General Motors on Sunday unleashed the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the seventh generation of the classic American sports car and the first new version since 2005.
The highly anticipated unveiling came on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit during a special preview at the city's Russell Industrial Center.
The new Corvette boasts an estimated 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, the most powerful standard Corvette in history, Chevy says, not including limited-edition models.
"For 60 years, the Corvette has represented the state of the art in performance cars. To put it simply, this car is the reason I work at General Motors," said Mark Reuss, North American president, as he stood on stage next to a fire-alarm red model, the tarp just pulled off. "It's presence, the performance, the history and the heritage -- everything it stands for -- always raises the hair on the back of my neck."
Reuss portrayed the car as a beacon for the company's engineering.
"Since 1953, through the good times and the bad times for this company, there was always Corvette, demonstrating what it means to win -- to be the best," he said. "And now, as we continue to bolster Chevrolet's best lineup ever, here comes the best Corvette ever."
The exterior is a study in sharp edges and angles, continuing an evolution started with the 2005 redesign of its more-rounded predecessor. If there's a controversial styling element, it will be the rather busy rear end, which replaces the 'Vette's signature round tail lights with squarish lights that lean away from center.
"Of all the reveals at this week's NAIAS, the Corvette is bound to be the most polarizing," said Jesse Toprak, a senior analyst at TrueCar.com. "So many enthusiasts feel bound to the Corvette's swoopy heritage and may find the seventh-generation design to be too angular. On the other hand, there are many who loved the re-creation of the new Camaro and who will welcome the design of the new Corvette."
Bill Visnic, an analyst at auto information company Edmunds.com, said he was "on the fence" about the design.
“There is a need to make them distinctive, but in the case of the Corvette, there is still a need to pay homage to the tradition, and that gives you a mash-up of ideas," he said. "I think it is effective but expected. There is nothing ultra-radical about it. But that is what Corvette is now to Chevrolet and GM.”
If the styling departs from tradition, Chevy draws on the car's heritage with the return of the Stingray name, first used in the revered second-generation 1963 model, production of which ran through 1967.
“Stingray is one of the hallowed names in automotive history,” said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design. “We knew we couldn’t use the Stingray name unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy. The result is a new Corvette Stingray that breaks from tradition, while remaining instantly recognizable as a Corvette the world over.”
The new Stingray will rip through zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds and achieve more than 1G in cornering grip, according to Chevrolet. The car will also be the most fuel-efficient Corvette to date, exceeding the EPA-estimated 26 mpg of the current model.
Both speed and efficiency are aided by a series of weight-saving measures, including a carbon fiber hood and removable roof panel; composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels; "carbon-nano" composite underbody panels and a new aluminum frame. Chevrolet says that the car will have a 50/50 weight balance between front and rear, optimal for handling and driver feel.
The all-new 6.2L LT1 V-8 engine features three new technologies: direct injection, variable valve timing and an active fuel management system that enables the engine to throttle down to a four-cylinder configuration in certain situations, such as highway cruising, where it doesn’t need the extra juice.
Putting power to the ground will be a new seven-speed manual transmission with what Chevy calls Active Rev Matching, which "anticipates gear selections and matches engine speed for perfect shifts every time." The automatic transmission option is a six-speed with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
A Z51 performance package will include an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling, and an aerodynamics package that Chevrolet says improves high-speed stability.
The car rides on new 18-by-8.5-inch front and 19-by-10-inch rear wheels. Models with the Z51 performance package feature 19-by-8.5-inch front and 20-by-10-inch rear forged aluminum wheels. Both will wear Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat tires that Chevy says were developed specifically for the seventh-generation Corvette.
The car's interior, a point of criticism in past Corvettes, will include carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather trim pieces, and two 8-inch configurable "infotainment" screens. There will be two seat choices: one for all-around comfort and a "Competition Sport" option with aggressive side bolstering to hold the driver in place during hard cornering.
The cockpit also features five settings the driver can select to optimize the car for varying driving conditions: Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track.
"The result is a more rewarding, more confident experience, whether you’re commuting in a downpour or charging through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca," said Harlan Charles, product manager.
GM has not revealed pricing for the new Stingray but said it will be in the range of the current car. The sticker price for the standard version of the 2013 Corvette starts at $50,000 and variations climb north of six figures.
Corvette production in recent years has plummeted -- from more than 40,000 in 2007 to less than 12,000 in 2012 -- but that's likely largely due to an economy that hampered luxury purchases. Historically, Corvette redesigns, which have averaged once every nine years, have boosted production by 50 percent or more.
Excitement over the new 'Vette could burnish perceptions of the entire Chevrolet lineup, said Toprak of TrueCar.com.
"Even though the new Corvette will not have significant market share impact for GM, the vehicle remains ... an iconic symbol of American car-making -- combining power and beauty of design," Toprak said. "In a year where GM's sales are expected to be stagnant, the new Corvette will bring the much needed showroom traffic to Chevrolet dealers."
The car will be manufactured at GM’s Bowling Green, Ky., assembly plant, which underwent a $131-million upgrade, including about $52 million for a new body shop to build the aluminum frame in-house for the first time. It will go on sale in the third quarter of this year.