Chevrolet took the wraps off the latest generation of its flagship sports car on January 13, debuting the all-new C7 Stingray at a preview event held just ahead of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. We were on hand for the elaborately choreographed reveal, which featured a multifaceted video presentation, a platoon of solicitous GM reps, numerous static displays, and even an electric-guitar player. (Also, a pair of Stingrays.)
While it took some time to elbow our way through the madding crowd of Internet pseudo-journos and camera-phone-wielding marque fetishists, we were eventually able to ascertain the following:
In keeping with Corvette design convention, the seventh-generation model features a long hood, aggressively bulged front fenders, and a steeply raked windscreen. The sharply creased hood and elongated headlight pods appear to have been inspired by the ’09 Stingray concept, as do the stylized chrome Stingray badges placed just aft of the forward wheel openings.
The rectilinear taillight configuration, which echoes the treatment employed on the ’10-up Camaro, is likely to elicit carping on the part of marque purists, but most other elements—from the slatted fender “gills” to the vaguely piscine front-fascia opening—are firmly grounded in Corvette styling history.
“The goal was a bold design statement that embraced the advanced technology of the car, while enhancing its overall performance in everything from the wind tunnel to the track,” said GM Executive Director of Global Design Ken Parkinson. “The result is…a car that breaks new ground yet remains true to the fundamental elements that make a Corvette a Corvette.”
While the majority of the Stingray’s body is constructed from traditional sheet-molded compound (SMC), the panels feature a lighter-density composition that shaves off 37 pounds, as compared with the C6. A carbon-fiber hood and roof, allied with carbon-nano-composite underbody panels, help produce a front/rear weight balance of 50/50. (The car’s official curb weight had not been announced at press time.)
Taking a page from the C6 Z06 and ZR1 before it, the Stingray uses a stiff aluminum frame to reduce weight without sacrificing structural integrity. The new skeleton comprises five segments with wall thicknesses ranging from 2 to 11mm, based on the individual requirements of each component. The result is a chassis that is both 99 pounds lighter and 57 percent stiffer than the base C6’s hydroformed-steel unit, whose rails use a constant 2mm wall thickness throughout. It’s complemented by hollow-cast aluminum front and rear cradles, which are around 25 percent lighter and 20 percent stiffer than the outgoing solid pieces.
The Stingray’s frame will be assembled in a new facility at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, using a computer-controlled laser welding process capable of maintaining tolerances of approximately 0.001-inch.
Perhaps stung by persistent widespread criticism of past Corvette interiors, the C7 development team took pains to infuse the car’s cabin with an unprecedented level of comfort and style. The new treatment features carbon fiber, aluminum, hand-wrapped leather, and micro-suede (depending on trim level), along with a choice of two different lightweight, magnesium-frame seats. As the accompanying photos show, the transformation is nothing less than revelatory.
“Every feature and detail in the interior is designed to enhance the driver’s connection to the Corvette,” said Interior Design Director Helen Emsley. “It starts with the fighter-jet-inspired wraparound cockpit; continues to build with the smaller [14.1-inch-diameter] steering wheel, more-supportive seats, and high-definition, configurable information screens; and is finished in gorgeous materials.”
Additional interior enhancements include a Driver Mode Selector that tailors 12 vehicle attributes to match varying road conditions. Using a five-position rotary switch situated near the shifter, the driver may select from Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport, and Track settings, each with its own environment-specific tuning profile for the steering, transmission, suspension, and other vehicle equipment.
“With the Driver Mode Selector, we wanted to give the driver an easy way to tailor virtually every aspect of the car to fit their driving environment,” said Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles. “The result is a more rewarding, more confident experience, whether you’re commuting in a downpour or charging through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.”
01 | As dramatic as the exterior transformation is, the changes wrought inside the Stingray’s cabin are nothing short of epochal. No longer will the Corvette’s interior quality be a legitimate target for criticism. 02 | Though final output numbers were unavailable at press time, rumor has it that the LT1’s “estimated” 450hp rating could jump significantly after final certification. Even if it doesn’t, the LT1’s broad torque curve—which equals that of the 427ci LS7 from 1,000 to 4,000 rpm—should move the Stingray with authority. 03 | As on the C6.R race car, air entering the engine compartment passes over a forward-tilted radiator and exits via the large, louvered hood vent. Benefits of this configuration include both improved engine cooling and greater front downforce at high speeds. 04 | Even the standard GT seat should represent a tremendous improvement over the outgoing bucket, with superior lateral support and higher-grade materials. 05 | The Competition Sport seat is even more aggressively bolstered, making it suitable for high-performance and even occasional track use. Both seat types employ a lightweight magnesium frame.06 | Viewed from the side, the new Stingray could almost pass for a Ferrari 599—especially when finished in retina-searing red. Model-specific wheels and rear spoiler are tip-offs that this car is equipped with the Z51 Performance Package.