Sunday, May 3, 2015

Corvette, and its mileage, better than ever

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray revives the legendary moniker of the 1963 Corvette Stingray. (Alan Vanderkaay/Chevrolet/MCT)
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray revives the legendary moniker of the 1963 Corvette Stingray. (Alan Vanderkaay/Chevrolet/MCT) MCT
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray revives the legendary moniker of the 1963 Corvette Stingray. (Alan Vanderkaay/Chevrolet/MCT) Gallery: Corvette, and its mileage, better than ever

(MCT) -- Yes, I could lose my motor-press credentials for this. Respect and reputation are at stake here.

The all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray - yes, the Stingray name is back - is an amazing, fully redesigned sports car. With its 6.2-liter V-8, it is loaded with raw power - more than any Corvette ever. Carbon composite underpanels contribute to a 50/50 weight balance and exceptional road behavior. Inside, it is greatly improved over last year, with finer materials, carbon fiber, soft leather and micro-suede accents.

But I'm going out on a limb here and leading this column with what really dazzled me: the mileage! Each day in the C7 (seventh generation) Corvette I found myself shaking my head on achieving either near 30 or even just over 30 mpg on the highway. These are Toyota Camry numbers, you understand?

How did Chevy do it? Well, they used more lightweight materials like a carbon fiber hood, composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels. But the real credit likely goes to the cylinder deactivation system. Hit the Eco mode and it seamlessly turns that beefy V-8 into a well-mannered 4-banger. You won't notice it, but your wallet will.

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  • Chevrolet set to unleash 650-horsepower Corvette Z06 supercar
  • Official EPA figures are 17 mpg city, 29 highway. I hit 30 on one commute, and that was with the lower-mileage automatic tranny. Once outside, I looked back to make sure I was still driving a Corvette. (You can lose track when you're in a different car every week.)

    OK, I did it. I'm guilty. Now let's get out of eco mode and move on to what excites everyone about this legendary machine.

    Available in a coupe and convertible, the 'Vette's exterior has sharper edges, functional inlets and Bigfoot tires give it an aggressive, almost angry character.

    And it backs it up on the road, punching out 0-60 figures in under 4 seconds. The cast-aluminum V-8 offers more power - 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque - than ever before. And most of that torque is the racing kind: low-end torque for great early punch.

    Both the manual and automatic transmissions offer a launch control mode for even bolder starts.

    A drive mode selector on the center console lets you choose your driving mood, with five options ranging from Touring to the top-performance Track mode. And there's nothing phony about it: They are distinct rides as the system adjusts steering response, agility and throttle response.

    If you can swing it, spend the extra $2,800 for the Z51 performance package, which provides quicker gearing to get you to 60 in 3.8 seconds, plus bigger wheels - 19-inch up front, 20 in the rear - bigger brakes and electronic limited-slip differential.

    An optional dual-mode exhaust is music to the ears; no need to feel guilty if you want to give it a few extra revs now and then.

    Tackling corners is done in confidence with a variable-ration rack-and-pinion steering system that has great feedback and grip that is nothing less than exceptional. The stiffer frame and revised suspension system work to keep it stable. And 20-inch wheels in the rear and 19-inchers up front improve maneuverability.

    Stingray is equally pleasing on the highway. It is comfortable and smooth enough for trips as well as short jaunts.

    Give some credit here to Chevy's effort to greatly improve the interior, something many saw as a weakness of the C6. Seating is new, more supportive and comfortable, and adjusted with eight-way power controls. Optional competition seats offer more side support on hard cornering.

    Interior space is good even for six-plus footers, with 38 inches of headroom, 43 in legroom and 54 in hiproom. And there is decent cargo space in the trunk of the coupe - 15 cubic feet, enough for small suitcases and groceries.

    The convertible, however, gets less space at 10 cubic feet.

    It's a smooth operating power top that can be lowered with the key fob and comes down in about 20 seconds. The coupe gets a removable roof panel.

    The center stack is bolder, more prominent this year and has an 8-inch touch screen display. It includes smartphone integration for applications like Pandora.

    Safety features include four air bags plus side-impact bags, traction and stability control, and rear-view camera. It also has tire-pressure monitoring and run-flat tires. But OnStar is there if you need it.

    There are two trim levels: the base and Z51 performance group. There are also subtrims called LT1, LT2 and LT3.

    The base gets leather seats, xenon headlights, keyless entry and eight-way power seats. And it gets plenty of electronics, including the 8-inch touch-screen display and nine-speaker sound system with two USB ports.

    Get the Z51 package for the bigger wheels, revised tranny gear ratios and limited-slip rear differential.

    If that doesn't quite cut it, the racer third-gen Z06 is on the horizon, due out early next year. Its tires are around 3 inches wider and it's expected to give NASA a run for its money with a supercharged engine pounding out 625 horses and 635 pound-feet of torque.

    This year's new Corvette Stingray is everything we could have hoped. It maintains its distinctive styling edge, ups the ante on power and vastly improves the interior. Just don't forget to brag about your mileage to the tree huggers, too.

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    2014 CORVETTE STINGRAY CONVERTIBLE Z51:

    -Base price (coupe), excluding destination charge: $53,000

    -Price as tested: $73,525

    The Miami Herald