As I lay here on a lakeside hammock, I figured I would share my thoughts on my latest exploits while on vacation in Florida visiting family for the holidays...
On Monday afternoon, I arrived at MCO in a bit of a huff because the crowded and delayed flight down from PHL was no picnic (holiday travelers with mouse ears - you get the idea).
During the half-marathon long walk and tram-ride to the rental car garage, I was already scheming on what car I should try to snag in the Exec Emerald Aisle at National. Jeep Grand Cherokee? Camaro? Challenger? Nah... I had driven them all before... I am not much of a fan of convertibles, but I thought that might be fun since the weather is so nice in Orlando this week.
I walked the whole aisle and there was nothing left but Impalas, RAM1500s, Camrys and other beige-mobiles.
I walked back to the service representative and inquired about a convertible. “No. No, sir. No convertibles left unless you want to upgrade to one of these.” “Hmmmm,” I intoned... ‘One of those’ happened to be a 2016 C7 Corvette Stingray Convertible in Daytona Sunrise Orange Metallic.
There were 6 Corvettes awaiting lucky drivers four in Daytona Sunrise Orange Metallic and two in Corvette Racing Yellow. Scratch that. Five. A young dad and his son had just fired up one of the Corvette Racing Yellow ones. “Fifty dollar upgrade fee,” I heard over the burble of the C7.
“Ok,” I quipped. I thought to myself, “When else was I going to have this opportunity?” I was traveling solo, had little luggage, and I needed a pick-me-up...
“What?” she asked, interrupting my thoughts as I stared at the school of Stingrays.
“I’ll take it,” I said.
She rummaged in her pocket, pulled out a keyless fob and dangled it in front of me. I took the fob and giggled. I stuffed my carry-on luggage in the ‘trunk’, and sat in the driver’s seat. I fiddled around with the adustments and got it close enough... I fired up the willing engine and it burbled to life. “Damn,” I thought. “What have I done?” I programmed the address of my destination and left the MCO grounds with a smile wider than I could see in the Corvette’s trick bezel-free rear view mirror.
In order to merge onto 528 swiftly, I stabbed the loud pedal and the exhaust valves in the muffler opened to let all of the V8 fury escape. The V8 barked, the 8-spd transmission downshifted and I was in Warp-Mode. I _slowed_ and merged into traffic on 528 and found some space so I could work on that seat adjustment again and made sure that I was in ‘tour’ drive-mode. The rest of the drive was I eventful until I arrived at my parents’ place and my mom went bonkers. “Is that you?” she yelled over the roaring cooling fans and exhaust burble. “Yeah, Mom. It’s me. Hop in !” This was shaping up to be a great three-day romp with the Stingray.
That night, my brother and I schemed to take the Stingray on a pre-dawn strafing run to Daytona Beach to see the sunrise. A fitting road trip given the color of the car, and an opportunity for us to get some good seat time in the Stingray.
We awoke at 0530 hrs on Tuesday morning and stumbled around in the darkness. Sunglasses, hat, fob, wallet... Check, check, check, and check. We walked out to the driveway and I took pause to examine the Stingray in the dim dawn light. Then, I realized that I was about to wake the LT1 a mere 15 feet from my parents’ bedroom. My brother and I climbed in and turned on the accessories. I dropped the top and we looked at each other. “Here goes.” I poked the keyless engine start button and the LT1 barked to life. I quickly selected ‘Drive’ and idled out of the driveway. We were off. I drove calmly out of the neighborhood and turned down the surface highway towards the east. The Stingray puts a smile on your face even while loafing through the cool central Florida rural landscape.
We arrived at a traffic light with no opposing or following traffic. “It’s time,” I said. The light turned green and I stomped on the loud pedal. The LT1 screamed, TCS limited torque just enough to hook, and the 8L90 transmission selected 2nd gear before we crossed the intersection. The Engine/Trans calibration is quite good. Just a few nits as I’ll note below. WOT upshifts happen in an instant. The engine and transmission controllers work in concert to make all of this mechanical wizardry work. The engine controller cuts spark for an instant to unload the transmission, the engine revs drop a bit while the transmission selects the next gear, and then ignition is re-established. It all happens quicker than you can shift a conventional manual transmission (like the Tremec TR-6060 or TR-6070 in the Stingray’s case) with a clutch pedal. It’s madness. It sort of sounds like this: “Grrrrraaaawwwwwwwwww-SNAP <shift> Bwwaaaaaaaaawwwwwww-SNAP <shift> Bwwaaaaaaaaawwwwwww-SNAP” The ‘SNAP’ is a backfire report from the exhaust. It is quite addicting listening to all of that angry mechanical sorcery... The G-forces are nutty. My last significant seat time in performance cars of this caliber was 10 years ago in a past life when I worked for (not)GM in Michigan. I think the C7 pulls harder than the 2nd and 3rd gen Vipers. This stands to reason given the torque output and weight of the two platforms.
We continued our cruise out to Daytona Beach with a few more launches for good measure, and arrived 15 minutes before the 0718 hrs sunrise. The clouds conspired against a clear sunrise, but the ride out was awesome.
We grabbed breakfast at the Cracked Egg - you _need_ to try this place when you are in Daytona Beach... The roads were more crowded on the ride home, so we just loafed along - something the Corvette is happy to do.
Family members rotated through the passenger seat on every trip we made the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday (today). Giggles, yelps, and screams of joy were not uncommon. I even had to giggle a few times when accelerating or cornering. The Stingray just sticks and goes.
OK, here is my ‘formal review’ in the Olde Tyme Format...
The front of the Corvette Stingray is a mean face. It has the right balance of chiseled edges and swoopy curves to draw your eyes’ gaze. The sides of the Corvette are nicely sculpted and not overly busy. The door handles (electric switches) are hidden in small pockets at the upper rear door edge. The rear fascia and tail lights are my least favorite exterior details of the Stingray. The quartet of large exhaust tips in the center are pretty and inset enough that you shouldn’t burn your shins when unloading your golf clubs (that’s about all that’ll fit) from the ‘trunk’ - so long as the engine is off. The top works well and operates quickly - even while rolling, and via a button on the fob !
The interior is driver-focused. Every switch and control the driver needs to reach are well placed. It takes a while to get familiar with all of the regular controls, but once you develop some muscle memory to adjust the HUD elevation or brightness, for example, it’s no big deal to make the adjustments. Speaking of adjustments, I could not get the seats in a comfortable position. I am a lanky 6’4” 190lb dood, and should not have so much trouble fitting into this otherwise large sportscar. The toe box is short-ish and the seat travel rear and downward is limited. That meant I had to tilt the seat forward, run it all the way back and down, and then tilt the seat rearward until it stopped. This is the same dumb dance I had to do in the Crossfire I leased some 8 years ago. I could’t ever get comfortable in that car either. SO... That means I have to skid my boney butt forward and slouch down out of the wind blast. Tisk Tisk, guys... Way to ruin an otherwise well executed interior.
The LT1/8L90 powertrain rocket the Stingray forward like no one has any business doing on public roads. It’s fookin’ nuts and I love it. If it was AWD and had 50 more HP to account for that AWD drivetrain loss, it would be 10/10.
The brakes on the 2016 Corvette Stingray are fantastic. None of this overboosted disconnected feeling that so many beige mobiles (foreign and domestic) suffer from these days. The brake effort and deceleration are predictable, and well synthesized to the other vehicle controls (accelerator pedal and steering wheel) which means that when the Stingray is at full-chat on the track, the inputs to the vehicle/chassis are intuitive and well balanced.
The magnetorheological dampers in the C7 are a thing of beauty. The suspension is compliant when it needs to be (over railroad grades and scarred pavement) and firm elsewhere which gives the Stingray real poise. I even tried a few ham-fisted moves on rough pavement - no drama. There is a teeny bit of shake over larger ride inputs, but that is tough to eliminate.
Full Disclosure - I did not drive like a dick on public roads (for the most part), so high speed cornering was not evaluated. For the bit of spirited driving I did do, the handling is well balanced and ESC steps in appropriately when in Tour or Sport Mode (I didn’t drive in Track-Mode). The historical compromise between ride and handling is nearly eliminated with the mag-ride dampers. All of the dynamic handling of the car and ride input events can be addressed by these magical magnetorheoligical wonders. It is well calibrated. Kudos to the vehicle dynamics guys @ GM Performance.
The 8L90 is a wicked cog-changer to backup the LT1 engine. Lightning-quick upshifts and smooth loafing gears that bring impressive fuel economy are two great features at each end of the performance range. The only nit I have is really a combination engine/gearbox issue. The cylinder deactivation enable/disable is too noticeable. It feels like gear backlash or clunk while cruising and makes me think of the olden days of the Viper Dana 60 Axle clunk issues. The clunk is from a different source and not nearly as bad in the Corvette, but I am sensitive to it. The transmission even fared well when I would launch at a light and then lift right at the speed limit. The engine would hold revs for a bit while the transmission selected the appropriate gear for loafing at that speed. Good stuff all around.
With the dawn of the programmable dash LCD screen, the toys have become a must have. The Stingray doesn’t disappoint with screens for timing acceleration runs, monitoring system temps (including tires!), and almost everything else you shouldn’t be messing with while driving. They do, however, have a plain-jane screen which just shows the speedo in the dash for the purists... :-)
I turned the radio on once. It made noise (Ke$ha was playing). I turned it off and never turned it back on. There are no less than 7 speakers in the cabin. Enough wattage is available to drown out the engine and wind noise, but why would you want to ?
Considering the $60K starting price for the convertible ($75K nicely equipped), I think the Corvette _still_ represents a great value of performance, looks, and driving exhilaration. It is no wonder the Viper sales have been slow.
Well, there you have it folks... An Oppo Review for the 2016 C7 Corvette Stingray Convertible. It’s been a pleasure to bring this to you. It is now time to crack open (another) cold adult beverage and drink in another beautiful Florida sunset.