Motor Trend managed to get their hands on one of the new C7 Corvettes for a quick test. Initial impressions are very positive. The Corvette has always had a reputation of being the best “performance bargain.” On the one hand, that means that you get a lot of outright speed and performance for how much the car costs. On the other hand that meant that buying a Corvette meant that you were making compromises in refinement even though the car was really fast. It seems that General Motors listened to the complaints and addressed them with this new car.
The new LT1 engine is still a pushrod V8 but it now has direct injection, variable valve timing and variable displacement. It legitimately makes more power with less fuel. There were rumors that the C7 was going to move to a smaller 5.5 liter twin turbo V8 for the sake of fuel efficiency, but the engineers figured out they could get better mileage out of a bigger 6.2 liter naturally aspirated V8. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s all about the variable displacement system that shuts off half the engine when power requirements are small. In going to a bigger V8, the engine was also a bigger V4 when half of the cylinders were turned off. This meant that the LT1 could operate as a V4 for more of the duty cycle which resulted in better gas mileage than even the turbo engine could manage.
GM also payed special attention to the interior quality and the lateral support of the seats-two of the biggest complaints about the C6 Corvette. There are more premium materials, like carbon fiber and leather, that define the sharp new design that ties in to the Stingray theme. As you will see in the video, there is a decent sized infotainment touchscreen on the dash and a customizable digital gauge cluster that will give you the old school bar graph tachometer from the C3.
Carlos also says that the new electronically adjustable diff, suspension and tire temperature monitors work with the traction control systems to seamlessly make the car a lot more agile and competent. He goes on to talk about how the front and rear axles are balanced and much more communicative which allows the driver to push the car with confidence.
It looks like General Motors was serious about making the Corvette a serious world class car. Instead of being the compromised bargain, it seems the C7 is now a legitimate all-around sports car that happens to be cheaper than its competition. Kudos to GM for listening to what their customers wanted and then delivering the goods. I can’t wait for the Z06 and ZR-1 versions of this new C7.
Mike Musto and Big Muscle are back on the DRIVE YouTube channel for another season. Here they are with an interesting 1965 Chevrolet Crown Corvair built by Chuck Rust in his garage. The Corvair’s original rear mounted inline-6 has been swapped out for a mid-mounted 310 horsepower, 283 cubic inch V8 which now where the rear seats used to be. This isn’t a traditional muscle car in that it doesn’t make huge power for straight line drag racing and that’s not a bad thing. Chuck’s goal was to make a car with balanced handling and a responsive, high revving engine. I think the car is awesome because it challenges the traditional shortcomings of muscle cars and it proves that you can build whatever you can imagine on a reasonable budget. Frustrated that Chevrolet won’t build a mid-engine Corvette outside of a Daytona Prototype? No problem, you can probably build a car like this for cheaper than a new Corvette. A mid-engine architecture creates the best weight distribution for road racing cars, but is a hard sell for mass-produced consumer cars. That’s why you can’t buy a new one that’s not some impractical, high price exotic. Chuck doesn’t care about all that. He knows how a V8 powered mid engine car handles because he drives the crap out of the one he built everyday.
Motor Trend puts together the latest comparison from the ongoing muscle car war with Chevrolet’s awesome new 1LE handling package for the Camaro SS and Ford’s Track Package for the Mustang GT. The $3500 1LE Package uses huge 10 and 11 inch wide wheels, custom tuned mono-tube shocks, bigger anti-roll bars, a 3.91:1 final drive and some minor driveline enforcement to fix the stock Camaro’s handling problems for track use. Ford’s $1500 GT Track Package includes the anti-sway bars from the GT500, retuned shocks and springs, 19″ wheels with Pirelli summer tires, Performance Friction brake pads, recalibrated ABS and traction control and a shorter (numerically larger) 3.73:1 final drive with carbon fiber clutch plates. The guys put the two cars against each other at the drag strip and then around the Horse Thief Mile at Willow Springs with Randy Pobst behind the wheel.
Here’s another video of the C7 Corvette that debuted last week at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. You guys seemed to have some mixed opinions on the styling when I posted a picture of the C6 next to the C7 on our Facebook page. Some people liked it while others thought it didn’t look like a Corvette and then we even got accusations of GM stealing styling cues from other manufacturers like Lamborghini. The interviews in this video talk about the decision to push the design to the extreme in order to make it a futuristic interpretation of the classic Stingray theme. It would also be fair to say that the interior is just as revolutionary with design, materials and high tech gauges and driver interface systems. The more I find out about the C7, the more impressed I am with GM’s push to raise their standards on keeping the Corvette a world class performance car.
The concept for the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 was born when the question of “What can we do with the Corvette if we allowed the price tag to exceed $100,000?” GM’s answer to that question was a highly capable ZR1 version of their Corvette that stood alone in the American Supercar class. That was until the performance division of Dodge, SRT, decided to make a new Viper. I wouldn’t be surprised if the SRT engineers bought a ZR1 to use as a benchmark because many of the performance specifications are nearly identical. Naturally we have to see which is the better car. Thankfully Motor Trend’s Johnny Lieberman and Randy Pobst are on the job with some hot laps around Laguna Seca.