Catching up: 2017 Corvette Stingray

American sportscars have long been scoffed at in the UK. An innate resistance to going around corners coupled with wildly oversized but underpowered engines and a total refusal to move the steering wheel to the right side of the car means they have never really had a foothold over here.From time to time you might see a Corvette from the 1990’s on the road, or even a classic Stingray from 60’s might make an appearance if you look in the right places, but for all intents and purposes, the Corvette is a purely American thing.

2018 marks the 65th anniversary of the Corvette marquee, and with the now confirmed rumours of a mid-engine corvette to appear later this year, the Stingray is intended to embody the very essence of American sportscars. This car is not a muscle car; it does not set its sights on the Mustang, Challenger or Camaro. No, it stands alone as the only real American contender in a market dominated by fast, two-seater Euromobiles.

“the Stingray is intended to embody the very essence of American sportscars”

The first thing that strikes you about the Stingray is just how tame the styling is. Sure, there are some tall slats behind the front wheels, and a bonnet scoop of sorts, but on balance the car appears restrained.The impression you get is the car has been styled by engineers and aerodynamicists; not by a generation of nostalgic designers, harking back to misinformed roots. Forward of the windscreen, the Corvette is unremarkable,with only the last 6 inches of bodywork being particularly exciting. The centre-exit, quad exhaust is retained from the previous models, and a subtle but functional lip spoiler sits on top of the boot (sorry, trunk!) lid. The iconic low nose, high “ass” is clearly a driving design factor, but you feelt hat every scoop and angle is there for a purpose other than aesthetics. It lacks the flamboyance of anything the Italians would come up with, but the Germans might look favourably on the “function-over-form” mentality.

Inside things stack up well. The cockpit envelopes you in a fighter pilot sort of way, further complimented with the configurable heads-up display. Electrically adjustable sports seats, pedals and steering wheel mean anyone can be accommodated comfortably and the swathes of leather and Alcantara that adorn every surface make you forget about the plastics of the past. The driving position is low and flat, but won’t fatigue you on long drives, and the flat bottom steering wheel give plenty of space to wiggle your legs around whilst enjoying the standard fit cruise control. The touchscreen allows for phone connectivity as standard, although the interface can be a little cumbersome and tricky to navigate. In-built 3G and WIFI mean you’ve always got the best connectivity to the outside world and the fully configurable binnacle display deepens the driving experience. Finally, on the technology front, the Stingray comes with an optional Performance Data Recorder (or PDR). This inbuilt video system, developed by Cosworth, allows you to record video of your driving (on a race track of course) from the front bumper, and overlays brake,throttle and steering traces, a track map and G-Force. This can all be offloaded for bragging rights amongst friends or simply to analyse your driving.

Ok, I get it. You know it looks nice inside and out. What you really want to know is how does it drive? And the best word I can think of is “Brutal”. The 6.2 V8 makes 460hp and 465lb-ft of torque, and in a car with a significant plastic content, this means you’ll get to 60mph in 3.7seconds. There is no European car in this price range which comes close to these sorts of figures. And yes, give a European manufacturer 6.2 litres to play with and they would come up with a damn sight more than 460hp, but the corvette is designed to be used everyday and serviced every 20,000 miles. The most comparable European car is the BMW M3, which makes less power, less torque, has less cylinders, more turbos, another half a second to 60, a third of the service intervals and an extra £10,000 on the price tag.  This isn’t just a different ball park; this is an entirely different game!

As is traditional with a big American V8, the torque is available early, and is unrelenting all the way to the 6500rpm redline. The brutal power delivery is let down slightly by the overly stubborn automatic gearbox which doesn’t always let you change gear when you want to, but to get that sub 4-second 0-60 you’re best leaving it to its own devices anyway. The monstrous rear tyres do well at transferring all that power to the road with just the slightest wiggle of its hips when launching even with all the electronic trickery switched off. And of course, the classic rear squat and bucking front nose of American torque is here to magnify the drama.

The Stingray comes with configurable “Mode Select” which lets you change the throttle response, exhaust note, damping and steering weight to suit the conditions in which you are driving. For everyday use, Eco or Touring mode works very well indeed, with power on demand should you need it, but a comfortable and quiet ride when you don’t. Switching to Sport or even Track mode and the Traction Control gets dialled down, the steering becomes heavy, the ride harsh and engine gets knocked up a level. With Track mode selected, the Corvette behaves itself well on fast sweeping corners, and is definitely an improvement on the twistier stuff over its predecessors, but a natural understeer balance is definitely dialled in to the chassis, meaning right foot corrections are constantly required. Dialling out understeer by using 460hp takes practice, so I don’t see the Stingray taking the M3’s“Driver’s car” crown any time soon.

The evolution of the Corvette Stingray through the last seven decades is clear to see. With the exception of a slight blip in the 90’s, each iteration improves on the last both in form and function, in driving experience and technology. The 2018 Stingray is a mega machine and one that is almost unrivalled in the car world. It is unfair to keep comparing it to a European car as there is no European equivalent. It is faster than a Cayman, less seats than an M3 and cheaper than a Vantage. It stands alone as a tribute to what American manufacturers can do when they merge modern engineering with old-school brutality. It is rare for an American sportscar to be relevant outside of America; but in 2018, Corvette have managed it.

Price$55,495As tested, $58,595
Fuel Economy19mpg (Combined)As tested, 14.7mpg
ExteriorRestrained and subdued, but functional aerodynamics. The plastic bodywork of the past remains however.****
InteriorPleasant, comfortable and somewhat refined. A vast improvement on previous generations***
PerformanceBlistering and brutal. 460hp and 0-60mph in 3.7seconds means this is class leading at this price point. The chassis is not on par with European rivals, but this Corvette takes a step in the right direction****
ComfortIn the right mode, perfectly acceptable. In the wrong mode, there isn’t any.***
ValueNothing else out there comes close to the performance of the Corvette at this price point. Materials and engineering aren’t equivalent to the German’s offerrings, but the Corvette deserves a look.****
OverallThe Corvette Stingray has no natural predators outside of the USA. It’s well priced, a pleasant place to be, and has biblical power under the bonnet. Great fun, but perhaps not the best everyday car on offer.****

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