If the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette—the Stingray, harkening back to the 1963 version of the car (Mark Reuss, GM North America president: “Like the ’63 Sting Ray the best Corvettes embodied performance leadership, delivering cutting-edge technologies, breathtaking design and awe inspiring driving experiences. The all-new Corvette goes farther than ever, thanks to today’s advancements in design, technology and engineering.”)—was a child, then it would be too short to ride by itself on the Disneyland Autopia ride and 0.6 inch taller than the requirement to get on the Rock-and-Roller Coaster at the Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida.
(GM photo by John F. Martin)
It is merely 48.6-inches high. It is 73.9 inches wide, 177 inches long, and has a 106.7 –inch wheelbase, for those who are counting. Which is to say it is low, wide, and aggressive, it has an array of technology that makes it almost precocious.
Of course, the child analogy (the recently reopened “Test Track sponsored by Chevrolet” at Walt Disney World Epcot notwithstanding—and you only need to be 40-inches tall to ride that) is somewhat misleading, as the Corvette is 60 years old, having been introduced at the General Motors Motorama show in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City January 17, 1953, 60 years ago today.
The 2014 Corvette, which is as quintessentially American as Disney, represents the seventh generation of the car.
So let’s take a look at the three aspects that Mark Reuss cited, the Design, Technology, and Engineering.
“Developing a new Corvette, while every designer’s dream, is not an easy task,” said Ken Parkinson, GM executive director of global design. “The goal was a bold design statement that embraced the advanced technology of the car, while enhancing its overall performance in everything from the wind tunnel to the track.”
Tom Peters, exterior design director for the car, riffed on the stingray aspects of the Stingray. Speaking of the fish in the context of the Corvette, he said, “Their beauty comes from their purpose, designed to cut through air or water as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
But as the car seems more decidedly geometric, Peters also cited an aircraft influence, as well, which segues to the observation from Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager, “Every square inch of the 2014 Corvette's exterior is designed to enhance high-performance driving. The team delivered a great balance of low drag for efficiency and performance elements for improved stability and track capability—all in a sculpted design that excites in all the ways that a Corvette has for six decades.”
Yes, they spent hours in the wind tunnel crafting the Corvette. And yes, designers and engineers worked together to create the car, which led to design features that are truly functional, such as the venting in the hood to reduce total front-end lift, front fender side coves to vent underhood air pressure and thereby reducing aerodynamic drag, and “aircraft-inspired” taillamp vents and lower rear-fascia air outlets to exhaust the air from the differential and transmission heat exchangers.
Inside the Corvette, the aircraft analogy continues: Every feature and detail in the interior is designed to enhance the driver’s connection to the Corvette. It starts with the fighter-jet inspired wraparound cockpit; continues to build with the smaller steering wheel [the wheel is 14.1-inches in diameter], more supportive seats [which have magnesium frames], and high-definition, configurable screens, and is finished in gorgeous materials,” said Helen Emsley, interior design director.
There are the two, just-mentioned eight-inch configurable screens for information ranging from an array of driver-required information to infotainment settings, as well as a micro-LED screen for the passenger’s climate control.
As regards driving performance, there is available third-generation Magnetic Ride Control featuring a new twin-write/dual-coil damper system that reacts 40% faster than the previous generation; electric power steering system (the steering column stiffness was increased 150% and the intermediate shaft torsional stiffness was improved 600%, which improve steering feel. The Z51 Performance Package includes a smart electronic limited slip differential that shifts torque between the rear wheels as required, predicated on an algorithm that factors in parameters including vehicle speed, steering input, and throttle position. The 450-hp, 62.-liter V8 engine features direct injection, active fuel management, and continuously variable valve timing. “By leveraging technology, Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer said, “we are able to get more out of every drop of gasoline and because of that we expect the new Corvette will be the most fuel-efficient 450 horsepower car on the market.” They spent more than six-million hours of computational analysis on the combustion system.
As is the case with Corvettes, the 2014 is a study in advanced materials. There is an aluminum frame structure that features frame rails that consist of five laser-welded segments that vary in wall thickness from 2 to 11 mm, thereby optimizing the required strength and stiffness while minimizing weight—the frame is 57% stiffer than the last generation’s and 99 pounds lighter. There are hollow-cast aluminum front and rear cradles. The last generation has solid cradles. The new ones are 25% lighter and 20% stiffer.
Speaking of the frame: it is being built in-house for the first time at the GM Bowling Green, Kentucky, Assembly Plant. The plant underwent a $131-million upgrade for the 2014 Corvette, of which some $52-million was for a new body shop for building the frame.
The hood and roof panel are made with carbon fiber. The fenders, doors, rear quarter panels and rear hatch panels are made with sheet molded compound (SMC). The underbody panels are made with a carbon-nano composite. Overall, the body structure is 37 pounds lighter than the six-generation Corvette.
Tadge Juechter: “We believe the 2014 Corvette represents the future of modern performance cars because it delivers more power, more driving excitement, and better fuel efficiency.”