There is probably no car that epitomizes the sports car in the U.S. more than the Chevrolet Corvette. We certainly got that feeling the week we spent driving the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible recently. We saw heads turning, thumbs up, iPhones in camera mode and passengers in other cars twisting to get a better look.
Of course it?s hard not to gawk at the dramatic lines of this four-foot tall silver convertible with red leather interior wearing massive tires that look like they belong on a race car. Certainly Porsche?s, Ferraris and a couple of handfuls of other sports cars have equally dramatic appearances, but the Corvette is the granddaddy and it has a certain really-fast-car-made-in-America mystique.
The seventh generation Corvette was totally redesigned and reengineered in 2014 and is Chevrolet?s flagship car offering owners unprecedented performance and a high level of sophistication.
The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette is built on a hydroformed aluminum frame and chassis components made from aluminum and magnesium. The body uses composite and carbon-fiber panels. All those weight-saving components add up to roughly 3,200 pounds ? that?s very light weight, especially when you consider the big supercharged V-8 engine, massive brakes and rigid structural integrity.
The power is developed by a supercharged 455-hp 6.2-liter V-8 — it?s hard to imagine that this is the little Corvette engine — the Z06 model has 650 hp. The standard transmission is a unique seven-speed manual transmission with rev matching. Replacing the shift paddles on the rear side of the steering wheel are Rev Match paddles. When you want to shift down, make a quick pull on the paddle and it anticipates the next gear selection and electronically ?blips? the throttle to match engine speed, so you get a seamless gear change.
As remarkable as the manual transmission is, we think the eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters is even more impressive. The eight-speed replaces the six-speed automatic that was used in 2014. Designed and built by GM, the new 8L90 transmission delivers world-class shift times that rival the best dual-clutch designs. It adjusts to the best shift modes based on the Driver Mode Selector and seems to read your mind. It makes shifts automatically or manually quicker than you could possibly do with the manual transmission. It also has a launch control setting and helps maximize fuel economy when the driver is being more conservative.
The EPA says fuel economy will be 16 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 20 combined. We actually averaged 22.2 mpg in mixed driving with an occasional romp on the accelerator. This is one of those cars that sounds great and accelerates so fast, it?s hard not to indulge in an occasional fling of civil disobedience.
The numbers tell much of the Corvette story. The basic model is capable of a 3.8 second 0 to 60 mph run, a 12 second 119 mph quarter-mile, 1.03g cornering grip and it has an unofficial top speed of in the 190 mph neighborhood. Oh yea, it stops from 60 mph in 107 feet ? it doesn?t get much better than that. What?s especially interesting is how easy and comfortable the Stingray is to drive; it doesn?t show its supercar attributes until you stomp the accelerator, start into a sharp corner or hit the brakes.
Corvette styling speaks for itself; it looks like a super car with its sharp aerodynamic lines, multiple functional air vents, quad exhaust outlets and long low hood.
Probably the most significant change in the new Chevrolet Corvette is inside the cockpit. The interior is filled with real materials like leather, carbon fiber and aluminum. Over the years, owners and critics alike have complained that the interior wasn?t up to par for a car like this. Not any more, the new interior is luxurious, comfortable and striking, while being totally dedicated to the business of providing the best working environment for the driver.
The driver cockpit is well designed and very functional with everything, including the eight-inch center stack display screen, tilted toward the driver. Controls are easily at hand and intuitive.
The passenger area contains essential elements — two grab bars, placed on the side of the center console and the door. To add to the comfort of the passenger there is a temperature control along with switches for the heated and cooled seat. It?s very convenient and very cool ? pun intended.
The eight-inch digital instrument cluster display can be simple or as complex as the driver wants with up to 69 unique sources of information available. The data ranges from an interactive performance timer to a tire tread temperature display. When the Driver Mode Selector on the center console is changed, it changes the display to suit that driving style. The five-position Drive Mode Selector adjusts 12 vehicle attributes to fit the driver?s environment. There?s also a full-color head-up display in the windshield that can be adjusted for content.
A couple of interesting new features this year include the OnStar communication system with 4G LTE with built-in Wi-Fi hotspot and the available navigation system includes a Data Recorder, so you can check your own performance figures and even record high-definition video of your exploits?we wonder, ?are the videos admissible in court??
The Stingray Convertible top is powered and can even be lowered remotely using the key fob. Another nice feature is the ability to raise or lower the top at speeds of up to 30 mph making it easy to drop or raise the top, for example, at a traffic light without having to hold up traffic, but that?s unlikely. Like everything about the Corvette, the top is quick taking only 21 seconds start to finish in either direction.
With the top up, you?d never know you were in a convertible because it very quiet and more like a coupe than convertible. The problem with the cloth top is rearward visibility is terrible, and even with the top down, you sit so low in the car, and the rear sill is high, so when you are height challenged like we are, it?s even difficult to see out the back then. Thank goodness for a good backup camera. With the top down the wind buffeting is minimal so you can still converse in the open air and better enjoy wonderful exhaust notes ? especially in tunnels like the seven we have on Washington State Highway 14 near our home. The exhaust has an active system that electronically adjusts the audible feedback depending on the drive mode.
The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible comes in three trim levels LT1, LT2 and LT3. Each trim is available with the Z51 Performance Package. Our test car had a base price of $64,995 including the destination charge and the Z51 Performance Package. Options included the LT2 Package — $4,160 (mostly seating enhancements and driver aids); Magnetic Ride Control –$1,795; Performance Data and Video with Navigation — $1,795; 8-Speed automatic transmission — $1,725; Custom red brake calipers — $595 and Black painted aluminum wheels (19-inch front and 20-inch rear) — $495. The total price was $75,560.
Our personal taste runs?more to sport sedans, plush convertibles or smaller crossovers, but we have to admit how much we liked the 2015 Corvette Convertible. It?s good-looking, well built, amazingly sophisticated, extremely fast and very fun to drive. It would be hard to find a car that comes close to equaling the bang for the buck this car offers.