Hot on the heels of the announcement that Cadillac would be moving their brand upmarket to compete more directly with their German rivals, Chevrolet has now announced that the next generation of the Corvette will be a closer rival to cars from Ferrari and Porsche. The seventh generation of the Corvette is due to make its first public appearance in January at the Detroit Auto Show, ahead of going on sale for the 2014 model year. The new car’s chief designer, Tadge Juechter, told NBC “We set out to build a world-challenging sports car with design, refinement, efficiency and drive engagement that is second to none.”
The current Corvette, in top ZR1 trim, packs more horsepower than its main European rivals, while still maintaining a lower price. The ZR1 comes in at $105,000 and for that you get a supercharged 6.2-liter aluminum V8 which churns out 638 horsepower. When compared to the Porsche 911 Turbo S and its 530 horsepower for $161,000 or the Ferrari 458 Italia’s 562 horsepower for $230,000, it certainly seems that the Corvette is a steal. But the ‘Vette still lags behind in several key areas. To start with, it just isn’t nearly as sophisticated a machine. Though the C6 comes with more technology than ever, it’s nothing compared to the F1-dervived tech packed into every inch of the 458.
Then there is the question of the interior. Chevy has been hearing complaints about Corvette interiors for years, and about the seats in particular, and they have made some improvements. But the result is still something which no Ferrari owner would stand for, and if Chevy expects to steal any of their business, this will have to be greatly improved on the C7.
We do know that Chevy had a new engine, the LT1, for the Corvette. In the base Corvette, this will have 20 more horsepower and 26lb-ft more torque than the outgoing LS3, for a total of 450 for each number. Chevy also says that the base car will get to 60mph in under 4 seconds, and all of this suggests that the higher trim levels of the C7 will indeed rival the Europeans for performance. But performance is one area where the Corvette hasn’t really had a problem competing. The cars are close enough when it comes to performance that quite of lot of what makes one faster than the other is the skill of the driver. What the Corvette lacks is exoticism, the kind that comes with fancy new materials, launch control, top notch interiors and a high price tag. The trick will be in offering these kinds of things without alienating the nameplate’s loyal fan base, but we’ll see soon enough if it can be done.