The Corvette Stingray is high on the list of dream cars for many, many Kiwis. As a boy, my favourite cars were the Stingray and the Audi Quattro and Ferrari Testarossa. I never really thought I’d get to sit in a Stingray, let alone borrow one to write a story about it.
I don’t think I am alone in that. This is my first review car my neighbour has ever wanted a drive in — the first time she has shown any interest in cars at all, in fact. At a wine store, the staff come out to have photos taken with it. “First time I’ve seen one in the flesh,” one says.
And it doesn’t disappoint.
It is a rumbling bundle of metal, gas and joy, desperate to make the most mundane trip an exciting adventure. It exists to make every day that much better.
GM Specialty Vehicles are bringing the first factory right-hand-drive Corvettes ever made into New Zealand. The new C8 Corvette is spectacular – featuring a mid-engine 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 that’ll do zero to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds.
Boy, is it fast. It has 500kW of power and 623Nm of torque.
But its 60/40 front/rear weight ratio also means it is incredibly well balanced and quick to manoeuvre.
I’d like to say I was able to get a feel for its cornering abilities, or how well it brakes, but the reality of driving a car this fast and this good on public roads is that I barely scratch the surface of what it can do.
The nearest I got is 0-100km/h on a quiet motorway entrance and all that can really tell us is that it accelerates like a bat out of hell. Or maybe a stingray.
When I picked it up, it was telling me it had been averaging 17.7 litres of petrol per 100km travelled, which is terrible fuel efficiency. Maybe I drive like a grandpa, but I averaged 12.2 litres per 100km, which is still quite a bit, though much better.
A car like this is unlikely to be your daily driver, but it is surprisingly comfortable thanks to excellent suspension. The seats are on the hard side, but even sitting in it for an hour or so is fine.
All NZ-sold Stingrays have a Z51 performance package and Front Lift, which means the front of the car can be raised by 5cm to get over nasty judder bars or driveway entrances. I still wasn’t brave enough to take it into the country, though.
On the coupe, the roof lifts off and sits comfortably in the boot, nestled up against the motor compartment, which itself is covered by glass. There’s also a glass roof between the two passenger seats and the motor, which blocks out plenty of noise.
The convertible has a retractable hardtop that automatically folds over the engine compartment in 16 seconds at speeds of up to 48km/h.
There’s no doubt that noise is a big factor in the Stingray’s appeal. It sounds as loud as hell, particularly in sport mode. The remote even lets you start the engine with a hiss and a roar to impress anyone you may notice standing around it.
The tested 3LT Stingray is on the market at $169,990. This sounds odd to even write, but a European vehicle with similar specs and pedigree would cost much, much more – probably double and then some.
With the engine sitting behind the passengers, the driving position is further forward than I am used to. The bonnet can hardly be seen, allowing for massive road visibility.
Climate control is managed by one single long “jetfighter-style” strip in the centre console. I find it too hard to work with, but that doesn’t really matter. I just switch it to auto and forget about it.
The rear-vision mirror is actually a screen showing a rear camera and I almost instantly switch it off to reveal the traditional mirror. I’m sure it works fine for most people, but the strength of my distance prescription glasses makes the quick change to a near screen discombobulating. The mirror doesn’t seem to give me the same trouble.
But that’s it. I love it more than I should, given its fossil-fuel credentials, and I cannot wait for the electric version, which GM announced in April, to be released next year. Then there won’t be guilt each time I put my foot on the gas.
It makes me feel like an excited little boy. A fine toy for the adult car lover.