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:

Body

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.)

Frame

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.

Interior

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.

Powertrain

As we reported previously, C7 base models will be powered by the new LT1 pushrod engine, which boasts an output rating of 450 horsepower (estimated) while exceeding the 26-mpg rating of the existing LS3 Vette. Thanks in part to the LT1’s broad torque curve, the Stingray is said to deliver a 0-60 time of less than 4 seconds. Advanced features such as direct injection, Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation), refined piston topography, and continuously variable valve timing are key contributors to the all-aluminum engine’s impressive power and efficiency.

As installed in the Corvette, the LT1 may be mated to one of two rear-mounted transaxles, including an all-new Tremec TR6070 seven-speed manual with Active Rev Matching and a dual-disc clutch. According to Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter, the system “anticipates the next gear selection and electronically ‘blips’ the throttle to match engine speed for a seamless gear change.”

The 6L80E six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, meanwhile, soldiers on with revised tuning and a lower-inertia torque converter.

07 | Also new in the drivetrain department is the Tremec TR6070 seven-speed manual transmission, which features a rev-matching system for up- and downshifts. As on the C5 and C6, the transaxle is mounted in the rear of the car. 08 | Chevy says the Stingray’s aluminum frame is both stiffer and lighter than the C6’s hydroformed-steel chassis. New hollow front and rear cradles also cut weight while bolstering structural integrity.

Advanced Performance Hardware

Abetting the Stingray’s advanced powertrain are several new or improved performance systems, most notably an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) for Z51 Performance Package–equipped models. Electric power steering and a refined version of the Corvette’s highly regarded Magnetic Ride Control system further improve both agility and road feel.

“An important goal for the seventh-generation Corvette was to create a more intimate and connected driving experience,” said Chassis Vehicle System Engineer Mike Bailey. “Whether on the open road or on the track, we wanted drivers to feel comfortable and confident behind the wheel.”

Interestingly, while the C7 is longer and has a wider track than its predecessor (by around 1 inch in each measure), the car rides on slightly narrower wheels and tires. The base model uses 18x18.5-inch front and 19x10-inch rear rims, while Z51 variants get a 19x8.5-/20x10-inch combo. Both cars employ Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat tires developed specifically for the seventh-gen Vette.

Benefits of the narrower wheel/tires package include reduced steering effort and road noise, along with a nimbler feel and more-responsive steering. Despite its reduced footprint, the Stingray is expected to achieve 1g on the skidpad.

Standard Brembo brakes feature fixed, four-piston calipers pinching 12.6-inch front and 13.3-inch rear rotors on the base Stingray. Z51 ’rays, meanwhile, receive slotted rotors in a 13.6-/13.3-inch size combination. Stopping distances—already a Corvette strong point—are said to be improved by 9 and 5 percent, respectively.

In short, the 2014 Corvette Stingray looks to be a winner on all fronts, delivering meaningful improvements in the areas of performance, comfort, style, and efficiency. We’ll know for sure once we’ve had a chance to drive one, an opportunity that can’t come soon enough.

09 | Creased-and-bulged hood was clearly influenced by the ’09 Stingray concept. Lamp housings pair indirect LED lighting with standard HID projector beams. 10 | Efforts to align the C7’s styling with that of other current Chevy models yielded what may be the car’s most controversial feature: its rhomboid taillights. That said, the Camaro-style lenses cohere with the overall design in a way that round lamps would not. 



2014 Corvette Stingray

Preliminary Specifications

Overview

Model: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Body styles/driveline: 2-door hatchback coupe with removable roof panel; rear-wheel drive
Construction: composite and carbon-fiber body panels, hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components
Manufacturing location: Bowling Green, Ky.

Engine

LT1 6.2L V-8
Displacement (cu in/cc): 376/6162
Bore & stroke (in/mm): 4.06x3.62/103.25x92
Block material: cast aluminum
Cylinder head material: cast aluminum
Valvetrain: overhead valve, two valves per cylinder
Fuel delivery: direct injection
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Horsepower/kW: 450/335 (est.)
Torque (lb-ft/Nm): 450/610 (est.)

Transmissions

Type: seven-speed manual with Active Rev Match/six-speed paddle-shift automatic

Chassis/Suspension

Front: short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring, monotube shock absorber
Rear: short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring, monotube shock absorber
Active handling: Magnetic Selective Ride Control (avail. with Z51)
Traction control: StabiliTrak, electronic stability control

Brakes

Type: front and rear power-assisted discs with four-piston fixed front and rear calipers (slotted rotors with Z51)
Rotor diameters (in/mm): front—12.6/320 (13.6/345 with Z51); rear—13.3/338

Wheels/Tires

Wheel sizes: front—18x8.5-in (Stingray), 19x8.5-in (with Z51); rear—19x10-in (Stingray), 20x10-in (with Z51)
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat
Tire sizes: front—P245/40R18 (Stingray), P245/35R19 (with Z51); rear—P285/35R19 (Stingray), P285/30R20 (with Z51)

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (in/mm): 106.7/2710
Overall length (in/mm): 177/4495
Overall width (in/mm): 73.9/1877
Overall height (in/mm): 48.6/1235
Weight distribution (% front/rear): 50/50

11 | An available dual-mode exhaust offers a 27 percent improvement in flow over the existing system, thanks in part to new 2.75-inch pipes. 12 |Brakes are Brembo units featuring fixed four-piston calipers at each corner. Interestingly, the base car’s rotors are larger in the rear (13.3 inches) than in the front (12.6 inches). That’s not the case on the Z51, which gets these slotted 13.6-inch front discs, along with slotted 13.3-inch rears. 13 | Base Stingrays will ride on a staggered-size wheel combo featuring 18-inch front and 19-inch rear diameters. 14 | Z51 wheels differ in their forged-aluminum construction and split-spoke design. They’re 1 inch larger in diameter than the standard rims, but use the same 8.5-inch front and 10-inch rear widths. 15 | This cutaway display shows one of the new Stingray framerails (right) next to a C6 unit. Note the dramatic differences in wall thickness between the two.



Behind The C7 Stingray

Designing and building a new Corvette is a major undertaking, and it involves a huge team of decision makers to bring the final product to fruition. We had a chance to sit down and chat with some of these key players at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), where the C7 Stingray was formally introduced. Here’s what they had to say:

Mark Reuss
President, General Motors North America

VETTE Magazine: Why introduce an all-new Corvette now?

Mark Reuss: Sports cars attract a smaller segment of the buying public; however, Corvette continues to be the sales leader in this market. We have seen a tailing off of this lead as the C6 has aged, and that is why we decided to do a new Corvette.

VM: The C6 seemed to attract more “seasoned” buyers. Is that a concern?

MR: Corvette is somewhat unknown to some of the generations in North America. We think that the design, performance, and value will attract that segment of buyers. The feedback on the new Corvette is that is it very technical and progressive. We asked people in different age groups their opinion, and they told us it is very exotic looking. We think it will attract multiple age groups to make a purchasing decision.

Tadge Juechter
Executive Chief Engineer

VETTE Magazine: The outside rearview mirrors look smaller and feature a small crease in the middle. Can you tell us why?

Tadge Juechter: Yes, the mirrors are slightly smaller and are more aerodynamic. The rear cooling vents get their air from the heavy air that flows around the windshield and roof. The crease in the mirror helps deflect the mirror air down so it does not interfere with the rear cooling-vent air.

VM: Are the rear fender-top vents functional?

TJ: On the standard car, they are blocked off. On the Z51 Package they push air into the transmission and differential coolers. The hot air exits from vents on the outside part of the taillights.

VM: The new Corvette is still using transverse composite leaf springs. Did you ever consider going to coilover suspension on all four corners?

TJ: We always research the best way to improve the handling on Corvette. Our composite spring technology was first introduced to Corvette in 1981, and it continues to meet all of our ride and handling requirements. Each wheel responds crisply to any pavement changes with this spring, and the transverse design helps minimize body roll. Coupled with our Magnetic Ride Control, this suspension design is lightweight, cost effective, and meets all of our high-performance handling requirements.

Helen Emsley
Director of Interior Design

VETTE Magazine: The C6 received a lot of negative press about its interior design, but the C7 interior is first class. How were you able to create such a bold redesign?

Helen Emsley: When we were first given the C7 interior requirements, we all gasped. It was a big mountain to climb to put a premium interior into Corvette at its price point. Our goal was to have perfect fit and finish, and stitching needed to be at a premium-car level. Our interior team did an exceptional job, and we are very proud of our final product. The reaction in our consumer test labs has been extremely positive.

John Fitzpatrick
Marketing Manager, Performance

VETTE Magazine: Are the competition seats only available with the Z51 package?

John Fitzpatrick: The competition seats are available as an option in both the regular and Z51 packages. They are not standard with either car.

VM: What is included in the Z51 package?

JF: Magnetic Ride Control, bigger brakes, an electric locking differential, and transmission and differential coolers.

VM: Will you offer different rear-axle ratios?

JF: The new computer technology really offsets the need for multiple rear-axle ratios. The mode selector allows the driver to choose a variety of different driving conditions. It is a leap forward in driving choices. It includes settings for weather, eco, touring, sports, track, etc., and all of those choices change the driving dynamics of the car. The system makes a good driver into a great driver!

VM: Can you explain the purpose of the magnetic sensor that is located above the shift rod in the manual transmission?

JF: It “sees” what gear you are about to select, and makes engine-speed adjustments in advance of your shift. For example, you can move the shifter from Fourth to Third, and the tach will tell you if that shift will be within the allowable engine-rpm range. If the tach shows that the engine will be redlined, you can shift back into Fourth and carry on. It kind of gives you a little “cheat sheet.”

VM: Will you have a C7 at the Corvette Corral in Sebring?

JF: We are hoping to have a car at the Amelia Island Concours the week before Sebring, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ’63 Stingray. Sebring is one week later, so we will try to have one at that race.

VM: How soon will we have a convertible?

JF: That will be announced in the near future.

Kirk Bennion
Exterior Design Manager

VETTE Magazine: Can you tell us why the C7 radiator is forward facing?

Kirk Bennion: We started using rearward-slanting radiators in 1963, and they have been a trademark in every generation of Corvette. However, the C7 design opened up new packaging opportunities under the hood. We have learned from the racing program that moving radiator air up through the hood improves aerodynamics and engine cooling. The hood extractors are functional and help create downforce. The dry-sump oiling system is standard on all LT1 engines. This and the forward facing radiator have enabled us to lower the hood line for much better aero penetration.

VM: Going back to the C3 generation, many magazines have noted that Corvettes have a very low radar signature. It has been determined that the rearward-facing radiator is a leading contributor. Do you know how this new design will impact that radar signature?

KB: That was not part of our testing-and-development program for the new car. I do know that some owners have installed garage-warning sensors on the front of their Corvettes. These seem to provide them with a wide range of benefits, including keeping things from hitting the front of their cars.

The buzz surrounding the new Corvette at the NAIAS was positively electric, with large crowds hovering around the C7 and its various displays for much of the event. When we asked Bennion if first-production production volume would be limited, as in years past, he replied, “We will build 40,000 if they are ordered!” Based on the early buzz, that outcome seems like a distinct possibility.

—Walt Thurn



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