There's a big part of us that wants to tell you how different Chevrolet's 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible is from its coupe counterpart — that it's a wholly new driving experience. That removing the roof from the coupe matters. That it's better. Or worse.
But that's simply not true. None of it.
Because driving the Stingray Convertible — top down — is, essentially, like driving a Stingray Coupe with a little wind noise and plenty of undiluted V8 howl. And that's a very good thing.
A Convertible From the Beginning
Largely, this reality is a result of the C7's chassis being designed as a convertible from the beginning. It's the right way to make a topless car and Chevy knows it. Such forward-thinking design might seem obvious, yet the history of topless sports cars is littered with machines which settled for mere al dente firmness rather than hewn-from-granite solidity.
Try that in a torque-laden Corvette, though and the results would be, well, stupid. And stupid isn't going to draw buyers from Porsche. Or even Ford, for that matter. So Chevy upped the Corvette's stiffness. In fact, the C7 Convertible exhibits some 60 percent greater torsional rigidity than the car it replaces. Sure, the coupe gains another 20 percent when its top is in place, proving with certainty that carbon fiber is a better structural material than thin air.
Because both the coupe and convertible use the same exact chassis, their suspension tuning is identical: same spring rates, same damper calibration, same stabilizer bars. The only structural difference between the two cars is the exclusion of the alloy roof hoop on convertibles. There is no need for additional bracing, according to Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer.
The Convertible Top Is Nearly Indestructible
Though it's far from the fastest operating power top in the convertible world, the Stingray's soft top will deploy or retract in 20 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. Exceed that speed and an audible warning alerts you that operation is incomplete. There's also a notification when stowage or deployment is finished.
The top offers three acoustic layers of insulation, and Juechter says the closed convertible is quieter inside than the coupe. Though this sounds like engineer hubris talking, the solid bulkhead behind the convertible's seats and the fact that it lacks the coupe's large echo-chamber-like cargo area are both compelling pieces of evidence for its truth. More importantly, our back-to-back drive in both cars verifies that Juechter isn't just blowing smoke.
The convertible's interior is a quiet, refined environment. So much so, in fact, that we drove it — top and windows down — at freeway speeds and were able to carry on a conversation in a normal tone with our passenger. This was also our first chance to sample the optional competition sport seats, which are both comfortable and more supportive than the excellent base seats.
Though he hopes owners will never try it, Juechter says the top can complete a deployment cycle while the car is cornering at up to 1.0g and is designed to survive 60-mph speed in its most upright position. That, friends, is one tough top.
Cargo space (one of the Corvette's best traits) takes a serious hit in the transformation to convertible form, but there's still ample room for several soft bags.
Could You Take It to the Track?
The Stingray Convertible's powertrain remains identical to the coupe. There's a 455-horsepower, 460 pound-feet (460 hp, 465 lb-ft with the optional performance exhaust) 6.2-liter direct-injected V8 under the hood. A seven-speed manual transmission with rev-matching is standard, while a six-speed rev-matching automatic is optional.
EPA fuel economy predictions remain the same as the coupe at 21 mpg combined (17 city/29 highway) for manual-transmission-equipped cars.
The Z51 package — which adds an electronic differential, lower 1st through 3rd gear ratios, bigger wheels and brakes and dry-sump engine lubrication — is still optionally available. Magnetic Selective Ride Control remains a $1,795 option.
The coupe's drive-mode selector still allows drivers to tune the car's character among five choices: Wet, Eco, Touring, Sport and Track. And though Chevy doesn't claim the convertible is "track certified" as it does with the coupe, Performance Traction Management — on cars equipped with magnetorheological dampers — is still present.
Chevy acknowledges that the convertible Stingray's place probably isn't on the track. In addition to the obvious safety concerns, its lack of ducts on the rear fenders means there's less flow over the differential and transmission fluid heat exchangers, which can (in extreme track conditions) result in a transmission temperature warning, according to Juechter.
"Most organizers won't allow a convertible on the track anyway," he says.
As Sturdy as a Porsche 911
According to Chevy, the 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible is only 64 pounds heavier than the coupe, so we expect similar acceleration numbers. Because we've tested every coupe with its top in place we will likely measure small handling differences in the convertible.
Even so, those differences are virtually imperceptible on the road, where the convertible's structure is sound. High-speed midcorner bumps do little to upset stability. Steering response and feedback remain quick and precise and the Stingray's intentions are clearly communicated.
Even lane marker bumps don't wreak havoc on the unity of steering column and cowl. This is one rigid machine, right up there with the best topless cars we've driven, including Porsche's 911.
Push it and you'll find the topless Stingray nearly as well endowed with character and confidence as its fully enclosed brother. And that's not something we can say about every convertible.
$5,000 To Lose the Roof
Convertible Corvettes are shipping to dealers now so finding one shouldn't be a problem, though given the demand, you'll likely pay a surcharge to get one right away. Base convertibles start at $58,990 including destination, and you'll shell out another $2,800 for the Z51 package.
At the end of the day, you're surrendering an additional $5,000 for the privilege of removing your Corvette's roof at the touch of a button. You gain both push-button convenience and true open-air motoring over the targa-topped coupe. Most importantly, though, you get a roadster that drives like a coupe.
And even today, that's no small accomplishment.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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