The King Slayer
After adjusting what I thought would be an unbearably uncomfortable and cheaply crafted sport bucket seat, I sat quietly spellbound for what seemed like 5 whole minutes. The simple yet tasteful double-stitched leather seats made by Lear, the same company that supplies Porsche, were supportive, snug and very comfortable, but I had to step out of the car one more time before I woke up the beast lurking within the aggressively angular reverse clamshell hood made of painted carbon fiber. I had to try to press firmly down on the front fenders to see if they would buckle and flex like its predecessors, they didn’t. Next, I popped the hood, pulling it forward, to see the purposeful engine bay that finally wasn’t cluttered and messy; thus far, I was hugely impressed. The unique stingray badges on its flanks are new; the hallowed name hasn’t been used since 1976 for good reason! The C1 and C2 models from 1953 to 1967 were just universally gorgeous cars brimming with the finest innovative technology of its day with the machinery to back up its designs. But then success and other forces at play began to adulterate the Corvette.
For the next 45 years, the Chevrolet Corvettes from C3 to C6 were fast and did continue the tradition of innovation and straight-line speed, but other equally vital areas were compromised. They were great for drag races and motorsports with serious retuning but to the rest of the world, the cars were crude and irreverent likened to moonshine instead of the elegant and complete sports cars from Europe and even Japan with the Honda/Acura NSX. Even the Dodge Viper got more respect than the Corvette outside of the North America.
In the late 80’s we had a red 250 bhp Corvette C4 Targa Coupé for a few years. It was the first car I ever used to do proper doughnuts and drifts with to the point that on one clear and carefree afternoon in Makati I almost spun out into the Mandarin Hotel Deli stopping a few inches short from the curb in a cloud of blue tire smoke. An experience you do not forget! It was also my first experience with ABS (the C4 was the first Corvette to have an anti-lock braking system) and reaped from its benefits!
Back to present day, I still haven’t kicked over the engine because I couldn’t believe the exponential improvements to the cockpit from the last Corvette (C6 Z51) we tested only a couple of years back. Like a mental checklist, every single complaint I had with the old models was addressed. I had thoroughly tested the first 400 bhp C6 back in 2005 at the General Motors proving grounds in Phoenix, Arizona when the model had just been released. Then years later, the 430 bhp 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Coupé 4LT, they were certainly high performance coupés; very fast and even handled reasonably well but the brakes were poor, the overall ride was terrible, and the depressingly inferior interior looked like it had not changed much since the C4! I was reminded back then that the Chevy Vette was the most commercially successful car in the roster despite all its flaws so perhaps I should cut GM some slack. I didn’t. Why? Because of the promise of what could be, and now I’m in the all-new car, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51 with the top range 3LT packaging and I have yet to activate the squared ignition button in the midst of a sea of real carbon fiber dashboard trim.
With the remote key in my pocket, strapped it, left foot on the clutch, right foot on the brake, left hand at 9-0’clock on the fabulous steering wheel, I finally pressed the ignition and felt the car shudder as the new LT1 (the first of the Generation 5 family of small block GM V8 engines retaining the pushrods acting on overhead valves design, but with direct injection, Active Fuel Management for cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing) 6.2-liter V8 exploded to life in a gloriously deep and mighty rubble! Now I slot the 7-speed manual gearbox to first and progressively release the clutch while gently squeezing the throttle. As I effortlessly creep away from the parking lot, I turn the Driver Mode Selector knob to the ECO mode first, so I can ease my way to insanity in measured steps. I instantly notice the information rich and crisp new HUD system which is finally properly functional unlike like in the last model which had a system that looked older than what Nissan used in their Sentra’s in 2001, and I am not exaggerating.
As I entered the highway, I did a quick look far rearward and forward, turned the Driver Selector dial to TRACK, dropped to 2nd gear as I crossed the traffic light and punched it! The magnificent new V8 is lusty, exigent and obsessed up to its 6600 rpm redline! With a sniff more power than standard, thanks to the scalable quad central performance exhaust system, our Velocity Yellow Tincoat Stingray rushed forward with the sense of urgency and aural glory reserved for exotic supercars. This is a GREAT sportscar! The gear change is almost perfect, the Active REV matching assisting to make every shift in perfect unison without any loss of power or drop in pace. Now exiting the first portion of the highway on to the right-handed fly-over holding third at 150 km/h, I slice through like a scythe cutting tall brittle dry grass. The suspension even at its most taut setting remained incredibly compliant and flat absorbing every imperfection without a hint of drama. The next highway entrance seconds away, now a left-hander dropping into the wider, less congested and more scenic highway without lifting off. With adrenaline rushing, engine bellowing, and my right foot pressed to the carpet, 3rd, 4th, 5th, I saw 272 km/h then instantly regained reality that I was being completely reckless, I shifted to 6th, lifted, then 7th and finally held the pace at 115 km/h rejoining regular commuting traffic.
Turning the Driver Select back to ECO, I set the cruise control at the more reasonable speed then heard and felt the clunk prompting the engine transition from the full power of the V8 to V4 mode literally running on half capacity in order to gain maximum fuel economy. Now that I was cruising along normally and my emotions subsided, I began to explore all the gadgetry that the new Corvette Stingray has in general and what the test unit had specifically. The new Corvette has a built-in programmable accelerometer with neat graphics and multiple parameter timers for recording and measuring any form of required speed and time data accessed through the new 8-inch advanced central instrument cluster display that can provide up to a further 69 unique sources of information. There is a second 8-inch high resolution dashboard screen for the MyLink/Bose® infotainment 10-speaker Bose® Centerpoint® surround sound system (the standard 9-speaker Bose® audio with an additional 8-inch Nd woofer inside a 14-liter bass box hidden in the trunk) with a motorized power up/down hidden storage, smartphone integration, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB connectivity, and enhanced GPS navigation.
The new Driver Mode Selector does have 3 more modes; WEATHER-for rain or snow conditions where the ECU reduces power and heightens traction and stability controls to their most aggressive for maximum driver safety, TOUR- the most balanced mode which so happens to be the default, and SPORT- the second most aggressive setting for spirited driving performance. At all modes, including the ECO and TRACK settings, up to a dozen separate performance variables are automatically adjusted from steering response, throttle progression, exhaust, suspension (comfort, normal, sport, or competition), the clairvoyant Electronic Limited Slip Differential (when to close, when to open, duration), stability/traction controls, Active Fuel management (how aggressive you want the car to seek fuel economy), and Launch Control. The sophisticated new car computers also use a patented means of sensing tire temperature to fine-tune the chassis.
As impressive as the excellent plethora of electronics are, the most outstanding feature in the cockpit is the cabin itself which looks and feels first class. This is the scale of execution that I would expect from BMW and Porsche, using well-chosen and purposeful materials. The headliner, visors, trim above the windshield and rear window cover, area around quarter windows, roof lining, and A-pillar are draped in suede microfiber. The fabulous sport touring bucket seats I mentioned earlier use a lightweight magnesium frame for weight savings and durability. Then each buttery, natural-grain Napa leather surface from the armrest to the steering wheel/gear knob and boot, to the knee pads, dashboard, and grab rails are precision hand stitched. Passengers will like the easy access to their own climate and seat heating controls by the right-side air vent. The electronic brake is classy and in vogue but I would have preferred a good old-fashioned manual hand brake for more driver control. I do like the fact that you can actually drive in reverse to almost 80 km/h for that unlikely situation when you are in hot pursuit or baddies are after you, it may be completely stupid to most people but I take comfort that this magnificent car can do more than the ordinary. For those with the ability, the new Vette will only reward you, I consider the new Stingray the most generous car for enthusiasts, offering way more than expected.
In fact, please note that you can buy two completely fully loaded Stingrays for the price of one Porsche 911 Carrera S! The Porsche is obviously the more alluring car with pedigree and pride of ownership but it is not worth double that of a Stingray, I am sorry. Trust me, after driving the new Stingray, you all will also pine for this new American sportscar benchmark which may not be as elegant as the German, but it more than makes up for it with ability and character. If you are one of the more mature drivers who would prefer more driver convenience, a 6-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddleshifts is currently offered but I would strongly suggest waiting a few more months for the upcoming new 8-speed automatic gearbox which should make the Stingray not only even more fuel efficient but potentially more blisteringly swift.
Finally exiting the highway altogether, I head for the mountains to test the Stingray’s agility, ride, and responses. Thus far, I had driven on immaculate highway roads and almost perfect urban streets, so I had to find out how the car would handle rough roads, multiple switchbacks, almost endless multi cambered esses, and elevation changes. This exercise would not only challenge the Stingray’s real-world handling prowess but also test the overall build quality of the car, if interior panels will creak and flex, if the twin bubble carbon fiber detachable roof stays in its proper mounts without screaming for mercy and etc. It didn’t. To be honest, if I didn’t know that the roof could be removed within 3 minutes with simple handling of a couple of levers and a lock (the time includes storing the roof in the capacious trunk on guided mounts), the roof functioned perfectly with excellent sound and weather insulation. I admit that when I did remove the roof, the driving experience did become exponentially more enjoyable and involving. A sensory explosion. The cool crisp wind on your face, the incredible sound of the soulful V8, the car dancing from corner to corner at high speed, only the Ferrari 458 Spider and California 30 are better.
The new Stingray’s fenders, doors, and rear quarter panels remain composite but they’re solid and very high quality now. One of the most impressive new features used in the new car is Aerogel, one of the lightest materials in the world, developed by NASA, which insulates transmission tunnel heat from transferring into the cabin. The under-body panels are made of “carbon-nano” composite. The new chassis is built out of hydroformed aluminum and is supposed to be 60% more rigid than the frame used in the C6. The rear taillights use indirect LED technology while the front headlights use Bi-Xenon with LED DRL. Much like a Ferrari 458 Italia where form and function are in perfect harmony, I am very happy to see that the Stingray’s unique design is not just exciting but purposeful. The front grill and radiator flow paths reduce lift, improving vehicle stability at high speeds by keeping the car pressed to the pavement. In addition, functional vents increase track capability by channeling air to the brakes, as well as heat exchangers for the transmission and differential. The functional hood extractor directs hot air from the front grill up through the forward-tilted radiator and out of the engine compartment. Each blade is precisely angled for optimal airflow. The result is reduced front-end lift, increased downforce, and improved handling at high speeds. The dual rear quarter-panel intake vents guide airflow to cool two separate heat exchangers. One routes air to the transmission cooler while the other cools the rear differential. Hot air escapes through tailored rear tail lamp vents and lower-rear fascia outlets. There are dual brake ducts that transport air from the front grill through the wheel wells to cool the front 6-piston Brembo® brakes and expel heat.
On the road, the car is predictable, very forgiving and never intimidating. The unique Brembo brake system on the Stingray worked as well as some of the high performance ceramic systems on cars costing triple. I admit, it’s possible to overwhelm them in a track but for everyday use, they are flawless. The Stingray has the best balance of ride comfort without sacrificing feel and dynamic handling. It always felt light on its feet and Olympic. After almost a week of enjoying every second behind the steering wheel, I have to say that the new Stingray is currently the very best car that General Motors has ever built. May I be so bold to even declare that it is the very best American car ever!? It is so complete that I have to say that there is no better high performance car currently on sale at this price. It is a crime that it isn’t’ sold in our market.
Specification – 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51 3LT
Engine: 90˚ V8
Location: Front-Mid, longitudinal
Displacement: 6162 cc
Cylinder block: Cast Aluminum
Cylinder head: Cast Aluminum, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder, VVT, Compression Ratio 11.5: 1
Fuel Injection: Advanced Direct Fuel Injection, Active Fuel Management (V4 Mode), Multi-Mode Performance Exhaust, Driver Multi-Mode Selector
Max power: 460 bhp @ 5900 rpm
Max torque: 465 lb ft @ 4700 rpm
Drag coefficient: 0.29 cd
Skid Pad: 1.09g
Weight Distribution Front/Rear: 49/51 on an aluminum chassis with Carbon Fiber hood, Aero kit and Detachable roof
Transmission: 7-Speed Manual with Active REV Matching & Launch Control Technology, Rear-Wheel-Drive, Electronic Limited Slip Differential
Front suspension: Independent Aluminum Double Wishbone with transverse composite leaf springs, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, Magnetic Ride Control w/PTM, & 28mm stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Independent Aluminum Multi-link with transverse composite leaf springs, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, Magnetic Ride Control w/PTM, & 28mm stabilizer bar
Fuel Capacity: 70 liters (18.5 gallons)
L x W x H: 4492 mm x 1877 mm x 1239 mm
Wheelbase: 2710 mm
Ground Clearance: 3.25” (82.55 mm) measured at the front airdam
Brakes: Front-13.6” (345 mm) ventilated / grooved SANLUIS Rassini discs with 6-piston Brembo® aluminum fixed calipers, Rear-13. 3” (338 mm) ventilated / grooved SANLUIS Rassini discs with 4-piston Brembo® aluminum fixed calipers, ABS, EBD, BA, Traction & Stability Control
Wheels: Front-8.5J x 19” / Rear-10Jx20” Forged Aluminum Alloy
Tires: Front-P245/35ZR19 89Y / Rear-P285/30ZR20 95Y Michelin® Pilot® Super Sport ZP
Weight: (kerb) 1499 kg. (3298 lbs.)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 3.9 seconds
Standing ¼-mile: 12.0 sec @ 190.8 km/h
Braking (100 km/h to 0): 109 feet
Top speed (mph): 307 km/h (192 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 17 mpg City / 29 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 71,960.00
C! RATING 10/10
+Redefines American Muscle, sets the new standard, finally- genuinely desirable and competitive against the Europeans
-Only that it is not officially sold in the Philippines yet