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2013 NAIAS: C7 Corvette Sets Gaze Upon M3 / M4

Auto Shows, Featured Posts | January 15th, 2013 by 20
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The sweetheart of the Detroit show is without a doubt the new C7 Corvette. We are, after all, in Detroit. Nothing in Motorcity is more …

The sweetheart of the Detroit show is without a doubt the new C7 Corvette. We are, after all, in Detroit. Nothing in Motorcity is more homegrown than the Vette, and nothing has stirred more anticipation among the surrounding throngs of journalists – particularly the locals.

Just what cord does the new Corvette strike in BMW’s playbook? To be fair, few buyers truly cross-shop these cars – at least fewer than GM would like to admit. That said – there are probably more M3 owners peering at the new C7 than BMW is comfortable with. Do the Germans of Munich have anything to fear?

2013 NAIAS: C7 Corvette Sets Gaze Upon M3 / M4

Well, yes. The new C7 Corvette is 99.999% new, and it’s been built with strictly one goal in mind: performance. Every single part on the car is new except for one: the rear trunk latch. Every other part has been lightened or otherwise altered to improve performance. The result is a base model Corvette that roars from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds courtesy of a new “LT1″ 6.3 liter V8 that produces 450 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. To conquer corners the new Vette also sports an all-aluminum space frame, carbon fiber hood, trunk and roof, fiber-glass doors, fenders and side sills. This Corvette is very, very light – no official figure yet, but we’re expecting it to be in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 3,100 lbs.

Aerodynamically the Corvette has advanced dramatically, having spent some time in the wind tunnel. Most notable is the rear diffuser which is both functional and a great stylistic detail.

Thanks to cylinder deactivation, the C7 can run as a V4 and it is said to consume significantly less fuel than its predecessor. Sans turbos the Corvette will be very hard pressed to match the all-new M3’s fuel economy when it launches – but Corvettes have already achieved decent fuel economy if driven gently and we expect high 20 mpg figures on the highway.

2013 NAIAS: C7 Corvette Sets Gaze Upon M3 / M4

Base price has not not yet been announced; deposits can be placed for summer delivery from your local dealership. The current Corvette C6 has a base price of $49,515 – given the new all-aluminum space frame (the previous base C6 Corvette had a steel frame, though the C6 Z06 featured an aluminum space frame), extensive use of carbon fiber and more advanced engine tech in the base model, as well as expected supercar performance numbers, we expect the price to jump at least a couple thousand dollars – but it’s just a hunch. At 50K, the Vette is 10K cheaper than a base M3 when both cars are ordered without any options. Given the extreme performance of the C7, it appears that the value equation will tip even further toward the Corvette – though the soon to be launched M3 may have something to say about it when it throws down its own performance numbers. Only a track battle can truly determine a victor, and we look forward to bringing you one as soon as we have the keys to a new C7.

Is it a worthy competitor to the M3? Whereas the base C6 Corvette currently on sale has similar performance to the current base model M3, it’s clear that the new C7 will utterly destroy it on any track. But it’s hardly fair to compare an aging M3 against a car many years its junior – so we’ll have to wait until we drive the all-new M3 to determine how closely these cars perform.

2013 NAIAS: C7 Corvette Sets Gaze Upon M3 / M4

What we do know is that BMW always nails their fit and finish, adorning their interiors with beautiful, high quality leathers, plastics, woods and metals. GM, on the other hand, has never really nailed a proper interior together (rather it looks like they have literally nailed it together sometimes). We had high hopes for the Cadillac ATS – but this car fell far short of the mark. My greatest point of interest around the new Corvette was its interior, and as it turns out, they have failed again. True, this is a pre-production car, hand made and assembled – but that’s only more reason to get it right, particularly when showcasing a new car to the world’s automotive press.

What I found when I opened the driver’s door was wavy weather stripping (inconsistent glue dispersion) on the A-pillar, an inconsistent gap in the plastic seat belt clip where it attaches to the floor, and an otherwise underwhelming interior. The leather quality is so-so, the dash still looks and feels a bit on the cheap (though it is markedly improved from the previous generation and loses the dash instruments borrowed from a Sierra pickup in favor of a sharp new digital instrument display), and the center console is divided into two material surfaces – half metallic, half plastic. Your eye can’t quite decide if it’s a nice interior or a bit low-rent because the appearance changes as your eye travels across the surfaces. There are parts I do like (the new steering wheel itself feels good in your hands and is just the right thickness) and don’t get me wrong: I want to like the C7 and tend to cheer for the underdog, but the materials still fall short of what should fall to hand in a sports car of this stature and performance. When you’re spending this kind of money on a sports car – performance bargain or not – it should feel special to step inside. In the case of the new C7, it feels very special to walk up to it, but quite disappointing to step inside. That said – I think it will probably feel quite special once you get it in gear.

2013 NAIAS: C7 Corvette Sets Gaze Upon M3 / M4
2013 NAIAS: C7 Corvette Sets Gaze Upon M3 / M4

The Corvette’s interior woes come at a surprise considering how well GM has executed the exterior. It’s gorgeous from most angles, particularly the front, front three-quarter, and side angles. The rear is at first awkward to the eye – perhaps because there’s so much to take in and anyone born more than 3 months ago will be shocked to see the hind end of a Vette without four round tail lamps. With further study, the rear begins to coalesce and grows on you; of particular note is the exhaust cluster – all four pipes tightly bound together, ready to make some noise.

I’m not the first to point out that the new C7 Corvette shares its likeness with the Ferrari 599 – at least from the front views. The proportions are very similar, and the light clusters also share some semblance. This comes as high praise, indeed.

Other points of interest? A new 7-speed manual transmission comes standard, and thus Porsche has started a trend that we expect BMW to follow.

Without getting behind the wheel or even learning of the C7’s base price, it’s early days to pass judgment – but based on what we know and have observed so far, the Corvette is closing the gap to the M3 as far as becoming a car worthy of cross-shopping. Has it closed that gap? No, at least not in its interior. But look out for the C8.

2013 NAIAS: C7 Corvette Sets Gaze Upon M3 / M4

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  • http://shebanation.wordpress.com Andrew Shebanow

    Good analysis, thanks. I’m an M3 owner, and am intrigued by the new vette. I want to see it in person so I can see whether or not its too “boy racer” in appearance and how nice the production interior is. The fact that the show car had interior issues is worrisome.

    On the fuel economy issue, though, I think you’ve given BMW too much credit. My M3 gets 15 mpg in the real world, and I know people with Corvettes who do much better. The V4 mode should be able to be even more economical.

    • Shawn

      Andrew,

      Thanks for your comment. My fuel economy comparison was in reference to the soon to be released turbocharged M3, not the current V8 model. I expect the new M3 to attain at least a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency over the current model, similar to the current M5’s 30% gain in economy over its predecessor thanks to turbocharging and other engine tech. I strongly doubt the C7 Corvette will match the new M3’s fuel efficiency, especially considering it’s likely to launch with start-stop technology on board.

      • http://shebanation.wordpress.com Andrew Shebanow

        Thanks for clarifying on the mileage issue. After having driven a start/stop 5 series for two weeks in Europe last summer, I have to say I’m not a fan of the technology. But I guess we won’t know the truth about fuel economy til BMW and GM both release their numbers.

  • Giom

    We don’t get the Corvette in this country, but I’ve been a fan since I was little. A few examples does make it to our shores… This one sure looks the business, tho, I’ve also picked up on the Ferarri likeness. BUT, there still is a lot of ‘Vette’ in there!
    Looking foreward to seeing this car and the upcoming M3/4 in battle next year in ALMS!

    • Shawn

      Hi Giom,

      Next year BMW will be racing the Z4 GT3! Still, and awesome battle on the way!

  • ballinouttacontrol@ball.com

    The problem with this guy is every redneck clown who makes $60K a year will buy one and immediately dilute the coolness of this car. If corvette just upped the price to $80K, it’s something I’d consider. At this price point, it’s not better than a mustang.

  • gearboxtrouble

    2010 e92 M3 owner here. I’m not looking at this C7 per se but I will certainly cross shop the Z06 (when it comes out) with the next M4, a used 991 S and maybe the RS5 in two years time. I looked at the c6 z06 and the 997 S when I bought my current car. The Z06 had incredible performance but was let down by the poor interior and lack of refinement. I ended up narrowly choosing to trade my e46 m3 in for an e92 (I got a better deal on a new one than I did on a used 997 S). For the record I grew up in the UK and have never bought a car that wasn’t German or Japanese in the >10 years I have been stateside.

    I love the looks of the c7 and I’m sure the performance will be insanely good but I’d like to see it with a DCT which is why I’ll be waiting for the z06. If they’ve improved the interior fit and finish on the production cars and if the drivetrain was slightly less raw than the last gen car BMW would have to blow me away with the M4 to keep me a customer. For me the bottom line will be how the first year of ownership for next gen M3 owners goes (I’m guessing the M3 gets 1 year by itself before the M4 comes to market). If I hear of HPFP type reliability issues on the 1st year of the M3, i’d probably skip the M4 and look at a Z06 vs a used 991 S.

    • Shawn

      gearboxtrouble,

      I would also cross-shop the 991 S against the M4, I think the performance will likely be comparable. I think the 991 S might still have an edge though – Road and Track managed a 3.5 second 0-60 time with PDK – I have doubts that the new M4 will be able to match that time when R&T does their testing. My guess is (based on M4 weight loss of approx 400 lbs and 450 hp) around a 3.9 or 3.8 second 0-60. If the new M4 does not manage a sub 4 second 0-60 time I will consider it a failure – the performance bar has been raised and most of the M4’s competitors are managing sub 4 second times (911, GTR, Corvette, etc).

      Another American sports car no doubt worth cross-shopping by then will be the all-new Mustang. It will have independent rear suspension (finally), which was the final straw for me to consider it. I know the Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition was awfully fast (I’ve driven it on track and was really impressed) but just the knowledge of that wagon era rear end drove me nuts. Now that the rear suspension is being addressed, I think the new Mustang may be an even better value option than the new Corvette because unlike GM, Ford knows how to build a quality interior of late. I expect the new Mustang’s interior to be more upscale and when properly optioned, quite luxurious.

      As a pure track toy I could see myself adding a roll cage and stripping the C7 Vette interior since it’s so ugly anyway. I think the car would be sexier with bare metal inside than it is with that $#!ty interior. Plus it would lighten it up a bit more. I don’t know who is responsible for the interior Vette mess but some heads should roll at GM. How are they not getting their act together? Did they not just go bankrupt recently? Have no lessons been learned? For so many years owners and journalists alike have been bemoaning the poor interior of the Vette – it’s the only thing they really had to address as it was already a handsome car with excellent performance.

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  • Roland Renno

    Yuck!

  • http://twitter.com/ChuckVossler Chuck Vossler

    Silhouette looks good. Great motor & chassis. However, when you get close to it and see the overly busy nature of the exterior, I fear that when it hits pot holes/bumps stuff will go flying off. My overall impression was that this is what you get when you mate a Pontiac Aztek with a Fiero.

  • JD

    Please stop the mumbo jumbo. The corvette new distinctively look and performance is very enticing.

  • geo

    I am so sick of you sissies and the sissy journalist too, that talk crap about the Corvette interior. Jay Leno said it best,” Go buy a living room set if you are so concerned about the interior.” No car is perfect and I don’t care how much it cost. Porsches leak, Ferrari leather wears really fast and so does Audi’s.

  • Reality Check

    This guy loves the smell of his own ass. M3 vs Vette? You serious? Not the same league buddy. Chevy has never thought about a little m3 when designing a Vette. Vettes are designed to get smashed on at the track all day, over and over, with no problems, and then drive home getting 28mpg on the highway. Then they do it again the next day. This beamer lover is dreaming. Quit trying to hype an m3 up to a Vette’s level. Different leagues.

    • kl;

      …. says the redneck clown who eats his daily burgers in his chevrolet tractor-like sportscar. Refinement has no meaning in your trash league.

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  • RootsRockRebel

    Anybody who would cross shop a BMW, particularly an M-car, with anything built by Government Motors doesn’t deserve a BMW!

  • Kravon

    Thanks for the write up. I own a 2013 E92 M3 DCT and a 2012 Porsche Cayenne. I am considering looking at the new Vette but not until the new M4 is released. Also, my brother in law is a GM master mechanic and told me that he has had to replace 2 entire engines in the new Vette not to mention a ton of little things that somehow made it past quality control (such as respraying the hood due to fading). If I get a new Vette then I would wait until the 2nd year of release. The M4 or the Vette needs to be pretty outstanding to get rid of my E92 M3. The test drives will be interesting.
    Also, I do like the look of the new Vette and M4. I have not had a chance to see either in person yet though. I will have to look at the interior of the Vette very closely.

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