Having $180,000 to spend on a car is a luxury many don’t have, but for those that do, there appears to be a near infinite number of choices, making the process somewhat overwhelming.
From the high-end performance cars of the three core Germans to two-seater Porsches and even the mighty Nissan GT-R. There is no clear answer to such a fantastic question.
But if mainstream isn’t your thing and the love of American cars is high up on the agenda, there is one car that defies all modern trends and brings about a sense of joy and amazement that has long been lost by so many of its competitors. That car, is of course, the Chevrolet Corvette C7 Stingray.
The American cruiser is an incredibly rare sight in Australia, mainly as it’s not made officially in right-hand drive. It takes the likes of conversion experts Performax International (Brisbane) to manage the entire process and have the car ADR approved for use in Australia. The conversion process costs around $60,000 and to have the company source, import and register the vehicle ready for road use is around $180,000.
So, what’s it like to live with?
Firstly, the beauty of owning a modern Corvette in Australia is the attention. It doesn’t matter where you take it, it turns heads at an incredible rate. As you can see in our accompanying video, it hardly failed to make itself noticed.
We did the same thing with a green Lamborghini Huracan some months ago, and it failed to have as much of an impact. Let’s put it this way, there are far more current-generation Lamborghinis and Ferraris in Australia than Corvettes, so when it comes to exclusivity, you’re in a league of your own.
Secondly, the interior is, well, American. The materials inside feels cheap but the sports seats are comfortable and supportive. Our converted car made plenty of low-frequency vibrations when driven at low speeds – so much so it became painful – and the trim on the driver’s door continued to come loose during our few days with the car.
The infotainment system refused to continuously stay connected to our iPhone and even when it was working, the Bluetooth dropped out frequently and drove us mad. Nonetheless, they are no doubt issues that are rectifiable.
Thirdly, it’s not as sporty as you might expect. Chevrolet has trimmed the weight of the C7 Stingray down to just 1496kg, which is very impressive for a car that measures 4492mm x 1877mm x 1239mm and looks even bigger. But it doesn’t feel light, or necessarily all that fast.
The Stingray is powered by a 6.2-litre LT1 V8 that generates 339kW of power and 624Nm of torque (boosted to 347kW and 630Nm with the optional performance exhaust). Our test car was equipped with the Z51 performance pack, which amongst other things, added a dry-sump engine oil system and extra engine cooling and better gear ratios to cut the 0-96km/h time (0-60mph) to a claimed 3.8 seconds (4 seconds without Z51). That would make it a solid four-second car to a 100km/h.
Now look, we tried to replicate its acceleration claims a few times, and we understand that being a rear-mounted, seven-speed manual makes getting that time difficult in the real world, but we hardly managed to get it under five seconds (Vbox tested on a private road, of course).
Perhaps if we were willing to be much harder on the gearbox it might have saved a half a second, but realistically, this will not scare the Germans who claim to be in the low- to mid-four seconds.
You can also have the C7 with a six-speed automatic. It’s rather interesting the Corvette is available with a manual at all, more so that even as a manual, it has steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters. Yes, let that sink in a few seconds. What do they do you ask? Help change gears? No. They enable and disable the rev-matching system… which is utterly ridiculous.
Instead of having an on/off button to the right of the steering wheel or in the centre console, Chevrolet has decided it would be easier to just make one steering wheel system for all models and those who want a manual gearbox can just have paddle-shifters anyway, albeit utilised for something different. Weird.
On the plus side, the rev-matching system means you can sound like a pro as you come up to the lights. Unfortunately, our test car didn’t have the performance exhaust option ticked (which we found odd) and as such, the sound of the new small-block V8 wasn’t nearly as loud or as lethal as we hoped it would be. It’s not that it doesn’t sound good, just that our home grown Aussie heroes would eat it for breakfast in a sound off.
Out on a twisty mountainous road, the C7 Stingray feels its size. It’s not a sports car that enjoys the tight stuff, it is American after all, but it’s also not that bad. It’s akin to a big GT car, but given its weight, we were hopeful for a little more in the dynamics department.
Ignoring the low-speed vibrations, the C7 can easily be driven as a daily. It’s a comfortable car, and despite having no localised tuning, it rides over Australia’s average road conditions with ease.
As we pushed harder and harder through the hills, it’s hard not to have some respectful love for the Corvette. It’s an honest car, it does what it is meant to do and it does it well. The problem with the Stingray is not really the car as the sum of its parts, but the price.
In the nation of Donald Trump, the C7 can be had for around US$60,000, or about $80,000 in our money. The fact it doubles in price as part of the import and conversion process is partially why it sees itself go up against much better-engineered European and Japanese sports cars. It’s an unfair comparison.
If it was around $100,000, the C7 would be a great choice. It would be in a price bracket that has no real competition. Alas, where it is positioned now, it would need a true lover of American cars to fork out the asking price. But those that do, won't be disappointed.
You can find out more about the conversion process at Performax International website.
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