The 2014 Corvette Stingray was already a fantastic sports car, but Chevrolet has found a way to make it even better — lose the hardtop and eliminate any barrier between the exhaust and your ears.
As long as there have been Chevrolet Corvettes there have been convertible versions, and the latest Stingray is no exception. Arriving in dealerships in early 2014, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible features every update and option that has made the new coupe so popular. That's no hyperbole — the convertible is exactly the same car as the coupe, available with every option you can have on the coupe, but with the added benefit of much better on-demand ventilation. Want the Z51 suspension? No problem. Special sport seats? You can have those, too. See how the 2014 convertible compares to the previous generation here.
The worries about changing any coupe into a convertible come in two areas: weight penalty and stiffness. Chop the top off a rigid body structure and things vibrate, wobble, shift and flex — and with a tight, high-performance car like the Corvette, the risk of dashboard shake and squeaky panels is even greater. The solution to that is usually adding stiffening brackets, structural beams and other fixes that can add a lot of weight. That's not what we want in a sports car, even one without a top. So the question with this latest, seventh-generation Corvette convertible becomes, has General Motors chopped the top without turning its halo sports car into a rattling mess?
The convertible shares the same styling updates as the coupe version of the 2014 Stingray, an evolutionary update from the previous model that is still recognizable as a Corvette. There's more exotic-car influence in the lines now, but losing the low fastback top makes the convertible seem less dramatic than the coupe. It's still seriously good-looking, and it's just as good with the top up, too — a rare thing in the convertible world.
The convertible top is a lightweight piece that's power-operated and completely automatic — no latches to flip, catches to snag, or anything other than a single button to push. You can push that button at speeds up to 30 mph, too, which makes departures from one's driveway a little bit faster. Instead of sitting there while the top goes down, just get in, start up, pull away and drop the top while you're rumbling through the neighborhood. Alternatively, you can point your key fob at the car and raise or lower the top completely while standing outside it — handy when you're walking up to the Stingray in a parking lot on a hot summer day and want to air it out before you get there (or perhaps just impress admiring onlookers).
How It Drives
When Chevrolet insists that the convertible is exactly the same car as the coupe, it's not joking. The Corvette Stingray was engineered as a convertible from the beginning, meaning it's stiff and flex-free, without rattles or shakes, and it handles going topless with no penalties at all. The car is only about 50 pounds heavier than the coupe, and it doesn't feature much in the way of significant additional bracing, brackets or stiffening bars, as its structure was engineered from the start not to need any. That's an extraordinary accomplishment, and it shows up in how the Stingray convertible drives — which is almost exactly like the coupe.
The same brutally quick acceleration, the same amazingly accurate and communicative handling, the same strong and fade-free brakes are all here exactly as they were in the coupe. The big difference comes in the car's soundtrack, which now arrives at your ears directly from the quad tailpipes without having to filter through any fiberglass or aluminum. It's a glorious noise, the music of a 6.2-liter, LT1 V-8 engine pumping out 460 horsepower and 465 pounds-feet of torque. Just like the coupe, the engine is matched up to a seven-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Both transmissions provide smooth, clean shifts, with the automatic using a paddle-shift feature and rev-matching function for more aggressive driving. Or row the gears yourself; the seven-speed stick is notchy, smooth and features a rev-matching function. The clutch operation is not overly heavy or vague.
The convertible really lends itself to the automatic, however. The coupe's mission, first and foremost, is to be a sports car; with its Z51 adjustable suspension package, it goes from street to track with ease. You can get the Z51 on the convertible, but you're not going to take a convertible on a track (most tracks require a roll bar if you have a soft-top), so the convertible's mission is to be more of a street sports car. That means it's just as likely to see traffic and low-speed cruise duty as it is high-speed mountain canyons, making the automatic a better choice. Regardless of transmission, cruising in the convertible at any speed is a remarkably serene experience. Wind buffeting is impressively absent, a testament to the car's aerodynamic work, and even when temperatures dropped as I climbed into the mountains around Palm Springs, Calif., on my test route, putting the windows up and pumping up the heat a bit kept me comfy in my shirtsleeves.
But the audio highlight comes when the sonorous exhaust note reverberates off the steep rock canyon walls, echoes down to your ears from all sides and encourages you to press harder, push faster and give the Vette some serious gas. You know the car is something special when you turn off the sound system to focus on driving, so as not to dilute the aural experience of hearing that amazing pushrod V-8. As in the coupe, there's a Drive Mode Selector that allows you to choose between five settings, adjusting 12 attributes of the car to your environment. Tour is what most people will keep it in, but Sport opens up the exhaust pipes for a much more visceral sound. Track is best left for the track, as the harder suspension settings and throttle mapping make for unpleasant around-town driving. Eco maximizes the cylinder deactivation when cruising — great if you want to save a little gas on a highway road trip. The Weather mode helps you get around in rain or snow, optimizing traction control and stability program settings. Each one comes with a different display on the Corvette's central gauge cluster and the head-up display, providing different information to the driver. It borders on information overload, but younger buyers aren't likely to be dissuaded by this kind of info presentation.
Just as with the driving dynamics, the interior carries over from the coupe with few changes except the loss of the top. A hard tonneau cover with the Corvette logo now resides behind the seats, eliminating some storage room but opening up the Vette's significantly improved cabin to the elements. Material quality is a world away from where the last Corvette played, making all the PlaySkool jokes obsolete. Fully competitive materials abound, with genuine leather and real aluminum covering the seats, doors and dash. No longer do you sit in a Corvette and think, "This costs sixty grand?" It's more spacious, more comfortable, and feels like a proper brand halo.
It's not perfect. The design of the center console's multimedia system controls could be better — no actual hard button to switch to the navigation screen means it's a multi-touch action. The touch-pad buttons that open the doors, also used on the outside, may save weight and space, but they're still awkward and unusual. The optional sport seats will be a bit too narrow for wider folks, but the base seats are plenty comfortable. Aside from those few minor quibbles, Chevrolet did a wonderful job updating the passenger space.
Ergonomics & Electronics
Along with a new interior comes a full and welcome update to the Corvette's electronics, everything from the inclusion of Chevrolet's latest MyLink system and the newest head-up display on the windshield to a reconfigurable LCD replacing most gauges in front of the driver. The MyLink system is one of the better multimedia systems on the market, with clear and relatively intuitive operation and decent recognition of voice commands. Its speed of recognition can be finicky, however — one example I tested in a Corvette coupe had interminably long processing times (push the voice command button, say your command, count to eight, and then something happens). Yet in the convertible I drove, processing speed was not an issue, with commands recognized quickly and implemented promptly. The touch-screen is accurate and easy to reach, and can even be customized with one of several themes to suit the owner's style.
Gauges are clear and legible, but the central LCD seemed rather dim in my test car, and no amount of adjustment could make it bright enough to withstand strong sunlight, especially when wearing sunglasses (as is fairly common in a convertible). The tachometer and speedometer are repeated as conventional gauges flanking the central LCD, and the head-up display is sufficiently bright.
Cargo & Storage
The loss of the glass hatchback necessarily means a reduction in cargo room for the Corvette convertible, which drops from 15 cubic feet in the coupe to 10 cubic feet of room in the convertible. It's still a usable volume, big enough for a couple of soft duffel bags or a small roll-aboard suitcase. It's on par with competitor convertibles like the Ford Mustang GT500 or the Audi S5 Cabriolet, and well ahead of smaller performance cars like the Nissan 370Z Roadster. There's a decent amount of room in the passenger space for knickknacks, as well, with a reasonably sized glove compartment and pockets in the doors.
The Corvette received significant updates, but safety improvements have been limited to a stiffer structure … and that's about it. The Vette has four airbags, stability control and seat belt pre-tensioners, but it lacks modern advances like collision detection, active lane keeping, lane departure warning or blind spot detection. The Corvette has not been crash-tested. See all the car's safety features here.
Value in Its Class
Matching the Corvette Stingray convertible up against competition isn't as easy as it might sound. Its abilities put it up against cars like the Porsche 911, but its price more closely matches the Porsche Boxster. The base Corvette Stingray Convertible rings in at $56,995, or just $5,000 more than a base coupe (all prices cited include destination charges). Start adding major option packages, however, and that price can quickly escalate to $75,000 or more. Still, given the car's outstanding abilities, such a price is something of an extraordinary value in the sports car realm. Option one the way you want it here.
The closest domestic brand competitor is the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the most powerful sports car Ford makes. It comes with two extra seats and a much more upright driving experience, but starts a bit higher than the Stingray convertible at $60,935. Its 662-hp, supercharged V-8 engine handily outguns the Corvette, but is mated to a far less sophisticated driveline and is wedged into a much heavier car (by 600 pounds), meaning acceleration is barely better than the Corvette, while fuel economy is worse. The Porsche 911 is often mentioned as a fair competitor for the Corvette, and they seem well-matched in all ways except price: the cheapest 911 Cabriolet starts at $97,150. Horsepower is down from the Corvette at just 350 from its 3.4-liter, six-cylinder boxer engine, but the 911 is lighter than the Vette, making for similar performance. If you want something a bit more sophisticated, try an Audi S5 Cabriolet. It starts at $61,295 and features a 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 making 333 hp, so it's not as fast as the Corvette, but it is considerably more comfortable and practical. See how the Corvette Stingray convertible matches up against competitors here.
A survey of the competition really does put the Corvette Stingray convertible in perspective — few cars out there can match its exotic-car abilities for anywhere near its premium-car price. With the added alfresco version, there's even more to like about the new Stingray.
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