18 Nov 2012

Why I'm Excited About The New Corvette (and why you should be, too...)

This is an article by American writer Max Prince, who is currently living in the UK and studying for his masters degree in auto journalism at Coventry University. It looks at the new Chevrolet C7 Corvette, which will be released in 2014.

Amongst us automotive critics, it seems that the complaints about modern sports cars are fairly consistant. Open any road test and find that, no matter the awesome 0-to-60 times or flawless design lines, there's often griping over three major aspects of nearly any new vehicle: increased curb weight, lack of a manual transmission, and concerns about technology running roughshod over the proverbial fun factor.

I think most would agree that Nissan's GTR would be (even) better if subjected to a mild diet plan, that any Mercedes-Benz AMG model would be far more engaging with a third pedal, and that iDrive – along with the myriad of sport setting buttons – is the lone blemish of an otherwise sublime BMW M5 pedigree. Rarely do I see the phrases "This car could be superb if only it were heavier" or "Thankfully, this model is only available with an automatic transmission" scribed in our favorite motoring magazines.

And yet, I don't think there is nearly enough respect for the Chevrolet Corvette and I'm often perplexed as to why. Over the last three decades, the horsepower rating for base model Corvettes has doubled from 200hp to 400hp, while the curb weight has increased by a mere 5%, gaining just over 100lbs. Show me another sports car that can mirror that claim. Save a two-year period during a generation change, not only has every single model featured the availability of a manual transmission, but a proper clutch-and-lever 'box has always been standard equipment. In fact, the Corvette utilized a modern 6-speed manual (ZF models, no less) before the Porsche 911 Carrera, Lotus Esprit S or Honda's NSX.

Climb into Chevy's super coupe and be spared punishment from a litany of buttons, settings, modes and screens. The current C6 interior is one of the most driver-centric available, with a a genuine emphasis on ergonomics and cleanliness. Is it a capsule of Thrupp & Maberly tailoring and Intel Pentium technology? No...no, no, no. Five minutes behind the wheel and it's apparent that the cabin is a place for perfecting heel-toe downshifts and conducting a smokey two-part Goodyear harmony, not checking work emails or getting a back rub. But is that really such a bad thing? I find it very refreshing.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and argue that the Corvette nameplate is free of sin – quite the opposite. Previous models were lacking fit-and-finish to an unacceptable degree, a hardhanded drive and more or less churlish in general. I once had the misfortune of driving a particularly downtrodden C4 model which, while navigating an extended pothole-ridden construction zone, registered somewhere between a fractured spine and a surprise colonoscopy on the comfort scale. The C5 was an improvement from the C4, but I guess stale bread is an improvement from starving to death. However, the C6 Corvette addresses all of those issues en route to delivering a truly brilliant automobile on many, many levels. Chevrolet managed to shore up the creak-and-rattle, panel gaps, and crucial incivilities without straying from their roots or allowing curb weight to spiral out of control. Bravo, Dave Hill. And if those monumental improvements from previous C5 models to the current C6 are any indication, the C7 will be an absolute masterpiece.

As with the current model, the new Corvette will no doubt come under attack for being 'simplistic'. But hopefully some are clever enough to realize the difference between simplicity and transparency. Will we continue to laud the Toyota GT86 for it's revival of basic driving pleasures, then turn around and slap down the Corvette as 'archaic' when it merely carries those same championed principals to a thrilling excess? This is the hypocrisy that drives me crazy. We collectively loved the MX-5, as we do now the GT86, for their purity; the Corvette is all that with the fire-breathing, eight cylinder cojones to back it up. The C7 won't be dressed up with dynamic computerized all-wheel drive, intricate side-scrolling forced induction, super intelligent electronic self-adjusting suspension, or a acronymed dual-clutch paddle-shit automatic gearbox. What it will have is a reasonable curb weight, rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and 450hp. Progress is virtuous, but fun is always king; let's give Chevy some credit where credit is due.

Image used courtesy of www.corvetteforum.com