It was a somewhat quiet affair late last night at the Detroit Motor Show pre-launch event when Team-Chevy launched the 2014 Corvette to their closest few million or so friends, while the quietly-spoken rock star Lenny Kravitz played the evening in with his signature tune, American Woman.
Hell, that ain’t how it was – to quote the acoustic intro of the song – “American woman, gonna mess your mind..” And messing with our minds is precisely what GM’s launch event did.
Introduced by GM’s North America President Mark Reuss, Corvette Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and GM’s Vice President of Global Design Ed Welburn, the 20-minute ceremony featured the word ‘spectacular’ so often we almost felt we were intruding on a Team-Chevy bromance. To say they were pleased with their new baby would be an understatement, but would their love be shared by those looking on?
Much as the team from GM tried to maintain a semblance of drama and surprise during the unveil, in reality you’ve probably seen renderings of the new Corvette which were shared by Jalopnik early last year. Design VP Ed Welburn described it as “lower, longer, wider, more exotic but obviously still Corvette”. He went on to describe the new car’s wider appeal, but between you, me and the gatepost it still looks unmistakeably American.
Is that a bad thing? Well in some ways that’s the brand they’ve got, so why not play it loud and proud? But in another sense, us Europeans are not so used to whooping and hollering every time we pop down to the shops.
How is that different to driving a Ferrari F12 or a McLaren 12C? Well, I suppose very little, so until we see it driving on the road let’s award Team Chevy an opening 4 out of 5 for making a car that every 9-year old boy will lust after.
Chevy reminded us before the event of their ambitions for the 2014 Corvette – not only was it to be faster and more fuel efficient, but it also had to measure up to the materials and quality standards of the best European brands. Without getting all close and personal with the new car it’s difficult to judge whether Corvette is now a match for the jewel-like interior of a 911 Porsche – it doesn’t look so – but you’ve got to applaud Chevrolet for making the effort.
This move upmarket (if indeed that is truly what they’ve achieved) is significant because this is the first Corvette that will be made in right-hand drive form for markets such as the UK, South Africa, Japan and Australia. Finally enthusiasts will be able to ‘seriously’ consider the ‘Vette as a genuine option, which could make it an attractive proposition if it starts at its predecessor’s $49,600 base price – around the entry point for a 236bhp BMW Z4 sDrive28i.
Did I mention the entry-level ‘Vette packs 444bhp and 450lb-ft of torque?
And let’s stop calling it a ‘Vette – it’s taken me 400 words to mention the name ‘Stingray’, which if you’re a 40-something car enthusiast stirs about the same reverence as Superleggera – perhaps more so if you’d ever been lucky enough to ride in the impossibly exotic Corvette Stingray of the 1970s.
In Team Chevy’s press blurb they describe the new 2014 Stingray as ‘defying convention’ and ‘dismissing the ritualistic and the cliché’, which is about the time they started messing with my mind.. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, doesn’t that make it a duck..? #confused
If anything I’d say the new Stingray looks like a slave to convention, just as the SRT Viper launched late last year. If GM had launched a mid-engined twin-turbocharged V6 ‘that’ would have defied convention – a 6.2-litre 2-seater sports coupe with a long pointy nose and f’-off rear-end sounds exactly how I’d picture a Corvette.. or perhaps I’ve been drinking the wrong type of kool aid.
The all-new Corvette Stingray shares only two parts with the previous generation Corvette, although they don’t go on to say which those are. The 6.2-litre LT1 V-8 engine is described as ‘all-new’, as is the aluminium frame structure and chassis which has helped the development team shave 40kg (90 lbs) from its predecessor.
Also new is a race-inspired system of harvesting hot engine/brake air and passing it ‘over’ the roof of the car, Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter describes this race proven aero solution as being unique on a road car.
That roof panel is removable and comes with exposed carbon-fibre weave as part of the Z51 Performance Package.
The other innovation Chevy boasted about last night was the Corvette Stingray’s Active Rev Matching manual 7-speed transmission. According to Chevy, the technology is unique, but that’s precisely what Nissan said when they introduced it on the 370Z in 2009.
Clearly time and experience will have made the technology even more intuitive – which matches engine speed on downshift for perfect shifts every time – but it undermines the rest of Chevrolet’s claims if they can’t distinguish between real innovation and good ol’ fashioned engineering evolution.
“The 2014 Corvette delivers the fastest acceleration, the most cornering grip, the most track capability, the best braking performance and what we expect to be the best fuel economy ever for a standard Corvette,” said Design VP Ed Welburn.
Quite. But how does it really compare to a Porsche 911 or Audi R8 V10? We’ll have to wait until later in the year, but the gloves are certainly off and I wouldn’t want to bet against the home-grown sports car from Detroit.
The 2014 Corvette Stingray coupe goes on sale in the US during the third quarter of 2013.