The Chevrolet Corvette C7 in any way shape or form is truly an amazing platform. Aside from being an ace in the hole for all those who previously loved or obsessed over the Corvette, the C7 helped to bring aboard a host of fans that were previously not so in love with the Corvette. Though some may not appreciate it, from a marketing stand point, it is a tough feat to persuade new customers to an otherwise niche brand. This really is a testament Corvette’s potential.
There are a multitude of options between the Stingray and the Z06: coupe or convertible, manual or automatic, paint, interior trim levels, etc. Having had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time in each, I thought I would impart a bit of my own opinion for those considering one of these two main platforms. Now, clearly if you can only afford the Stingray then this conversation is a moot point, but not to worry… you can still afford to purchase one of the best sports cars on the road today.
You may already be thinking to yourself, how can you compare a car with a current base price of $55,400 to that of $79,400, or is 190 hp really worth another $24,00? Well, there are about as many opinions about cars as there possible paint colors, but I’ll tell you what I think about the matter.
Throughout junior high school I spent the majority of my weekends racing go-karts with my father, or watching him run autocross. Once I was old enough the two of us began road racing, which we enjoyed doing together for a number of years. So, yeah, I know how to carve an apex…under high-g braking or with my foot on the floorboard. You may evaluate the Corvette on completely different terms, but I will be doing so from a performance driving standpoint.
The C7 Stingray is one hell of a car, plain and simple. It offers performance straight from the factory that used to be a pipe-dream, even for Vettes sporting their fair share of aftermarket equipment. If I were going to purchase one however, I believe the Z51 upgrade is well worth the money, to the point that I wouldn’t consider purchasing a Vette without it. Between the looks, oiling, cooling upgrades, and advanced handling performance; it’s a no Z51 option, no Vette proposition.
If you were purchasing a more luxurious sports car, then sure, a non-Z51 convertible is probably the car for you; it just isn’t for me. As far as transmissions are concerned, it’s a tough call. There is no question that the eight-speed automatic is faster. That being said, I have always loved the sense of control and connection to the car associated with a manual gearbox. In fact, I even drive a manual-equipped car as my daily commuter. For the Stingray platform, I’m going to leave this option alone for personal preference.
As far as my experience with them, there is something to be said for each. Again, there are the feelings of connection and solidity with the manual gearbox, and I will add that the seven-speed is an excellent example as it is firm and unwavering, yet smooth and pleasant. The first time I drove the eight-speed automatic on a road course, I felt a little uneasy at first… almost as if I wasn’t doing my part. Once I became a little more used to the idea I will tell you it’s fun in its own way. You definitely feel like you’re in a modern high-performance car, with an association to the simulator-style car racing video games.
To me the Stingray fits the bill as a daily driver, a car you use for the weekend be it autocross, open track days, or canyon carving, or a blissful combination of all the above. With 460 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque, the versatility of the car really allows a person to use it for everything. The Z51 cars have the ability to perform quite well in the performance driving arenas mentioned above, but also offer tons of creature comforts, great fuel mileage, and the ability to navigate average roads by not sitting too low, or wearing ground effects.
In short, I think the C7 Stingray Z51 coupe is the highest value, most versatile, yet high-performing car to ever wear a Corvette badge. But, what if you feel the need to own a car equipped with the new LT4?
The LT4 (2.0 to be specific, don’t forget about the C4 Grand Sport) produces 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque; which is honestly a little hard to fathom unless you have been behind the wheel of a car that produces that type of thrust. Needless to say, it’s exhilarating!
The Z06 is not just an engine package, it has a wider body, wider tires and wheels to fill the body, in addition to a host of chassis, suspension, and tuning differences. That being said, would I personally buy one just to own one and drive around on the street? Probably not. In my opinion, you are paying significantly more for a car that diminishes some of the usability mentioned above. Additionally, you can’t even begin to legally use the power onboard when operating the car on public roads.
I first had the opportunity to drive the new Z06 just outside of Las Vegas at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch. We were driving the Z06s on track which enabled us to utilize the power and handling, or at least try our best. The next portion of the test was to drive a 150-mile loop through through Nevada’s high desert, on a variety of road surfaces. Admittedly, having recently come off the track portion could have skewed my perception, but it was quite an exercise in self-control to say the least. Essentially, it was like taking the helm of an offshore boat, and being told you can’t leave the marina.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic car, but pondering this has reminded me of a saying I learned from a best friend’s father, who learned it from his father. His advice was actually geared towards boats, though it can be applied towards most purchases in life.
He would say, “You don’t buy the most expensive boat you can afford, you buy the least expensive boat you can enjoy.” This resonates with me often, and came to mind when I was thinking about writing this piece. While I may not opt for a Z06 for the street, I’m not ruling them out, by any means.
When equipped with the Z07 Package, the C7 Z06 is purely magnificent. The car is so well balanced and so well mannered on track that I was extremely impressed. All previous negative feelings with Corvette handling have been erased. Furthermore, you really get the feeling that you are behind the wheel of a car that was built to be driven this way. We didn’t have the opportunity to get enough seat time to drive the car very aggressively without at least some of the computer’s help but nonetheless, it was amazing. I have heard some people describe it as twitchy; I didn’t find this to be the case.
In fact, I thought the steering was a breath of fresh air in contrast with many modern performance vehicles that have slow steering thanks to their primary ratios and a lack of input from the road surface and conditions. In comparison to the cars that I have some serious on track-seat time with, the Z06 was a sheer dream to drive.
So if I were purchasing a car that was a dedicated track car, or at least very close to it, I would without a shadow of a doubt purchase the Z07 equipped C7 Z06. Again, I would opt for the manual as I compete for enjoyment. Know however, that your optimum track times will be achieved by purchasing the eight-speed automatic gearbox.
While we still do not have a Nürburgring time to validate the car’s performance with the rest of the world, we know it is going to be extremely fast. Will it run across the start/finish line side-by-side with the Porsche 918 Spyder at under seven minutes? No. That being said it won’t be far behind, and it’s about an eighth of the price.
All in all, you won’t be disappointed no matter which selection you go with. But for yours truly, I owe a giant thank you to GM and the whole Corvette team for creating the best all-around street/weekend warrior and race-bred track car that we’ve ever seen.