All new. All-American. Also ran? No way…
There’s an empty left lane, and a white hatch with a smoky exhaust in the right. Arrogantly, we take the left: ‘Hell, I’m in a Corvette.’ That sums up the attitude of this stonking new C7, with it’s 6.2-litre V8 and bright red paintwork that stands out like the dog’s bollocks. This car is as subtle as US patriotism, Boris Johnson’s hair or paparazzi chasing a royal birth. It makes no apologies and there’s nothing demure about it: it’s the most full-on new car this side of a Lamborghini, and even in London, Gallardo owners look at you like you’ve gone just a bit too far…
What’s new about this ’Vette?
This is the all-new C7 Corvette: the entirely new generation that was first shown in Detroit, 2012. It’s the fastest, most powerful, and most fuel efficient Corvette ever. It’ll do 0-60 in 3.8sec. And it’s even better to drive, being an amazing 60 per cent stiffer than the previous Z06 Corvette.
There’s an all-new V8, too – the LT1 Gen V small-block, 6162cc of all-alloy, old-school pushrod V8 that shows Chevrolets’s new slogan, ‘Runs Deep’, is somewhat true. It’s brought with it direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation (previously only offered on Chev’s auto V8s). You may laugh, but Chev says the engine’s 18kg lighter than a ‘certain rival’s’ 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 (read between the lines and that’s BMW’s unit). Oh, and it has 455bhp… All UK cars come with the Z51 option as standard, too, which means aero add-ons, larger brakes, stiffer suspension and a limited-slip diff.
It must be an occasion to drive one… in the UK
This car is a Las Vegas show from the moment you clap eyes on it. And it only adds to the drama when you slide your hand under that door handle to open up the low, long sports car. Our test car presents you with a red and black wraparound dash, with the red dripping down the doors and bright red sport seats fighting for the limelight. The ’Vette was always a lightweight machine built of fiberglass, but of course these days it’s carbonfibre layered across the dash, those seats and of course above your head, with that removable roof.
The seats are really well bolstered: the fittings and finish of the cabin, including the leather, isn’t Porsche-like, but it’s hardly Asda either. The driving position is low, snug and near-perfect, giving you prime position to lord over that undulating bonnet. You still feel a little to close to the door – elbow room is a pinch – but the head-up display nestles neatly into the valley between the voluptuous bonnet.
This car isn’t about class, but all about showmanship. Every last inch is an event to look at – a stitch, a bulge, a cut, a twist – from the digital display to the steering wheel, which feels confident and firm to grip. Hit start, and this car doesn’t just come alive: it announces itself to the world like a lion falling through a kindergarten roof. It’s such a rumbling, old school V8 but it doesn’t have the same metallic silkiness of, say, a BMW M3, nor the cultured bark of a Maserati. The ’Vette’s LT1 V8 has a throbbing, almost industrial sound that isn’t as filtered as Euro or Japanese (read: Lexus IS F) V8s. Yet it’s wonderful.
It looks like a cartoon. Is it a GT, or a serious performance car?
It’s a stellar cruiser, and a fearsome sports car. There’s genuine difference between its drive modes – Comfort, Touring, Sport and Track. The punch and flexibility is amazing, and made all the more addictive by the weighting of the steering, clutch and gearshift. None of these are class leaders: the steering has a dead spot in the centre, but weighs up nicely if you’re in Sport mode and provides good feel. Leave it in Comfort, and it’s horrible. The clutch has weight, but it’s not for those without healthy legs, and the shift is smooth, but you may get lost in those seven gears – if you’re not used to a left-hooker (not the car’s fault, but build a RHD one please, Chevrolet).
The ride, too, is pretty impressive for a car this stiff, making it quite civilised around town, but the trade-off is noticeable nose-lift when you give it your all. Try this: approaching a tunnel, slow down a tad, drop back to second… wait a bit. Now, in the tunnel, stab that throttle! The engine responds with a truly racecar snap and rumble, and in the wet – when we conducted such crucial, er, research, the Chev’s tail has us changing lanes a little earlier than we expected. The result: sheer laughter.
This car is surprisingly agile and composed. Although it feels wide and there’s masses of real estate ahead and behind you, it’s balance is impressive. It’ll pivot around you like you’re wearing it, with sharp turn-in and little body roll despite the aforementioned nose-lift. The roadholding is superb, traction strong (spin those rear wheels at your leisure, but it’s not unpredictable).
The seven-speed’s gearing is well set, with that 460lb ft of torque meaning you don’t have to change so often when carving up roundabouts or through long corners. The brakes are strong, pulling up the 1495kg coupe well, and it’s stable under heavy braking, too. The downsides? Rear visibility isn’t great, and there’s the V8’s thirst to content with. The rest is awesome.
Is it coming to the UK?
Yes – but only in left-hand drive at this stage. Come April and left-hook Corvettes will be in UK dealers. GM boss Dan Akerson told reporters that the C7 will be made in right-hand drive, but engineer Tage Juechter told CAR that it’s not certain, and it’s years away if it’s given the green light. Either way, despite Chevrolet announcing that it’s pulling out of Europe in 2015 it still plans to bring its supercar over in small numbers, possibly through dealers that will also flog Cadillacs.
You’re looking at £69k for this beast. Before you scoff, remember that in North America, this is a $51k car – $10k less than a BMW M3, but well short of the $83k starting price of a Porsche 911. Put that into context – and consider the outlandishness of this car as a piece of automotive sculpture – and the ’Vette makes sense as a bargain cruiser. In the UK? To use an American reference, Van Halen singer David Lee Roth once said that people didn’t want wear the outlandish clothes he wore, but they wished they had the confidence to. The Corvette has balls – and you’ll need them to own one.