The Corvette Stingray may not be the perfect sports car — but the convertible version comes close.
The one-touch power top folds in less time than the wait at a traffic light, and, if not, the process will finish at up to 30 mph. Air flow with the top down at Interstate speeds is completely comfortable, for most occupants not in the big-and-tall club. And, then there is that sweet music from the quad tailpipes.
The base price for the 2015 Corvette soft-top is $59,995, including the $995 freight charge from Bowling Green, Kentucky. A new, eight-speed automatic transmission would add $1,725. This base model of Corvette has perfectly usable features and performance from a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 that is capable of 29 mpg on the highway, the EPA claims.
I tested a Stingray with seven-speed manual and the Z51 performance package, which bumps power to 460 hp. At $72,835, the tester had $8,840 in options that made it what I consider a true Corvette and, likely, what many enthusiasts would want. (The red caliper covers are a pricey $595 option, but it’s a good look.)
New for 2015 are two design packages, Pacific (performance) and Atlantic (luxury), either is available with 2LT and 3LT coupes or convertibles or includes the Z51 package. My tester was the Pacific, which is set up for possible use at weekend track events, but the enhancements did not detract from its pleasure as a daily driver.
Z51 mods include a sport suspension, slotted four-piston Brembo brakes (13.6-inch, vented discs front, 13.3-inch rear), electronic limited-slip differential, rear differential cooler, performance exhaust, dry sump oil system and performance gear ratios.
The Pacific package includes:
–Satin black racing stripes and Z51 wheels with red stripe and Stingray center caps.
–CFZ carbon fiber ground effects and carbon fiber roof panel.
–Carbon Flash rear spoiler, outside mirrors and exterior badges.
–Red brake calipers.
–Competition sport seats in red or black.
–Carbon fiber interior trim, Stingray sill plates and Stingray floor mats.
–Indoor car cover (gray).
Pacific paint colors are Torch Red, Black, Arctic White, Blade Silver and Shark Gray — a new color for 2015. (Atlantic is available in any Corvette color.)
The steering weight is comfortable, the light clutch and hill-start assist allow an easy launch from the light and the gears knit with polished engagement. Heel-toe downshifts are smile-makers.
Give a big push of the throttle, stick a gear and then hold on for the bellowing launch of the big V8. It’s times such as this when $72,000 pays dividends.
Chevy says that Z51-equipped models will accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 12 seconds at 119 mph. Because this car can build speed so quickly on the straights, the engineers have created an electronic rev-matching feature for downshifts. It’s an odd interference to experienced heel-toe drivers, but it saves milliseconds, footwork and, possibly, a botched shift when hurtling down the straight to a right-hander. And the system can be switched off.
The engine has variable cylinder management, which runs on four cylinders when the driver is easy on the throttle. I was averaging around 20 mpg and with the 18.5-gallon tank there is a good cruising range.
As much as I enjoy the manual transmission, the eight-speed automatic is more engaging, particularly on a race track. It was engineered for the high-performance Z06 models and shift speeds are blazing. It may seem somewhat pedestrian when driving around town, but there’s a wolf waiting in the shift maps.
Inside, this big sports car has small cabin space. The hood is long; the chin is low and prone to scrapes and encounters with parking stones. The doors are large and complicate entry and exit in tight parking. Plus the ride height is low and requires the occupants’ heave-ho when climbing out. But there is nothing wrong with a heavy-breathing Corvette convertible with red leather competition seats.
Outside, despite the West Coast influence of the Pacific design treatment, there is still too much space between the top of the tires and the fender opening. It makes the car look like it needs bigger tires to fill the space — and the tester had the optional 19-inchers.
But once you are strapped in and rockin’ the power, the complaints are forgotten with the pleasure of power.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage