The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette -- beg your pardon, Corvette Stingray -- is back for its second model year with a few updates. They're not as radical as last year's changes, which included a full redesign -- the Corvette's first since 2005. The 2015 edition features major updates, though: There's a new 8-speed automatic transmission for improved acceleration and gas mileage, and a sporty new Z06 model that adds even more performance to the sports car's range.

Forget about the revisions for 2015 for the moment, because if you haven't checked out the Corvette in a while, you might be surprised to discover just how much it changed when it became the Stingray last year. For one, there's new exterior styling -- a major update over the outgoing C6 model, which was little more than a stylistic evolution compared to the previous C5. There's also a handsome new interior, which is far more luxurious than the cabin in earlier Corvette models. And there's an impressive new 6.2-liter V8 that makes a raucous 455 horsepower -- enough for a dizzyingly quick 3.8-second spring to 60 miles per hour.

In essence, the Corvette is a totally new beast -- and one we happen to enjoy immensely.

What's New for 2015?

The Corvette makes two major changes for 2015. For drivers who don't want to shift their own gears, base-level Corvette models add an available 8-speed automatic in place of last year's 6-speed. Also newly available is a high-performance Z06 model, offered as either a coupe or a convertible, which boasts an impressive 650-hp V8.

What We Like

Unimpeachable V8 power; world-class handling; much-improved seats and interior quality; excellent fuel economy; amazing value

What We Don't

Engine shakes when idle; gaudy graphics on the instrument panel

How Much?

$55,000-$76,000 for base Corvette; Z06 pricing not yet announced

Fuel Economy

The Corvette is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 rated at 455 hp (460 hp with the optional performance exhaust) and 460 lb-ft of torque. A 7-speed manual transmission is standard, with a new 8-speed automatic available at additional cost. With the manual, fuel economy stands at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Figures are not yet available for the automatic, though we expect the new 8-speed to trump last year's 6-speed, which returned 16 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Figures also aren't available for the new Corvette Z06, which boasts a 650-hp version of the sports car's 6.2-liter V8. Given the Z06's performance focus, we aren't expecting great things from the car's fuel economy figures.

Standard Features & Options

The Corvette is a 2-seat sports car offered in coupe (with a removable carbon-fiber roof panel) and soft-top-convertible body styles. Standard models come in three trim levels -- 1LT, 2LT and 3LT -- while the Z06 is offered in just one trim.

The 1LT coupe ($55,000) and 1LT convertible ($60,000) come standard with staggered-size alloy wheels (18-inch front, 19-in rear), a carbon-fiber hood, keyless entry with push-button starting, leather upholstery, power seats, two 8-in color displays (one in the gauge cluster and one on the dashboard), a rearview camera, and a 9-speaker Bose audio system with iPod/Bluetooth integration and satellite radio.

The 2LT coupe ($59,200) and 2LT convertible ($64,200) add color-matched console and door panels, heated and ventilated seats with memory settings and additional power adjustments (lumbar and side bolsters), Corvette seat emblems, a universal garage-door opener, auto-dimming mirrors, a color head-up display, a 10-speaker Bose audio system with dual subwoofers, a cargo net and a luggage shade (coupe only).

The 3LT coupe ($63,000) and 3LT convertible ($68,000) tack on a full-leather interior with Nappa leather seating surfaces, a navigation system (optional on lower trims) and a color-matched instrument panel.

Topping the range is the impressive Z06 (pricing not yet announced), which adds an impressive array of sporty equipment. There's the bigger 650-hp engine, for one, but there's also an improved suspension, upgraded tires, a carbon-fiber roof panel and improved cooling measures for increased track capabilities.

The popular Z51 package ($4,000 extra) adds bigger wheels (19-in front, 20-in rear) with Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP summer tires, a dry-sump oil system, an electronic limited-slip differential, more aggressive gearing, bigger front brakes (13.6-in discs versus 12.6), sport-tuned suspension components and lift-reducing aerodynamic tweaks.

Other notable options include adaptive magnetic-ride dampers with a track-oriented stability control system (Z51 only), sport seats, a carbon-fiber interior trim, a suede steering wheel and a transparent roof panel (coupe only).

The coupe's hatchback trunk can hold 15 cu ft. worth of your favorite items, while the convertible's traditional trunk maxes out at 10 cu ft.

Safety

The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and four airbags (front and side). It had not been crash-tested as of this writing.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we loved the cockpitlike feel of this Corvette. The door panel and central controls seem to wrap around the driver, creating an intimate sports-car atmosphere that was largely missing from the previous car. The vastly better seats are supportive in all scenarios, and either of the two available Bose stereos will keep the tunes cranking. This is a pretty cool place to spend some time.

Under the hood, the 6.2-liter V8 is all the engine that most folks will ever need. Power is massive (torque equally so), and the sounds are straight out of a drag-strip fantasy. The only part that gives us pause is how the engine shakes the whole car at idle; it's far from the refinement offered by overseas rivals, though some will appreciate the added "character." The novel 7-speed manual transmission's active rev-matching feature is a neat parlor trick, and if you want to match your own revs, don't worry -- there's an off button. We haven't yet driven the Z06, though we expect that it will offer astonishing performance and raucous levels of driving enjoyment rivaled only by high-end exotics.

On the road, the Corvette combines astonishingly athletic handling with genuine long-distance comfort, which is a combination that few cars at any price can match. Road noise is reasonable, and highway pit stops should be infrequent given this near-supercar's 30-mpg potential. The coupe's standard removable roof panel means that all Corvette drivers can have some fun in the sun, even those who forgo the convertible with its fast-acting power soft-top. The C7's gaudy performance numbers may get all the headlines, but it's the remarkable versatility of this car that gives it such broad appeal.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Mustang GT -- The all-new Mustang is Ford's closest competitor to the Corvette. Though it's not the all-out performer that the 'Vette is, the Mustang still boasts an available 435 hp and an exciting new look.

SRT Viper -- The attention-grabbing Viper is as outlandish as ever, though its high cost and edgy character limit its appeal.

Porsche Cayman S -- Considerably smaller than the Corvette, the Cayman boasts ultra-precise handling and exceptional engine refinement. It's not nearly as fast, however, even with the S trim.

AutoTrader's Advice

The 2LT is the sweet spot, adding desirable luxuries such as power side bolsters without inflating the price to 3LT levels. As for the Z51 package, it's up to you, but we'd have a hard time saying no to all of that extra performance for $4,000. As for the Z06, it's primarily meant for high-performance driving and track use, so it'll likely be hard to pilot every single day.

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