I’m pretty sure that my point of maximum thrill in the 2015 Corvette Stingray arrived when I was about 10 miles north of New York City and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” was surging from the sound system.
It was a Corvette kind of moment.
Or rather, it was the kind of moment that you would have expected to have in countless Corvettes of the past. Driving the growling unmannered all-American beast north of civilisation while classic rock thumps from the speakers.
Except of course that my point of maximum thrill and the arrival of a gnarly old song that I believe I’ve heard in at least four or five other Vettes struck with…a certain…incongruity.
With the new Corvette Stingray, General Motors has finally managed to make the definitive mid-life crisis mobile…well, grow up, ironically.
My car was effectively a $US300,000 Ferrari 458 recast as a $US62,000 ‘Merican sports coupe lovingly nurtured in the speed studios of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
For decades, GM has been trying to pitch the Corvette as a car that can duke it out with the best European supercars — and win!
And for decades, those who swallowed this bait have found something to complain about. The suspension, the handling, the crudeness of the engine, etc. etc. etc.
There’s nothing to complain about anymore.
If you like cars, this would without question be the best $US62,000 you could spend. The combination of the exquisite LT1 V8 engine — a glorious powerplant that simply inhales air, adds gas, and creates a series of violent explosions to move the machine forward — and the Z51 Performance Package gives you a track car for the weekends that you can also have loads of fun with driving around on normal roads.
My test car came with a 7-speed stick shift, which is the option you want to choose. I found very little use for 6th or 7th gear, but the are there. For me, the speechless joy of the car derived from the physical orchestration of gears 2 through 5, the throttle, the perfectly engineered clutch, the agile steering — and the engine.
Sweet lord, that engine.
The sound it makes is not the wild wail of the Ferrari 458, which also contains a straightforward naturally aspirated V8. The 458 makes you think you have captured a wild thing from a wild place and trapped it in a small compartment located directly behind your head (the 458 has a mid-engine design).
The Stingray’s engine is located right up front. As such, it provides a ample sense that you have a magnificent force planted squarely in your guts. You have 455 horsepower. You have a tank into which you put gas. Then you have the aforementioned 7 speeds and whatever driving skill you possess to take that gas and rapidly, rapturously transform it into speed and noise and unfortunate fumes that gush from the four exhaust pipes, which are logically shaped liked trumpets, the better to sculpt and project the howl of combustion.
I successfully made half a tank of fuel vanish in a few hours.
OK, I drove the living crap out the Vette. But I didn’t really drive it all that fast — the speed limit was observed. True, I did test the acceleration. And I can confirm that the car will go fast and that you don’t want to fool around with that speed unless you have a safe place to do it. The oversteer — that’s the tendency of the rear drive wheels, which supply the traction, to head off on their own — is ferocious. Barking and I daresay smoking the tires is a simple matter.
What I found more fun was running the car between 3rd and 5th gear, disabling the useful rev-matching feature, working the Brembo brakes to keep everything in check, and compelling the engine to…well, to make a gorgeous racket.
Also, I revved the engine a lot in New York City, at stoplights. I couldn’t help myself.
I only got one good run with the car, as the day before it was pouring rain and if there’s one thing a 455-horsepower Corvette with oversteer issues dislikes it’s a wet road.
For 24 hours, the Stingray was sullen and pouty.
But then it was full-throated and happy and making fallen leaves clustered on the New York region’s sedate parkways scatter in rapid whirling patterns of attractive autumnal detonation.
If you want to unlearn everything you thought you knew about Corvettes, get this car. If you want the best bargain in high-performance motoring currently available on Planet Earth, get this car. If you want to feel alive and attuned with a dismaying instrument crafted by Americans who know what they’re doing and are unafraid of their proud deeds, get this car.
And if you want some bonecrunching uncouth backwoods ride from yesteryear…
Just buy a used Vette and leave this one to the rest of us.
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