When it comes to good ole’ fashioned American icons, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray must be up there alongside the Empire State and the Star Spangled Banner.
And as America’s only significant sports car contender with a history spanning 62 years, this seventh-generation Stingray has never seen the model looking so good.
Apart from being a completely new design, the latest Chevrolet Corvette also marks the return of the fabled Stingray name, previously only attached to a Corvette racer concept penned by Peter Brock under Bill Mitchell in 1957.
In fact, it was last used way back in 1976, with General Motors’ third-generation version.
Our tester is the US$59,995 - plus on-road costs - open-air version of the much-lauded $54,995 2015 Corvette Stingray Coupe.
Our testing ground is everywhere from Zuma Beach, north of Los Angeles, to Huntington Beach Pier, down South.
In most cases I’d go for the coupe, but the weather here in Southern California is as it always is, hot and dry during the day, capped-off with a chilled respite during the evening.
It’s ideal conditions for top-down cruising along the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway, with the odd blast through those epic Malibu canyons for some proper dynamic evaluation.
With the Corvette, it’s always been about lightweight construction and that hasn’t changed. An aluminium frame lies beneath a high-tech composite body, though it doesn’t it doesn’t extend to the roof. Engineers deemed it rigid enough to support a soft-top without the need for additional structural reinforcement.
Other weight-saving measures include a genuine carbonfibre bonnet, while underneath the car there are more composite panels.
Thankfully, there’s still no folding metal hardtop on offer with the Corvette. As part of the model’s longstanding lightweight philosophy there’s an electrically powered cloth top with a glass rear window that takes around 20 seconds –up or down - and can be activated at up to speeds of 48km/h – so you won’t get caught on the run with a half-open roof as you pull away at the traffic lights.
In keeping with the Stingray’s raft of newfound technology, the top can also be lowered via the remote key fob – super handy if you’ve parked in the Californian sun for an hour or two.
Regardless whether the roof is up or down, or whether you’re in Beverly Hills or Long Beach, the 2015 Corvette Stingray is a bona fide head turner.
The new design is a massive departure from its C6-designated predecessor. There are precious few graceful curves to speak of; sharp edges and far more menacing styling have replaced all that.
There’s no denying it’s a tad chaotic at first sight, but I’m a big fan, especially of the beautifully integrated front and rear light assemblies and the outrageous quad exhaust pipes. This thing looks fast even when it’s standing still.
See all those intakes and vents? Well, they all actually work - either removing heat or directing cool air onto key mechanicals.
The Corvette Stingray Convertible sits so low to the ground that the vents for the transmission and diff are literally under the body.
And so there’s no confusing this new version for anything but the latest C7 incarnation, with its low-slung profile, long bonnet and short overhang out back. It’s pure Corvette.
Inside, the car’s styling revolution continues unabated with a fresh approach to what has always followed the cheap and cheerful line. Now, you get a luxurious cabin with up-to-date technology and high-grade materials that rival anything from Japan or Europe in this segment.
The Kalahari-coloured super-soft leather upholstery is a standout inclusion and the sports seats are some of the most sumptuous and supportive in any sports car I’ve driven.
This is a proper high-tech, driver-focused cockpit that’s a big step up from the previous fit out. There’s an expansive inventory of creature comforts like the premium Bose audio system, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, eight-way power seat adjustment, dual-zone climate control and keyless ignition and entry.
An eight-inch central touchscreen controls all the infotainment functions, as well as a customisable display in the instrument cluster that shows a series of unique colour displays depending on which of the five drive modes is selected.
Despite the generous list of standard features, our Shark Gray tester also featured an additional 12 grand in options, which added things like heated and cooled seats, high-resolution colour head-up display (one of the best on the market), remote vehicle start and multi-mode exhaust.
One thing that has never changed, is the Corvette’s formula of shoehorning a large displacement V8 up front to drive the rear wheels, only this time round, it’s got even more poke.
The standard power output from the pushrod V-8’s 6.2-litre displacement is 339kW of power and 623Nm of torque. But if you get the free-flow performance exhaust system, which bump those numbers to 343kW and 630Nm – making this Corvette Stingray Convertible a mighty quick car.
Throttle response is instant and power delivery from the normally aspirated V8 is beautifully linear. And it only gets better. Acceleration from a standing start is positively brutal, provided you’re brave enough to keep your right foot pinned. Select the Track setting, and this thing will blast from zero to 100km/h in around four seconds flat. Top speed is a claimed 284km/h.
Better still; the new Stingray really opens up in the mid-range, where it delivers such colossal straight-line performance, to feel every bit as quick as any of the Italian exotics. There is no doubt whatsoever – this is a proper supercar that rewards the driver on more than a few levels.
While diehard enthusiasts might begrudge those buyers for choosing the new eight-speed automatic transmission over the seven-speed manual, let me assure you, it’s a worthy addition to this all-American muscle car, especially given LA’s notorious stop-start traffic.
Left in the default auto mode, the Corvette feels almost docile around town. Even the exhaust note is sedate and non-threatening.
Nudge the leather-wrapped shifter to the left and choose the Sport mode though, and all hell brakes loose as the silencers come off and those four big-bore exhausts start belting out a baritone-level boom to rival its Corvette racer cousins at Le Mans.
Left in Sport auto, the transmission will do a pretty good job of selecting the right gear for any given situation, complete with thundering throttle blips to boot. But if you want to attain the highest level of driver engagement for those dynamic canyon runs, then you’ll need to start pushing and pulling on the paddleshifters.
The transformation from one drive mode to another is immediate and the gearshifts are crisp and dual-clutch-quick, but there’s also a surprising level of refinement to the whole process.
Even in Track mode there’s no massive shove-in-the-back on full-throttle upshifts like you get on some of the euro exotics, and the surround-sound effects with the roof down are simply epic.
While there’s no doubt that this thing ticks all the boxes when it comes showmanship and straight-line go, the rear test for any new Corvette wishing to compete with euro rivals is how it performs in the corners.
For starters, there’s enormous grip on offer from the low-profile Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flats and body control is very good, so the car goes exactly where you point it. It’s not tied down like a Porsche Boxter S, but the front end of the Corvette feels nicely planted and more than up to the task chasing corners in the canyons at a reasonable clip.
The standard steel brakes do a good job of reining in the Vette’s pace, even when you’re pushing – though CarAdvice’s resident stunt driver Alborz managed to light them up in those very same Canyons, so clearly he was working them mighty hard.
Riding on the standard suspension system (adaptive suspension is optional) the ride is exactly what I was expecting: firm, but not crashy. It’s perfect on freeways, but hard-edged B-roads can upset the chassis at times.
As a boulevard cruiser the 2015 Corvette Stingray Convertible is a spectacular success. It’s a proper looker with a quality cabin and the very latest in infotainment technology.
In keeping with the Corvette’s muscle car heritage, it also offers supercar pace with an exhaust note to rival any of the European exotics.