product Market Manager Harlan Charles of Chevrolet’s decision to build the 505-horsepower 427 Convertible, the most powerful convertible the carmaker has ever offered. Corvette customers had long clamored for a truly high-output droptop. The last time the carmaker offered such a model was 1969, when the convertible could be ordered with the fire-breathing L88 big-block. The fourth-generation ZR-1 couldn’t be had in convertible form, nor could the fifth-gen Z06. Then, eight years into the C6’s production run, Chevy finally relented to enthusiast demand.

Though it is powered by the Z06’s 7.0-liter LS7 engine, the 427 Convertible is not a Z06 convertible. Instead, it is based on the steel-framed Grand Sport, as reengineering the Z06’s aluminum structure would have been cost prohibitive for a single-model-year car. In addition to its high-output engine, the 427 Convertible received a number of upgrades over the Grand Sport, including Magnetic Selective Ride Control (MSRC) dampers, unique 19- and 20-inch wheels with machined faces and ZR1-spec Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. To help offset the weight of its heavier steel chassis, the 427 Convertible was fitted with carbon-fiber front fenders, a carbon-fiber hood and floor panels featuring the same lightweight materials. As a result of these weight-saving measures, the model tipped the scale at a reasonable 3,355 pounds—156 pounds heavier than a Z06. Chevy claimed the car could hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, streak through the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds, attain a terminal velocity of 198 mph and generate 1.04 g of lateral acceleration. Something special indeed.

In the fall of 2013, San Francisco resident Stephen Logan wasn’t necessarily in the market for a new Corvette, especially not one with a $75,925 MSRP; he was perfectly happy with his Velocity Yellow 2008 convertible, a car that had brought him back to the Corvette fold. Having seen the debut of the original Corvette at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1953, Logan counts himself as a lifelong devotee of the model. As a 19-year-old, fresh out of high school, Logan proceeded to buy himself a new ’62 Corvette. Living on Long Island at the time, he drag-raced the 300-hp machine at various East Coast venues, including the New York National Drag Strip. Eventually, however, insurance premiums proved too costly for the young Logan, and he sold the Corvette. It would be 25 years before he purchased another, an ’87, which he also bought new. But just three years later, not terribly impressed with the C4, Logan took yet another long hiatus from Corvette ownership. It wasn’t until he rented a C6 on vacation that he was wooed back to Chevrolet’s sports car. The thoroughly revised C5 had tempted him, but he wasn’t a fan of the model’s styling. He much preferred the C6’s appearance, but it took getting behind the wheel of one to prompt the purchase. Logan was bowled over by the car’s balance of performance and comfort. In that respect, the C6 proved to be light years ahead of his old C4.

Three years and many enjoyable miles in his ’08 later, Logan saw a brand-new 427 Convertible on the showroom floor of Dublin Chevrolet. Interestingly enough, his ’08 had just been awarded a perfect score at the Dublin Auto Show; he had stopped by the dealership with a few other show entrants after the event. Not only was the 427 Convertible painted Velocity Yellow, it had been fitted with every conceivable option—just the way Logan would have ordered it had he wanted to do so. This got him thinking. He loved the way the car looked, the fact that it was a one-year-only model and the 505 horses under its carbon hood. On the other hand, he was worried about his ability to contend with its manual transmission. (As with the Z06, all 427 Convertibles were fitted with stick shifts.) The onset of arthritis had led him to order his ’08 with an automatic trans. A test drive quickly allayed his fears, as Logan found the clutch action surprisingly light and the gear lever easy to row. Even though he gingerly sampled the car’s power, he was blown away by its acceleration, which was in another league compared with his ’08. Still, he had to think this purchase over; you don’t buy a car pushing $100K (with options) on a whim. A few days later, the Corvette was his, the 427’s lure having proved too strong for this ex-drag racer to resist.

Though Logan’s test drive had given him a taste of his new Corvette’s abilities, a long road trip from San Francisco to Fort Bragg, Calif., provided him the full measure of its incredible performance. He found the car had “no lean” on the mountain roads, yet the MSRC shocks provided a surprisingly good ride over broken pavement. But it was the 427’s speed that impressed him most. “It’s the fastest car I’ve ever driven,” says Logan. “You have to respect this car.”

Logan is right: his car is fast, as we soon learned on our way from San Francisco to Pescadero, 45 miles to the south. What better way to test a pair of Corvette convertibles than to drive them down the California coast—with the tops down, of course. As it turns out, our Stingray press car was perfectly equipped for the task at hand. We were hoping it would have a manual transmission. Well, we got that, plus a whole lot more: Z51 Performance Package ($2,800), Competition Sport seats ($2,495), MSRC shocks with Performance Track Management ($1,795) and Dual Mode Exhaust ($1,195), as well as the 3LT Preferred Equipment Group. Obviously, the real coup was its Velocity Yellow Tintcoat exterior. This $995 option was paired with yellow-painted brake calipers, which added $595 to the car’s long tally of extras—$16,670 to be exact, making for a $76,470 Stingray.

Also from Issue 93

  • 1965 "Spartan" Sting Ray
  • History: Saving the C5 Program
  • Buyer's Guide: $15K
  • Top Flight 1995 ZR-1
  • 1969L89 Convertible
  • C3 Land-Speed Racer
  • Racing: C7.R, DP Compared
  • C5 Z06: Supercar on a Budget
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