The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is to the American sports car scene what John Wayne is to movie Westerns – and now it’s back, toting 6.2 litres of naturally aspirated V8 and poster-worthy looks.
Nowadays, however, even muscle cars need to offer a bit of technical sophistication, and the Stingray delivers. The seven-speed manual gearbox has a rev-matching function, adaptive dampers and an electronically controlled, mechanical limited-slip differential.
It also gets a head-up display that beams information (including cornering G-force) into the driver’s line of sight and an 8.0-inch colour touch-screen. Yet because it sells in such low numbers here in the UK, it is still, unfortunately, left-hand drive only.
What’s the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray like to drive?
If you’re after the gritty, hands-on experience of a muscle car, you'll love it – but if it’s the easy-to-live-with, everyday sports car prospect offered by rivals such as the Jaguar F-type and Porsche 911, then you may find it a little rough around the edges.
It’s the gearbox that does it. The clutch is light enough, but the gearlever needs a hefty shove, and it’s not the sort of precise, oily-feeling shift you’d hope for, so it can end up feeling like hard work.
Even so, flick one of the steering wheel-mounted paddles to activate the rev-matching function, select Sport or Track from the five driving modes available, and you’re guaranteed a good time. The exhaust baffles open to give the four enormous tailpipes their full voice, and you find that the Corvette is remarkably entertaining to drive.
With the engine blipping automatically on down-changes, and the V8 delivering its power fairly evenly as it climbs through towards the 6600rpm redline, you can wring out much of the Corvette's 460bhp of performance without it getting too scary.
It even goes round corners with some finesse. The steering is quite light but offers a good sense of feedback, giving you confidence to use all the available grip – of which there’s plenty. Decent body control helps to keep things feeling sharp and responsive, too. It doesn’t turn-in with the razor-sharp precision you’d enjoy in the best rivals, and it will run out of grip earlier, too.
What’s the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray like inside?
This is where the Stingray represents a huge improvement over its predecessors. The colour screen is the focal point of the dashboard, and although it can be a bit slow to respond, it’s quite easy to find your way around the various menus. Elsewhere, soft-touch plastics and leather give it a classy feel, only spoilt by some cheap-feeling air-con switchgear and some rather oddly placed buttons.
You sit very low in the car, and – of course – on the wrong side of the cabin; ignore any rumours you’ve heard, Chevrolet is not going to make right-hand-drive Corvettes any time soon. Still, while it does mean that your view at junctions and roundabouts is sometimes limited, rear visibility is actually pretty good by sports car standards. The electrically adjustable, heated and ventilated leather seats also make it easy to get comfortable.
If that’s not enough for you, there’s always the removable roof panel, which takes a few minutes of lever pulling and hefting to remove, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. The boot is very shallow, but you’ll be able to get a couple of cabin bags in, or the roof panel.
Standard equipment is excellent, so the only option you’re likely to need is sat-nav, and plenty of buyers will also be tempted by the optional carbonfibre interior trim package of our test car.
Should I buy one?
Chevrolet describes this car as a 'weapon against the ordinary'. Dramatic though that statement is, there is some truth to it; you can guarantee that even the most mundane journey will be made exciting if you do it in the Corvette.
Yes, it needs more physical effort and concentration to drive than many of its more dynamically polished peers, but for some that will be the very point of its appeal. If you’re one of them, then you will undoubtedly adore the Stingray’s particular brand of visceral thrills.
However, even with a temptingly low price, it’s impossible to overlook rivals such as the Jaguar F-type V6 S Coupe, which is actually cheaper, barely any slower, is just as much fun and has the steering wheel on the right side of the car. Sadly, that makes the Corvette unjustifiable.
Outrageous and entertaining though it is, there are better cars available for the same money.
What Car? says...
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Engine size 6.2-litre V8
Price from £61,495
Torque 465lb ft
0-60mph 4.2 seconds
Top speed 185mph (est)
Fuel economy 23.5mpg