As the anticipation mounts for our test drive of the new Chevrolet Corvette, scheduled to hit dealerships at the end of August, the Digital Trends team (like most who revel in the world of high performance cars) have been eager to gather as much information as we can on the 2014 model.
The C7 is, after all, only the third Corvette in the 60 year history of the car to carry the hallowed Stingray name. As part of our ongoing coverage revving up for the street debut of the reincarnated American icon (and our turn at the wheel), we recently chatted with James Bell, Chevrolet’s head of consumer affairs, to hear what he thinks will give the new Corvette an edge over competitors that it’s never had before.
Clearly, when it comes to a car like the Corvette, performance is key. What are the key technology features that will drive the excitement of being behind the wheel of the new Stingray?
It’s a seamless package. It’s a vehicle you could theoretically drive everyday, but yet has supercar performance. When you compare the numbers of this car to a Porsche or a lower entry-level Ferrari, you’re right there for a portion of the price. But the fact that it’s a Chevrolet, means that if something happens to the car, there’s probably a couple of Chevy stores in your neighborhood that you can take it into. What’s exciting about this 2014 version is that it pulls together all the things you look for in a sports car and then moves the needle forward.
It’s just a really beautiful car that happens to be wrapped over a very high-performance chassis. Then, when you start looking at some of the technology and the great fuel efficiency, the fact that it can turn off four of the (eight) cylinders when you’re just cruising around town. But then when the road opens up and you can put you a little more throttle in and now you got 455 horsepower and 0 – 60 in less than four seconds and still get 29 miles per gallon the highway.
The fact that the C7 has 25 more horsepower than the previous model and even more with the sport exhaust system says a lot about the engine technology in the new model. How long have Chevy’s team of engineers been working on the Corvette’s new V8 engine?
This is a base technology that is going to be used in a lot of different engines in the GM line-up. The bones of this motor are going to be in the new Silverado pick-up truck, the new Tahoe and the Escalade. You’ll probably see it in future sedans. This motor has been in the pipeline for many years.
When it comes to horsepower and torque, how did Chevrolet go about establishing the benchmark for power in the 2014 model ‘Vette?
“When you compare the numbers of this car to a Porsche or a lower entry level Ferrari, you’re right there for a portion of the price.”
There’s been a lot of talk about the car’s fuel economy numbers, which is rated at 17 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Did the Chevy team find that fuel efficiency is a major concern for buyers shopping in this segment?
It’s not a guiding concern like you would fine with somebody who is going to buy a Toyota Corolla or a Ford Focus. But it’s an insurance policy if you will. Maybe someone who has had a sports car in the past or any vehicle of that matter that didn’t’ have great fuel efficiency when the fuel prices went up a few years ago, they got burned. That car that they loved has suddenly become a real weight around their neck. I think we are seeing buyers coming out today that are saying no matter what car I am looking to buy – sports car, SUV or pick-up truck – it better be best in class in fuel efficiency because I don’t want to get burned again.
There is a lot of pressure on all the manufactures among all vehicles to raise that fuel efficiency thanks to CAFÉ regulations in the U.S. and emissions standards in Europe and Asia. The car companies can’t have any vehicle that doesn’t contribute to those new standards.
When it comes to in-car technology for a high performance car, where exactly will the new Corvette’s in-car technology features fall in this spectrum?
It’s going to be right up there for what people expect from any new modern car. Obviously, you got the ability to integrate your phone using Chevrolet MyLink and Bluetooth, Pandora and satellite navigation. It really is right up there with the standard that you find in any car today. I think that’s a really big step up when you think about the older Corvette, the C6 generation compared to this one. It was a bit archaic on the inside – not only from a design and material standpoint, but also from a connectivity perspective. This is one of the reasons this car is going to be so appealing to a younger buyer because they are looking for that in their next car. It’s not just a novelty to be able to connect their phone and stream to their favorite Pandora channels. It’s a requirement.
How will the in-car technology experience of driving the new Stingray differ from that of driving a new Chevrolet Malibu with MyLink?
“If a car of this nature is going to compete against the Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911 and Audi R8, then it’s got to do 0 – 60 in well less than four seconds.”
In addition to technology, what other elements will younger buyers shopping in the segment will find appealing in the new Stingray?
It starts out with a world-class design. It’s a car that looks new, aggressive and stands out as being something special, but does it a price point that isn’t astronomical so it can become somewhat affordable to a younger buyer. The younger buyers that we are seeing in survey after survey after survey are looking for better fuel efficiency so they don’t have to look at a car like this and then somehow have to excuse themselves for not being smart to the environment. This car takes care of them there.
Overall, how do you think the Corvette will match up against other top rivals in the segment?
There is a combination of factors with this car. Number one, there is a very rabid Corvette fan base that has just been anxiously awaiting this. You have Corvette buyers that will come in and buy the next generation sight unseen just because it’s the new Corvette. But as we said earlier, we expect a lot from younger buyers as well. Maybe somebody coming out of a 911 is looking for something unique and different. I think the Corvette is going to do a great job at capturing that buyer.
Some elements of this Q&A have been edited for clarity.
What do you think of the new Corvette? Just right? Or not enough old school appeal? Tell us in comments.