Yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, General Motors has officially pulled the wraps off its new and shiny 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible. Besides a huge V8 that uses less than 14 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers in a combined cycle, the new convertible also features a “fully electronic top” that lets you open or close the roof remotely using the car’s key fob. Now, that’s nice.
It is amazing how conservative American car manufacturers can be. While the Silicon Valley keeps innovating like there is no tomorrow, the makers of all things powered by internal combustion engines -and, yes, I am also looking at you Harley-Davidson- still think that a big fat engine and archaically aggressive exterior that remind babyboomers of days long gone will compensate for the lack of technical features that their Japanese and German rivals have introduced when President Barack H. Obama was still a student in Harvard Law School. It may probably have something to do with differences in business culture on West and East coasts respectively, but, well, customers are not really interested how special your heritage is: they need modern vehicles with good engines AND an impressive list of features that make them actually feel like they are driving a modern car or a motorcycle (yes, Harley, I am still looking at you.)
Back to our roof though.
According to the manufacturer, the three-ply fabric top with sound-absorbing padding and a glass rear window can be operated at speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour, which basically means that, while moving within city limits, you can close it in case of a sudden rain without slowing the car down.
But, hey, you don’t by a Corvette for its electronic roof, do you? The thing that interests us the most is, of course, the huge powerplant that motivates the vehicle.
With displacement of whole 6.2 liters, the new LT1 V8 engine that powers the car churns out 450 hp and 610 Nm (335 kW), while consuming less gasoline than the previous iteration of the motor. To achieve better mileage, the LT1 features GM’s signature Active Fuel Management that allows it turn off four of its eight cylinders when driving at low load. The system alone allows the car to slash fuel consumption by around 6 percent.
The feather-light carbon fiber hood, as well as composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels also contribute to the vehicle’s increased fuel economy rating.
The fuel economy is further enhanced thanks to the new aluminum frame, which is not only 1.5 times stiffer than the steel frame on the outgoing Corvette, but is also about 7 stones lighter allowing for better mass distribution and superb power-to-weight ratio.
Another great thing is that, since the car was designed from the ground up as an open top, Chevrolet’s engineers didn’t need to use any superlative structures to keep its rigidity at an adequate level.
Recently, the American car makers made significant improvements not only in build quality of their product, but also in theirs, um, perceived quality (the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the latest example of this trend). This baby, for example, features “genuine” carbon fiber and aluminum parts, as well as “hand-wrapped” leather in its interior, while the infotainment center can be controlled via a dual eight-inch touch-screen designed both for the pilot and his or her passenger.
It just keeps getting better.
Photos: Chevrolet / GM