Sometimes there's so much buzz about a new car that when you finally get to drive the thing, it's kind of a letdown.
Sometimes. But not in the case of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray coupe.
Given that the new 'Vette's got 460 horsepower under the hood, this may not come as a surprise. Let's be honest, though -- Corvettes have been pretty fast cars for a pretty long time. What they haven't been, however, is properly refined, at least not in recent decades. That's where the new C7 Corvette really lives up to the hype.
Performance? Yeah, It Has That.
Let us first give the C7 its due as a butt-kicking sports car. Although the new 6.2-liter V8, code-named LT1, has the same displacement and pushrod design as the outgoing C6 Corvette's LS3, it also has revamped internals that crank out 30 more horses along with extra low-end punch. This becomes apparent when you floor it at, say, 2,500 rpm in second or third gear. The LT1 simply gets up and goes, right now, whereas it's easier to catch the laid-back LS3 napping.
Our test car had the popular 6-speed automatic, which is surprisingly satisfying, ripping off full-throttle upshifts with a distinctive "bap-BAP" sound like a pistol cock. We've sampled the novel 7-speed manual, too, and it's a rewarding gearbox in its own right. Both fit the car's character well. We're not sure which we'd choose.
On tight roads, the C7 instills new confidence, its staggered-width performance rubber hugging the road with downright exotic zeal. The C6 was often criticized for being fidgety and uncommunicative at the limit, but the C7 wants to stay the course and talk you through it. The driving position remains superb, affording a clear view over the low hood between voluptuous front fenders.
If you come for the performance, in other words, you're not going to be disappointed.
But again, Corvettes have been massively capable, world-class sports cars at least since the C5 debuted back in the '90s. The C7's dynamic improvements are nice, but they're not as revolutionary as some may lead you to believe.
Sophistication? It Has That, Too.
What really sets the new Corvette apart is its overhauled cabin, which -- as advertised -- is finally competitive with the car's snobby European rivals. The materials are generally excellent, highlighted by rich-looking dashboard trim and classy stitched accents. The dashboard design, too, is a huge step forward, ditching the generic look of the C5 and C6 for the cockpit-like contours of the underrated C4. In previous Corvettes, you sort of gritted your teeth and hoped the interior wouldn't fall apart after 50,000 miles. With the C7, however, you find yourself wondering, "Is a Porsche interior really that much nicer?"
Another difference-maker is the new Corvette's cabin technology. We remember shaking our heads at the dated dot-matrix readouts in the C6 Corvette, but the C7 is full of fancy, high-resolution displays, including driver-configurable gauges with distinct themes depending on the selected driving mode. The standard 8-inch infotainment system is similarly advanced, with graphics and features that are leaps and bounds ahead.
And the seats. Oh, the seats! At long last, Chevy has given us a modern Corvette with supportive, well-built buckets that we wouldn't want to swap out at the first opportunity. The C6's inexcusably flimsy chairs already seem like a distant memory. You can even upgrade to more aggressively bolstered sport seats, though if you ask us, the standard chairs are more than adequate.
In short, the hype is real when it comes to the C7's refinement. This isn't just a bargain performance car. It's a genuinely luxurious one, too, which makes it even more of a bargain than ever.
We're not ones to jump on the latest sports-car bandwagon, but the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette really does have it all. At a starting price of just over $50,000, it's a towering achievement. America should be proud.