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Chevrolet’s Performance Data Recorder turns the Stingray into a track-day teaching tool

If you’re anything like us here at Digital Trends, you are just a tad bit obsessed with automotive performance. Several of us here on staff own tuned sports cars. And when we’re not racing on the street, albeit within the speed limit, we’re on the track trying to squeeze one fewer second from our lap times.

In order to do this, though, we have found ourselves downloading apps to our smartphones and suction-cupping GoPro cameras to our cars. While these might work in the short term, the GPS on the phones are imprecise at best. And the suction cups inevitably leave scratches in the paint – especially when the GoPros come loose and fly across your Porsche’s hood at 120 mph.

So anything that can combine both track-day video and telemetry with any sort of quality and reliability is tops in our book. Delightfully, Chevrolet has done just that. May I present to you the Chevrolet Corvette Performance Data Recorder (PDR): the best thing from CES 2014, as far as cars are concerned.

If you’ve gotten anywhere near the Corvette Stingray since its unveiling, you might have noticed that up on the top of the windshield, near the rearview mirror, there was an awkward looking cut out of the windshield header trim. That, my power-obsessed friends, is exactly where the PDR will be installed.

The PDR is not only an all-new optional extra for the 2015 Corvette; it’s also an industry-first. And – no – the PDR isn’t just some silly little camera with your miles-per-hour overlaid onto the footage. Yes, it does that, too. But it’s much, much more.

First off the 720p, high-def camera records a near-point-of-view of the road or track ahead. Added to that is a self-contained telemetry recorder that – with a 5 Hz GPS unit – precisely records positioning and corner traces. The recorder, hard-wired into the Corvette’ Controller Area Network (CAN), can access and record vehicle information, ranging from engine speed and transmission-gear selection to braking force and steering wheel angle.

Oh and, yes, there is in-cabin audio recording so that you can enjoy the sounds of your track-day grunting, as you are subjected to many Gs – or to your passenger’s terrified screams.

All told, the PDR can record video with three information overlays – in real time:

  • Track Mode – shows the maximum level of data on the screen, including speed, rpm, g-force, a location-based map, lap time, and more.
  • Sport Mode – shows fewer details on the overlay, but includes key data including speed and g-force
  • Touring Mode – no data overlay; it simply records and displays video and audio of the drive
  • Performance Mode – records performance metrics, such as 0 to 60 mph acceleration, 1/4-mile speed and elapsed time, and 0-100-0 mph runs.

When you’ve pulled over and wiped the sweat from your brow, you can then replay your lap on the Corvette’s eight-inch infotainment screen or simply pop out the SD card and watch it on your laptop.

Don’t for a second think that this is where the cleverness ends, my friends. Oh no, it’s just getting started.

Whip out your laptop, slide the SD card in and you can then analyze your laps with the included “Cosworth Toolbox” software which, as Chevy puts it, “combines Cosworth’s professional-level motorsport data analysis with an easy-to-use graphic interface.” You can also edit and then share your laps on your social mediums.

If you’re not already mega-jazzed by the PDR, let me put it into a lap-time obsessed context.

With the PDR, you’re not only able to share and review your laps to bore – I mean entertain – your wife and friends; you can use the information to actually improve your performance driving. Simply watching your lap back on your GoPro won’t do that.

Think about it: if you can see that you could have cut a corner a little more tightly or taken a few more Gs through a corner, or waited to brake at the end of a straight-away right before a chicane, you can become a faster driver.

Let’s let Tadge Juechter, Corvette Chief Engineer, explain it: “The ability to review laps between track sessions can identify immediate adjustments for quicker laps in the next session. It’s like having a 32-GB crew chief trackside, proving you with real-time feedback to improve your driving skills.”

Now, Chevrolet hasn’t announced pricing for the PDR upgrade. Whatever it costs, though, if you’re truly in taking your C7 Stingray to the limit, it’ll be worth the cost. Plus, you’ll be able to do stuff your friend’s BMW M3 can’t do … and that’s priceless.

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Nick Jaynes
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick Jaynes is the Automotive Editor for Digital Trends. He developed a passion for writing about cars working his way…
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