The Corvette has been around for seven generations. In human terms, that means the 2017 Corvette C7 has a great-great-great-great grandfather. Although it must be said that car generations are more like dog years. Some teenagers today have just-plain grandfathers who owned a new 1953 Corvette. So it’s truly come a long way in a relatively short time.
Truly a long way, styling-wise. The C7 is a wild, extroverted scoop addict, far removed from the sleek C6 that it recently replaced. Teenagers love it. We can attest to that, with all the thumbs-up we got while driving our test model.
Needless to say, the Corvette offers astonishing acceleration, amazing grip, quick reflexes, and absolute communication through the seat and steering wheel.
The base engine, if you can call it base, is a 6.2-liter LT1 V8 making 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The Z06 uses a supercharged LT4 V8 with that same 6.2 liters, making 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. A 7-speed manual gearbox is standard, with automatic rev-matching downshifts. The optional transmission is a GM-built paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic.
If the acceleration of the Stingray bulges your eyeballs, the power of the Z06 will pop them out. The Stingray will blast from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds with the automatic, and do the quarter-mile in 11.9 seconds. The Z06 gets to 60 mph in an almost unbelievable 2.95 seconds.
For 2017, there’s a new Grand Sport model that uses the naturally aspirated Stingray powertrain with the supercharged Z06 suspension and handling geometry. It could do track days like that, but to make it and the Z06 even sharper, there’s a Z07 handling package that also includes carbon-ceramic brakes. The Grand Sport makes 5 more horsepower than the Stingray, and is a couple tenths quicker in the quarter mile.
Except for the Grand Sport, the 2017 Corvette is relatively unchanged.
Despite a tall final-drive ratio and cylinder de-activation technology, which cuts the spark when the car is cruising and all eight cylinders aren’t needed, the Corvette doesn’t get great mileage, but really, who cares? The EPA rates it 15/26/19 miles per gallon City/Highway/Combined. If you notice that’s a drop from a couple years ago, it’s only because the EPA has newer standards.
The supercharged Z06 gets 13/23/16 mpg with the automatic, or 15/22/18 mpg with the 7-speed manual.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash-tested the C7 Corvette, but its rigid structure, many airbags, and stability control inspire confidence. The best way to stay safe in a Corvette is don’t lose your judgment.
The 2017 Chevrolet Corvette is available as a Stingray Coupe ($55,450), Stingray Convertible ($59,450), Grand Sport ($65,450), and Z06 ($79,450).
Standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control; an infotainment system with an 8.0-inch color touchscreen; satellite radio; Bluetooth with audio streaming; USB and power ports; a rearview camera; keyless ignition; cruise control; and a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, and OnStar.
Optional are Nappa leather or micro-suede, aluminum or carbon fiber trim, curb-view camera, head-up display, HD radio, 10-speaker Bose audio, competition sport seats, and navigation. But no blind-spot monitors.
The Z06 package also includes Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, adjustable front and rear aero components, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 tires.
The Z51 package includes lighter wheels, bigger brakes, more extreme aerodynamic bits, an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oil system, an oil cooler for the differential and transmission, and stiffer shocks, springs and anti-roll bars.
Adjustable ride control settings are available with the Magnetic Selective Ride Control option, enabling various levels of ride comfort and performance. The magnetic ride suspension is available without the Z51 package and comes bundled with the Z51’s rear spoiler and wheels.
Finally, there’s an available performance data recorder with video. It can be used as a security device to make sure your Corvette isn’t taken for any joy rides by valet car-parkers.
The Corvette C7 is wide, low, and looks fast. The long hood, swept windshield, and bluff rear end define the proportions. It’s also never met a slit, scoop, or duct it doesn’t like. The busy curves and creases intersect and warp. The sharp lines, angles, and vents give it the air of a supercar, but they tire your eyes.
At least the extreme number of lines and surfaces announce what the Corvette is all about. Especially the Z06, with even wider fenders and an array of aero additions.
The Corvette’s cabin needs pricey optional trim, like aluminum or carbon-fiber, to move beyond the look of basic. The Corvette could learn some things from the Porsche 718, for its tight, low-key interior.
That’s not to say the ‘Vette isn’t sharp and modern. Everywhere the materials are good, with a lot of soft-touch surfaces. Touches like the passenger climate controls integrated into the outboard vent make this sports car feel like a grand touring car. The Porsche 911 and Mercedes AMG GT have a higher grade of trim, but they cost twice as much.
The instrument panel is simple and driver-focused. The optional carbon fiber makes the Corvette feel like a six-figure supercar; so do the optional suede and rich leather, in deep designer colors.
The standard front seats are great, supportive and grippy, with a highly adjustable driver’s seat and a adjustable steering wheel; but the optional seats are greater. You can reach the shift lever without contortions. The Competition Sport seats have a race-inspired form and function for hard cornering.
The cabin is snug but not tight. There’s good head, hip and legroom in front, even for six-footers. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a bit small but comfortable.
Storage is good for a sports car. There are a few cubbies and boxes, with a hidden compartment behind the nav screen for your phone, with a jack. The real magic is the large, flat cargo area under the hatch of the coupe. It holds a surprising amount of luggage or stuff, making the Corvette almost practical. Convertibles have a trunk with less space, but it’s still adequate.
The convertible’s tight top seats itself at the top of the windshield, allowing you to raise or lower the top at speeds of up to 30 mph. Wind buffeting is stronger than some touring convertibles, but it’s not bad. Get the optional dealer-installed wind-blocker for an improvement.
Rear visibility is miserable. The standard rearview camera is necessary when backing up, but it doesn’t help when you’re trying to see what’s happening behind you on the freeway.
We’re not the first to say that the Z06 would still be a benchmark at twice the price. But any Corvette is an incredible performance bargain, whether it’s the Z06, a Stingray with the Z51 package, or the Grand Sport with Z07 handling and braking upgrades.
The Corvette is an amazing bundle of power and grip. The Z06 and Z51 cars use an electronic differential to gain grip. The C7 can be harder to control with the aids off, though it still shows special poise and balance. It can run with cars that cost twice the price.
The LT1 in the Stingray makes all the right noises, along with its 455 horsepower, as it runs to the end of the dragstrip in 12 seconds flat. Its 7-speed manual gearbox shifts nearly as slick as its 8-speed automatic.
The Grand Sport’s wider rear fenders have room for its wider tires, and the aero mods attract more attention. It’ll do the quarter in 11.8 seconds at 118 mph, and comes to a stop afterward on its big Brembo brakes. Spend another eight grand for the Z07 package, including Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, Magnetic Selective Ride Control dampers, and a more aggressive aero package.
The Z06 stomps on Grand Sport with its supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 making 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. With the manual gearbox it can do zero to sixty in 3.2-seconds while the automatic clocks an amazing 2.95 seconds.
The paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic is remarkable. GM says it shifts 80 milliseconds faster than the Porsche twin-clutch PDK. Even in automatic mode, it’s remarkable.
The chassis and suspension use a lot of aluminum, which aids handling along with the adjustable dampers and Performance Traction Management system, especially in its Track mode. Flat cornering, over 1g of lateral grip, and accurate electric power steering deliver a control that can be addictive, especially on the track. The handling is astonishingly better than the C6. Driving the C7 is a special and rewarding experience.
The Convertible doesn’t lose any structural integrity, because the Corvette was designed from the ground up as a roadster; the Convertible isn’t a coupe with the top chopped off afterward.
The Chevrolet Corvette presents a strong performance equation for the dollar. Other cars that offer the Corvette’s levels of performance and handling tend to be expensive exotics.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.