New & Used Chevrolet Corvette: In Depth
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To say the least, the Chevrolet Corvette has come a long way. When first introduced in 1953, the 'Vette was powered by a 3.8-liter, in-line six and had solid axles underneath. For 2015, the seventh-generation Corvette (C7) can be had with a 650-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 and Magnetic Ride Control.
The C7 is a high-performance two-seater coupe or convertible that pays homage to the "Stingray" Corvettes of the past. Even in base form, the newest Corvette can brag of 0-60 runs in less than four seconds and almost 30 mpg on the highway. In Z06 trim, Chevrolet says the Corvette can run to 60 mph even quicker — less than three seconds. That's supercar territory for less than $80,000.
For 2016, watch out for the limited-run C7.R Edition package which gives makes the Z06 look even more like the racing version Vette.
For more, see our 2016 Chevy Corvette review for all the latest on the new Stingray and convertible.
The Chevy Corvette started its legendary run in 1953 and has seen years of nearly continuous production in Flint, Michigan, then St. Louis, Missouri, and now in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Over time it has constantly evolved to lead performance and value, with occasional lows and numerous highs along the way. Though it has little domestic competition, cars as disparate as the Dodge Viper, Porsche Boxster and 911, and Nissan's GT-R and 370Z can be considered rivals in terms of performance and/or price.
Current versions of the 2015 Corvette are priced from $53,000 for the standard Stingray Coupe and Convertible, rising quickly to $78,995 for the new 650-hp Z06.
The Corvette wasn't always a spec-slayer. The first 1953 models featured solid rear axles and in-line six-cylinder engines, though in 1955, the V-8 became standard. When the second-generation "Sting Ray" model debuted in 1963, independent rear suspension was added and output was increased to 360 horsepower. A big-block 6.5-liter model was added in 1965, before the famous 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) engine joined in 1966. The third-gen car debuted in 1968, running for 13 years until 1982--the longest stretch for any of the various Corvette generations. The new, fender-flared body style was the biggest change to the line, along with a three-year run for the ZR-1 performance edition, though emissions and fuel regulations conspired to restrict power output and potential of Corvettes throughout the 1970s.
Corvette production somewhat famously skipped the 1983 model year. The fourth-generation car hit the street in 1983 as a 1984 model, bringing with it a complete redesign of the car aside from the engine, with a sleek, modern design and digital instruments, as well as the second ZR-1 performance version. The fifth-gen car, introduced in 1997, saw another major upgrade, with improved build quality, increased performance, and better handling the result. The Z06 model was introduced in 2001, and engines continued to be upgraded, producing up to 405 horsepower in the Z06.
The sixth Corvette generation began in 2005, bringing with it all-new bodywork and improved suspension. Power climbed to 400 horsepower for the base Corvette initially, then up to 430 horsepower for its 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 engine, and 505 horsepower for the 7.0-liter Z06 in that generation. The ZR1 was added back to the lineup (without the hyphen) in late 2007 as a 2008 model, producing 638 horsepower from a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine. The C6 was available in base Coupe and Convertible, as a Grand Sport version with upgraded brakes and special bodywork, as the track-ready Z06, and as the supercar-rivaling ZR1.
The Coupe and Convertible were the standard Corvettes, with 430 horsepower output and all the conveniences of a modern car, including available Bluetooth on some models, a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and available leather interior. The Grand Sport was also available as both a coupe and convertible, though the coupe received a few performance upgrades over the soft-top, including a dry-sump oil system when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, plus the upgraded brakes and flared fenders that both variants get. The Corvette Z06 upped the performance ante with extensive use of carbon-fiber body panels and components, an aluminum frame, and a 505-horsepower engine. The ZR1 was king of the hill, its massive power output combined with Brembo ceramic carbon brakes, visible carbon fiber weave components, and a 205-mph top speed. Despite huge power and impressive performance figures, the brawny engines and tall gears in the Corvette enable it to achieve up to 26 mpg on the highway.
While 2012 brought no major changes to the Corvette range, an updated interior, some new technology packages, and a selection of new exterior paint colors enhanced the offerings. The Corvette's high-performance Z06 and ZR1 models received updated performance packages as well. For the 2013 model year, a new 427 Convertible Collector Edition was added, pairing the Z06's LS7 V-8 engine with a Corvette Convertible body and unique 60th Anniversary touches. A 60th Anniversary Package was offered on all 2013 model Corvettes, adding a special touch to celebrate six decades of the nameplate. The sixth-generation (C6) Corvette set new benchmarks for the capabilities of a relatively affordable street-legal sports car, while its successor would take performance to even higher levels.
The seventh-generation Corvette, introduced in 2013 as a 2014 model, draws on GM's global resources for its new design--the first time the Corvette team has looked outside the U.S. for help shaping the iconic 'Vette. The 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray received a new LT1 V-8 engine, designed specifically for the sports car. The new engine makes 455 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, with more than 400 pound-feet of torque available between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm.
The base Corvette Stingray can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds when equipped with the new-for-2015 eight-speed automatic transmission--a figure that ties the 2012 Z06 Corvette’s time. (For 2014, the automatic was a six-speed unit.) On top of that, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and low friction help the Corvette's fuel economy ratings rise to as high as 29 mpg highway. Other improvements of the seventh-generation car over the previous iteration include a partially aluminum chassis even in base model vehicles, which should help torsional rigidity and thereby sharpen handling even further. The standard manual-transmission car features a seven-speed gearbox with an automatic rev-matching function and can accelerate to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds.
A Stingray Convertible has also joined the seventh-generation fold, offering nearly identical performance thanks to a chassis design that included its eventual topless configuration from the start. For the first time ever, the Z06 will also be available as a convertible, and even the standard Z06 coupe gets a removable roof panel like the Stingray. Previously, the Z06 was only available as a fixed-roof coupe.
A Z51 performance package is available for the C7 Corvette, adding an electronic limited-slip differential and dry-sump oiling for the engine, plus upgraded brakes among other upgrades.
The 2015 Z06 is a real budget supercar, and almost a combination of the previous ZR1 and Z06 ideals, with big power and even more focused track manners. GM claims that it will hit 60 mph in 2.95 seconds, with prices starting at just under $80,000. The supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, codenamed LT4, puts out 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, making it the highest-output Corvette—or GM vehicle—ever produced. The Vette team also paid close attention to the Z06's aerodynamics, with an optional high-downforce package, adjustable wings, lots of carbon-fiber elements, and available carbon-ceramic brakes. The Z06 uses a version of the aluminum structure that debuted on the C7 Stingray coupe and convertible; it will be sold with a removable roof or convertible top, and with the choice of either a seven-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic.
Because the Corvette team never stops iterating, there are several changes on the horizon for the 2016 model year. Both the Stingray and Z06 get a passel of new aesthetic options—new interior, stitching, and paint colors; an available carbon hood with a section of visible weave; and several new design packages. There is also a power-cinch feature for the hatch/trunk latch, and a front curb view camera will be optional on upper trim levels. On the Stingray, Magnetic Ride Control is now available without the Z51 package and includes the Z51's wheels and spoiler. The Z06 will be offered in a limited-run C7.R Edition package that will make 500 Z06 cars look more like the racing version.