The first annual Business Insider Car of the Year is the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
Feel free to applaud — and applaud some more! Ben Zhang and I debated the choice long and hard, and I demanded that he make the patriotic case for the Corvette at least a dozen times.
Jaguars and Ferraris were swatted aside. Big, luxurious SUVs fell by the wayside. Even the Very Important Tesla Model S P85D, the fastest sedan in the world, couldn’t beat out America’s sports car.
In the end, we both just loved the new Vette.
The bottom line is that we wanted our first-ever Car of the Year to be an amazing machine when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts part of the story. It had to look cool and be a blast to drive. And because Business Insider is, after all, a business publication, we decided that the COTY should be significant for the auto industry — it couldn’t be a niche product that appeals only to enthusiasts with millions to spend on exotic hypercars.
But there’s another factor that we considered.
Porches and Ferraris and Lamborghinis and Jaguars are also lots of fun. But 2014 was the year that the new Corvette Stingray topped everybody with the fun factor.
What a car!
A WHOLE NEW LOOK
The Corvette is an American icon, first introduced in 1953. But through the decades, it’s never seemed as refined as the high-performance European cars to which it’s habitually compared. The previous C6 generation was plenty powerful and thoroughly impressive, but its rough-around-the edges nature was a turnoff for some of the more discerning buyers.
The new C7 generation (yes, there have been seven iterations of this car) starts at $US54,000 and feels completely different — and brings back the Stingray name, not seen since the 1970s. (For the record, the final model year for the C6 started at about $US50,000.)
The interior is modern, fairly luxurious, and yet purposeful. You feel the lure of the racetrack in this Vette in the same way that you do in a Ferrari 458, but at a much, much lower price. Soft, high-quality leather blends with LCD instruments and controls. Heck, there’s even 4G LTE connectivity embedded in the car. What was once seen by many as the dinosaur of the sports car world is now a rolling, wireless hotspot that can do 0-60 mph in less than four seconds. Amazing.
But it’s the exterior that’s truly remarkable. From the angular front end to the square rear taillights, the car’s designers decided to take a bold detour from the curvy Corvettes of the past, without completely doing away with what people expect a Vette to look like. The new car is a respectful homage to the Stingrays of the early 1960s, and the overall effect is absolutely stunning. This is the boldest Corvette…possibly ever.
So the Stingray looks great, but it’s what’s under the hood that really steals the show.
The 6.2-liter LT1 V8 supplies the driver with 460 horsepower, enabling 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of more than 180 mph. You just can’t get this much speed for this nice a price anywhere else on planet Earth. In fact, the Corvette’s equivalent cost-wise from Porsche — the 430 horsepower, 190-mph 911 GTS — starts at $US115,000.
That’s two Corvettes. And a pleasant Caribbean vacation.
But there’s more. The Stingray’s V8 serves up a yowling, malevolent soundtrack that occurs only in the 911’s nightmares. It won’t scare a Ferrari 458, which also contains (barely) a V8, but the symphony of combustion is of a different nature. The Ferrari’s is a wild wail. The Stingray’s is a full-throated growl. It’s hard to get tired of this, particularly when working the engine through its auditory sweet spot in gears 2 through 5 (there are seven in total, but you don’t entirely need them).
Like we said: fun.
The terms “Corvette” and “prodigious speed” have been linked together for decades. Sadly, so have “Corvette” and “ancient suspension.” Although the Stingray still features an old-school leaf-spring rear setup (you normally see this on delivery trucks, not sports cars), it’s substantially improved for the C7 generation. The addition of a slew of electronic driving aids keeps the aforementioned 460 horsepower from making trouble.
With the engine, upgraded suspension, and massive Brembo brakes working in joyful unison, the Stingray makes driving around corners just as exciting as tearing up the pavement in a straight line. This might be the first Corvette in living memory that you don’t have to drive fast to enjoy.
SYMBOL OF A NEW GENERAL MOTORS
The new Corvette, in many ways, is emblematic of the new General Motors and of a company looking to atone for past sins.
2014 wasn’t a great year for GM. A massive ignition-switch recall stalled the carmaker’s comeback from bankruptcy (although, like everyone else in the auto industry, GM sold plenty of cars in the resurgent US market). And there were some bad vibes in Vetteland: a sinkhole swallowed several classic Corvettes on display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky — across the street from the plant where the Stingray is built.
In this context, the Stingray is evidence of redemption. Much as the company has been cleaning up its act under the guidance of CEO Mary Barra, the Corvette’s designers and engineers have eradicated any hints that they compromised with the car.
Good enough doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to Corvettes.
Have all of these changes translated to success at the showroom?
Yes. In a big way. Corvette sales are up a whopping 119% this year, with more than 31,000 cars sold as of the end of November. That’s better than Porsche’s Boxster, Cayman, 911, 918, and Panamera — combined!
Obviously, Ben and I aren’t the only ones who love the Stingray.
Corvette has finally lived up to its potential, six decades after it first hit the streets. When we drove it, we didn’t want to stop driving it. It made us dream the dream of racetracks, as well. If you want an American Ferrari, this is your car. And with the price difference, you can do ahead and really enjoy your midlife crisis.
We’re delighted to announce that the Corvette Stingray is Business Insider’s Car of the Year for 2014.