IF YOUR favourite jeans are Levis Red Tabs,
tracks from Bruce Springsteen and Gaslight
Anthem blare from your hi-fi, and Jack Daniels
on ice clinks in your glass, it’s possible your
are a closet Yankophile. In which case, maybe
a Porsche in the garage would leave you just a
little cold. Well, for anyone sufficiently committed,
the greatest performance car to come out of
Kentucky, USA, can be yours here in Australia.
A handful of Australian companies do a tidy
business of importing iconic American cars and
converting to them to right-hand drive, and now
the all-new, seventh-generation has Corvette
Stingray joined that list.
The new ’Vette sheds any remaining vestiges
of its rude-and-crude heritage. It now competes
with the world’s most highly regarded sports
cars in performance and features, and smashes
many in terms of bang for the bucks. In the
USA, it’s a screaming performance bargain;
here in Oz, it moves into territory where very
tasty metal sits, but is still worth a close look if
you dig thundering V8 two-seater sportscars.
In these chaste times, the big US guns have
stuck to their heavy artillery, so the ‘entry-level’
Stingray has a 6.2-litre V8 with 339kW and
624Nm. It’s central to the ’Vette’s presence and
performance is immense. It’s sharp and angry
with terrific throttle response and a ferocity
that sets your heart thumping by the time it
hammers into the limiter. Direct fuel injection
and new combustion chambers not only give
new life to the small block, they also make the
thing sound like the Battle of Gettysburg. With
the two-way mufflers in low-restriction mode
and the tach needle crowding the 6500rpm redline, the new Stingray V8 blasts out
shock and awe. One flat-out run through the
gears will convince the Corvette faithful that
American-engineered V8s are still the way
and the truth. The four tailpipes might be in
dubious taste but the delivery is pure class.
Top speed is 190mph, while a 3.8sec 0-60
time is almost Ferrari FF quick.
This is not harsh-riding car, even with the
Z51 performance package of larger wheels
(19in front, 20in rear), firmer suspension,
an electronically controlled LSD, dry-sump
lubrication, shorter gear ratios and larger
brakes. The steering is responsive, accurate
and provides real confidence, although the
Corvette hasn’t resisted the trend for highly
configurable chassis/drivetrain settings.
Rotate a little dial on the transmission tunnel
to scroll through Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport
and Track, and the steering weight, stability
control, throttle response and magnetic
suspension ramp up with each click. You can
mix and match if you delve into the menus.
Tour and below take all the tension out of the
Stingray, so ignore them. Locked in Track,
with the stability control off, it’s a hugely fun
thing to drive hard. The seven-speed manual
gearbox is hefty but satisfying. You can have
an eight-speed auto, but we say stick with
the stick. Throws are medium length, but
direct. The clutch engages high in the travel,
but is light and feelsome. Once you get used
to having seven ratios to choose from, it’s a
joy to use. But — and there’s often a but with
a Corvette — when you aren’t used to the
extra gear, shifting can get sloppy. Porsche’s
seven speed in the 911 locks out seventh
gear unless you’re in fifth or sixth, that way
you don’t mistakenly grab it. Chevrolet didn’t
do that, so for your first few hours in the car,
expect a lot of fourth-to-seventh upshifts,
some cursing, and then a downshift to fifth,
or maybe third, by accident.
The ride is well controlled and the balance
is brilliantly telegraphed – the Vette either
oversteers a little or a lot. You can ride the
line just before it gets too wild and revel in its
predictable nature to your heart’s content.
But the best thing is that the C7 feels more
compact, better tied down and just keener
to respond cleanly to the road surface and
the driver’s inputs than its predecessors. Go
really hard on something resembling a fast
Aussie B-road and the body control starts to
fray at the edges: the body floats a little as the
dampers jiggle, which knocks your confidence.
Then the car bottoms out with a crack and
you have to slow down. In combination these
things start to make the Stingray feel a bit
heavier than it really is (1496kg).
Inside the new Vette is light years ahead of
the flimsy, rubbish interiors that were served
up in earlier generations. The seats are great,
the TFT central rev counter is cool and the
feeling of snug support is appealing. But the
V8’s lazy, offbeat idle sends a gentle shimmy
through the cabin at rest, and the overall vibe
is more rock stadium than opera house.
But never mind about that. Better to just
slide into those favourtite jeans, point the
’Vette towards your favourite burger joint,
and let the good times roll.