2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Back Behind the Wheel
February 24, 2014
When Kurt and I fetched the Corvette from its Kentucky home for a new life in California, we reminded ourselves many times to enjoy the drive. The Corvette would be popular, we knew. We might never get seat time like this again.
Largely, that's been true. But when sign-outs went around for the weekend, which kicked off with Valentine's Day and ended with President's Day, the Corvette went unclaimed. This would not stand. This would also be my first time behind the wheel since the road trip, about 12,000 miles ago. I wanted to see which impressions held up.
The seats and driving position are as good as I remember. The ingress is tricky, yes, and in Magrath's case, painful. I'm not as tall as Magrath or Oldham, nor sit as upright, so I'm fine with the seating position and the views out the window. And there's still a sense of occasion sliding into these buckets, reinforced when you light up the V8. For all its international social climbing, you realize that the Corvette is really just a muscle car raised by good parents.
Out on the road again, the Stingray felt even smaller than I remember. And while an ill-fitting comparison, our long-term C5 Z06 felt much, much bigger (not surprisingly, the Z06 is three inches longer, despite a shorter wheelbase, and is about the same width as the Stingray). But one sensation that hasn't changed is that sweet spot between third and fourth gears, where torque seems endless and effortless. Simply tapping that vein every day would be enough to ward off the slightest tinge of buyer's remorse.
The nitpicks remain. Yep, the electronic door openers are still dumb, the exterior door openers not much better. The instrument panel still looks overwrought and incoherent. The audio system requires constant fussing of volume and tone control and the electric-assist steering could better communicate all the good things happening up front. More worrying is the more frequent thunk and clank accompanying gear changes. I'd been thinking about Mike's post and his comparison to the 911, the reference we all default to now, or at least until the F-Type forces itself into the conversation. Even Chevy can't remind you enough about how it benchmarked the 911 in development.
Mike says he'd ultimately take the 911 over the Stingray and his reasons are sound. The Porsche's interior wins by a wide mile. It's quieter and classier, in spite of switchgear matrix, and certainly as comfortable. Our 911's highway ride was hobbled by poor wheel and tire choice, but it still felt like the better car for milk runs. Steering feel is no contest.
Still, I think I'd pick the Corvette. And not just on price. If I had to spend $100,000, I'd park the Stingray next to a GTI or Mazda 3 that would make running errands suck less. It comes down to what you want. For all its pride and price, the Porsche just never felt that special. It's tempting to revert to those clichés about cold, clinical German precision measured against reckless American ingenuity. But this isn't even about Detroit versus Stuttgart.
Our 1985 Black Plague, for example, hit all the nerve centers. It was raw, loud, demanding and frustrating, but I loved driving that thing. New Porsches seem built for two buyers: those that seek its limits and those who limit their seeking to a good spot in the valet queue.
Before settling in for a Valentine evening with my better half, I took my daughter for her first ride in an open-top two-seater. The timing never worked out with our 911 or the SLS AMG. Although the targa lacked the full ragtop exposure, it didn't disappoint. We drove along the coast and I asked her to take photos. After sunset, we turned inland and stopped at the Taiwanese bakery for overpriced cakes and sweet breads to take home for mom.
On the way, we even pulled alongside Barry Meguiar, patriarch of the Meguiar's car care enterprise, in his impeccable black S63. He rolled down the window, flashing a thumbs-up. He asked how we liked the car. I asked if he wanted to race. With his lovely wife in the passenger seat, he declined. "Beautiful," he said, before pulling away.
I suspect Barry, stoked as he is on great cars like the 911, might also park a Stingray in his driveway.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor