When a person wears a halo, we call them an angel. When a Chevy wears a halo, we call it the Corvette. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray swaps its bowtie for a set of wings as it rises above one of the best line-ups in the brand's history to present sports car shoppers with a giant-killing piece of hardware that doesn't cost much more than the previous generation car ever did - at least in base form.
I was fortunate enough to drive the new Stingray in anger at its initial launch through the hilly terrain surrounding Monterey, California, and I can attest to the car's ability to rip through s-curves and down straight-aways at speeds quick enough to get you arrested, drawn, and quartered before the sun has set. I recently had the opportunity to sample the Corvette under different circumstances: specifically, to see how the two-door coupe would integrate into my daily urban routine. After all, while track time is likely for a significant portion of new Vettes, the majority of the miles put on these eight-cylinder beasts will be of the more mundane variety. Just how livable is the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray when you're slogging your way to the grocery store rather than hanging ten off a canyon road?
The King Of Sports Car Storage
It might seem odd to lead off with an ode to the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray's cargo capability, but this is the one area where two-seat sports cars most frequently frustrate their owners. What good is dreaming of a weekend getaway when your vehicle's trunk can barely accommodate a good-size purse, let alone a decent overnight bag?
Some automakers attempt to get around this issue by offering unusually-shaped luggage that conforms to the nooks and crannies of a given model's 'trunk,' which is really only a solution if you happen to own a similarly oddly-shaped wardrobe. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, on the other hand, keeps things much simpler: nearly all of the space behind the rear seats is devoted to schlepping cargo, and it's accessible via the coupe's enormous rear hatch.
The old Corvette cliché yardstick is how many sets of golf clubs could you take with you (definitely two, and I am not sure why you would need more than that in a car with only a pair of seats), but what I found most impressive about the Stingray's 15 cubic foot hatch was the fact that it could swallow the ultra-lightweight carbon fiber roof panel while still leaving a reasonable amount of space underneath for you to slide smaller items or bags. The panel itself clips very easily into the cargo area so you don't have to leave it at home and pray that the skies stay clear for the rest of the day. It's an excellent design, and it's standard with every Corvette model.
Bye-Bye Sea of Plastic
It used to be that Corvette owners had two major gripes with their cars: the seats, which were deemed to be incapable of holding a human body still during spirited driving, and the quality of the materials used by GM throughout the car's interior. The latter became an ongoing joke in the sports car world, with Vette owners taking it on the nose from Porsche, BMW, and even Mustang owners about their car's low-rent trappings.
Not anymore. My tester was a 3LT model with the Z51 package, which meant all of the luxury and performance comforts money can buy. While it's not cheap to order your Chevrolet Corvette Stingray this way - you're looking at $66k for a similarly-equipped coupe, or $10,000 more than the base price if you forgo the Z51 track goodies - the return on your investment is palpable. Where once was plastic now there is leather, and in the areas where artificial surfaces have been maintained, their softness and appearance has been significantly upgraded. Witness, too, the preponderance of advanced display technologies throughout the Corvette's cabin: there's a configurable LCD gauge display sitting in front of the driver, a large LCD touchscreen on the center console for the MyLink vehicle interface, and a color head-up display hovering just over the car's hood.
The seats are more of a mixed bag. There's no doubt that the thrones found in my 3LT looked great, featuring optional custom stitching to match that of the interior's suede trim, and they did an excellent job of keeping me stationary throughout any shenanigans that may or may not have gone on at full throttle. However, they exacted a punishing toll on my back muscles, sending me aching from the car after several hours behind the wheel. I didn't experience this same punishment the first time I drove the Stingray, almost ten months previous, but sitting in traffic added a new dimension of stress that revealed this particular foible in their design.
So what's it's like to pilot the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray using 3/10ths of its performance capabilities down a crowded city street? Surprisingly civilized, especially given that my performance exhaust-equipped car not only offered an exceptionally loud soundtrack, but also upped the output of the coupe's 6.2-liter V-8 engine to 460 horses and 465 lb-ft of twist. The Corvette's new seven-speed manual transmission is smooth to shift through the first few gears, although I must admit that it's relatively easy to move from second to seventh and bog down if you're not paying attention. I also found myself puzzled as to the difference between the top ratio and the sixth member of the Stingray's cog choir as there seemed to be only a slight discrepancy in RPM when moving between them. That being said, there's none of the heaviness one might expect in a performance gearbox like the Chevrolet's, which keeps your wrist workout to a minimum in traffic.
Even with the ability to set the car to Tour mode, which softens its optional magnetic suspension settings and muffles its quad tailpipes as much as possible, it's not really possible to cut a low profile in the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. This is especially true if it's sprayed with an enthusiastic yellow hue, which was the case with the test vehicle I was driving. Still, despite the low seating position that had me using the car's sharp fender swells to help aim it down the road, if you feel like puttering around at legal speeds or less you won't encounter any resistance from the engine. This thoroughbred might want to run wild, but it's also got a cylinder deactivation system that will keep your fuel consumption at a reasonable level as long as you avoid dipping into the right pedal more than is absolutely necessary.
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray takes the coupe's reputation as a sports car you can live with on an everyday basis and ratchets it up a few notches. Although I wasn't happy with the comfort level provided by its new seats, there's no question that the Stingray's docile around-town attitude, copious amounts of real-world storage space, and upscale interior give it an advantage over not just the C6 generation Corvette, but also a number of its pricier, and less accommodating rivals. It would be a stretch to call the Stingray 'practical,' but if you don't need the extra set of seats - and never have to deal with snowy, slippery weather - there's no real penalty in moving from a mid-size sedan to the Corvette as your regular ride.