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?
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.
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.
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.
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.