2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Tell Your Mama, Tell Your Pa
October 28, 2013
Day Three: Memphis > Arkansas > almost Oklahoma
A confession: We spent most of our cross-country road trip driving a four-cylinder Corvette.
That's right: V4, baby, every day, most of the day. That should merit exclusion from any Corvette club with a shred of dignity. But we were game to see what kind of efficiency we could wring from this new 6.2-liter, and but for on-ramp blasts taken in full Track mode, we covered most of our miles under Eco. While the V8 will still kick in during Eco mode, and often did on slight grades or under other murky combinations of speed, RPM and throttle position, the green governor wants to run on four cylinders whenever possible.
Kurt suggests a driving strategy early in the trip: driver changes at each fuel stop. I'm skeptical, but Kurt says that's how he and Magrath handled wheel duties on their Alaska drive in our former long-term Jaguar XF. That's a reasonable strategy with a supercharged 5.0-liter that ranged about as far as a sumo wrestler playing shortstop. I think it'll be a different story with a relatively fuel-efficient V8 shutting down half its cylinders most of the time.
Kurt and I start pulling six-hour stints behind the wheel, beginning in earnest after we leave Memphis in the late afternoon. Soon we're on Interstate 40 and cross over the Mississippi River into Arkansas with little fanfare. We're trying to make Muskogee, Oklahoma by evening, a small town made famous in a Merle Haggard song for its celebration of American values when the rest of the country was, in the narrator's slightly ironic delivery, going to hell.
The C7 is proving itself an exceptional grand tourer. Not in an opulent Maserati or Bentley Continental sense obviously, no quilted leather center stack for this alpha muscle car. But the cabin is quiet and the ride well-damped. Even the Michelin run-flats keep mostly to themselves, regulated by the magnetic ride suspension option we sprang for. Seventh gear feels mechanically useless, but it allows the Corvette to hum at 80 mph without breaking a 2,000-rpm sweat.
But it's the seats that deserve an overachievement award. People can't complain enough about older Corvette seats, but those complaints usually focus on the lack of high-performance support, not long-haul discomfort. The rest of the staff will start writing opinions on the seats in quick corners and transitions soon enough. We didn't find any nor hunt for them along the interstate. But on the few long on/off-ramp benders we sampled, there was no sliding or cresting what passed for thigh bolsters in the old seats, and it's clear that Chevy no longer specs its seats solely to those of wide waistband and wallet.
There's no faulting the long-distance ability of these buckets, either. They are firm, supportive and enveloping. Neither Kurt nor I complain during our long driving stints, although Kurt says he'd like more room to fully extend his legs while sitting shotgun. We stop now and then for photos or a restroom, re-circulate the blood. But the seats remain as comfortable at the end of our stint as they did at the start.
We drive on past dusk through Arkansas woodlands, beautiful area that looks like it would develop a kid's imagination better than any city center or smartphone addiction. But it becomes clear we're not going to make Muskogee, at least not until about 11 pm, and that's another three hours of driving. We call it a day in the small college town of Conway, Arkansas.
It's Wednesday night and there's not much happening around the University of Central Arkansas campus, not even a group of drunken stragglers we can frighten or impress with a burnout. Instead, it's a late dinner and a good night's sleep.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor