Remember how much fun your first go-kart ride was? How giddy you were as you zipped around corners and in between your buddies? How widely you smiled after a day at the track?
Okay, now imagine yourself a few decades older. Replace the dinky go-kart engine with a sleek 6.2 liter, 455-horsepower V-6, tighten up the handling, swap in an expertly designed cabin and exterior, and switch the track for the challenging back roads of Northern California. Then take that giddy feeling and multiply it by about 1,000.
That’s what it’s like driving the 2014 Corvette Stingray, a ride that promises to have a slew of Vette fans salivating for what might be the best iteration ever.
On the outside, the first thing that strikes you are the deep grooves and large vent on the hood, designed to increase aerodynamics and keep the engine cool, respectively. The actual chassis is about 50% stiffer than the previous generation’s, as it’s built entirely out of aluminum (which also slashes the weight by 100 pounds). The hard top is easily removed and stows away neatly in the trunk, if you’re so inclined. The classic Corvette flags are proudly emblazoned on the hood, and the iconic Stingray is splashed across the sides. It’s a design that combines contemporary beauty with brutal aggression in a sleek, streamlined package.
Step into the cabin, and you’re greeted by bucket seats stitched with premium leather. An intuitive center stack allows you to control your entertainment and climate, as well as plug in your destination. Just below the stack, to the left of the shifter, lies a small but enormously important knob, which allows you to select your “driver mode”—Eco, Wet, Touring, Sport, or Track. Switch from one to another and the car adjusts up to a dozen aspects of the ride, including the way your speedometer looks (three different pre-set digital configurations) and the stiffness of the steering.
While the interior is impressive, it’s the engine that, rightfully, steals the show. Slam the pedal and it unleashes a throaty growl that’s accompanied by an equally aggressive acceleration (0–60 in 3.8 seconds). On the automatic, you can temper the speed or unleash the horses as early as you’d like, thanks to intuitively located paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Opt for the manual, and the paddles are still there, but they’re not for shifting. They’re for the Vette’s rev-match technology, designed to help you avoid an awkward lurch when shifting up or down (and it does a fantastic job, to boot). The vehicle is designed to race, and it’ll handle cornering that exceeds 1G. Steering is stiff enough to keep the vehicle firmly under your control, without feeling as if you’re battling the machine.
The bottom line: This is a car that’s meant for spirited driving, no matter how old you are. With a base price that’s just north of $50,000, it’s one that’ll make you smile even wider than your first trip around that go-kart track. The difference is that this time, the only things that’ll outpace the engine are the heads that whip around as you drive by.