Detroit, MI - Chevrolet took the wraps off the latest generation of its flagship sports car today, debuting the all-new C7 Corvette Stingray at a preview event held just ahead of the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. We'll have a full report on the 2014 Corvette in an upcoming issue of VETTE, but for now we've assembled the highlights.
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 heat-extracting 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 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 was not available at launch.)
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 .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."
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 expected 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.
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 one 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.