The Chevrolet Corvette is in its seventh generation, or C7, and still comes across young and hot as ever. The 2018 Corvette is in the fifth year of this generation, having been introduced for 2014. There have been steady small changes in the past five model years, but nothing significant from a mechanical standpoint. It’s so dynamically perfect that it hasn’t needed changes to keep up with anyone.
The C7 delivers astonishing acceleration, amazing grip, quick reflexes, and absolute communication through the seat and steering wheel. Even the automatic transmission matches the best of the German twin-clutch automatics.
It comes as an awesome Stingray or mind-shattering Z06. The Stingray uses a 6.2-liter LT1 V8 making 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The Z06 uses a supercharged LT4 V8 that’s also 6.2 liters, making 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. A 7-speed manual gearbox is standard, with automatic rev-matching downshifts. It’s fantastic. The optional transmission is a GM-built paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic. It’s superb.
There’s a model in the middle, the Grand Sport, which uses the Stingray engine and the Z06 suspension and steering geometry. It makes 5 more horsepower than the Stingray, and is a couple tenths quicker in the quarter mile. There’s also a Z07 handling package that includes carbon-ceramic brakes.
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, it’s a roadster with a top added.
With a tall final-drive ratio keeping rpm low at freeway speed, and cylinder de-activation technology to cut cylinders when cruising, Corvette gets an EPA-rated 19 miles per gallon Combined. The Z06 rates 16 mpg Combined.
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.
There are 24 different combinations of engine, chassis, and models including the convertible, from Stingray Coupe ($55,495) to full tilt ZO6 convertible ($83,495).
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 C7 is a wild, extroverted scoop addict. More slits and ducts. Wide, low and fast. The long hood, swept windshield, and muscular chopped haunches make the proportions and profile. The curves and creases intersect and warp. The sharp lines, angles, and vents say supercar. The Z06, with fatter fenders and more aerodynamic bits, fairly shouts it.
There’s a lot to look at, in a Corvette. It can be work. Your eyes can get tired.
The standard cabin trim in the Corvette’s is too standard. It needs optional aluminum or carbon-fiber to look correctly Corvette. Actually the carbon fiber makes it feel like a supercar. The suede and rich leather come in designer colors.
Still, the interior doesn’t match that of the Porsche 718, which is tight and low key. The Corvette is sharp and modern.
The instrument panel is simple and driver-focused.
Of course the materials are good and the touch is generally soft. The Porsche 911 and Mercedes AMG GT, costing much more, have higher quality trim. Some things make the Corvette feel like a grand touring car, for example the passenger climate controls integrated into the outboard vent.
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. The optional dealer-installed wind-blocker makes it better.
Rear visibility is very poor, as with many high-performance cars. The standard rearview camera is useful when backing up, but it isn’t available when you’re trying to see what’s happening behind you on the freeway. Corvette C7 racecars have a video camera on the dash that’s the rearview mirror. Eventually the technology for road cars will go there.
Mechanically, the Z06 is a benchmark for what a high-performance sports car should be. Sure, a Ferrari might be more exotic, and an Aston-Martin more gorgeous and eye-catching, but nothing matches a Corvette in performance-for-dollar. It has speed, handling, and style equal to cars costing twice as much.
The key to Corvette’s superb handling is its grip. The Z06 and Z51-package cars use an electronic differential to gain grip. Even without that and other electronic traction aids, the chassis is poised and balanced.
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 455-horsepower LT1 engine in the Stingray sounds excellent as it accelerates hard. It can do the quarter-mile in 12 seconds flat. Gearshifts in the seven-speed manual transmission are slick. Shifts from the paddle-shifting eight-speed automatic never hesitate. It’s remarkable, even in automatic mode. GM says it shifts 80 milliseconds faster than the Porsche twin-clutch PDK.
The Grand Sport’s wider rear fenders cover its wider rear tires, and the aerodynamic additions add to the racecar look. But it’s only two-tenths quicker in the quarter mile, as wider tires and aero tweaks aren’t for acceleration. Neither are the big Brembo brakes, but they too make the Grand Sport more capable on a road racing circuit.
Now add the Z07 package, including Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, Magnetic Selective Ride Control dampers, and a more aggressive aerodynamics. Also add another $8000.
The Z06 brings Corvette to another level. Its supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 makes 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. With the eight-speed automatic, it can accelerate from zero to sixty in 2.95 seconds.
Still the champ. Ultimate engineering out of an engine whose V8 design is more than 60 years old but still an unmatched thrill. Cornering second to none. GM aces the paddle-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, providing on option to the perfect seven-speed manual gearbox. Clean, eye-catching supercar styling. Unheard of, for $55,495. The Corvette remains a bargain for ultra-high performance.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.