Get Vette, Go!

The latest version of America’s sportscar superstar is blindingly good, and, for a handful of converts, ready to rock downunder

IN DETAIL

CHEVROLET CORVETTE STINGRAY

PRICE:
$200,000 (converted to RHD)
ENGINE:
6.2-litre V8, 16v, ohv
POWER:
334kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE:
624Nm @ 4600rpm
TRANSMISSION:
7-speed manual
KERB WEIGHT:
1496kg
0-100KM/H:
3.9 seconds
RATING:
4 STARS
CHEVROLET HAVE GIVEN NEW LIFE TO THE V8, AND ALSO MADE THE THING SOUND LIKE THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
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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.