The driver of the green Pontiac didn't have a lot of options. Chased by a steady
stream of 2014 Corvette Stingrays during an event that finally allowed the
world's automotive media into the driver's seat of Chevrolet's highly
anticipated seventh-gen 'Vette, the Pontiac made a sensible decision: Its driver
pulled over to watch the show.
Jaw hanging wide, he seemed agog, while his passenger held an arm out the side window, fist raised in a devil-horn salute.
At least that's what I thought I saw. It's hard to know for sure when rocketing down a straight in a 455-horsepower V-8, as I did in August on the canyon roads outside Carmel, Calif., where Chevrolet unleashed its powerful new Stingray less than a month before its debut at dealers.
The new C7 Corvette is the same 6.2-liter displacement as the outgoing model, but it's far more technologically advanced for the $51,995 price tag. The small-block V-8 is the Corvette's first use of direct injection and variable valve timing, the combination of which yields 50 more pound-feet of torque for more satisfying foot stomps. It is also the first time a Corvette engine has employed cylinder deactivation that effectively cuts the displacement to a 3.1-liter V-4, even at a speed of 100 mph, to save fuel.
Cylinder deactivation trumps the usual means of upping the giddyap while also improving miles per gallon. The EPA estimates the 2014 Corvette at 21 mpg combined for the seven-speed manual transmission version.
Cylinder deactivation can improve the car's fuel efficiency by as much as 15 percent _ yielding greater fuel economy gains than mere weight savings or aerodynamic improvements, both of which were also employed for an icon that's determined to shed its image as a heavy, unrefined sports car for men in the midst of a midlife crisis.
The 3,300-pound Corvette lost 100 pounds by using an all-aluminum frame, another 18 by switching the hood and removable roof panel to carbon fiber and an additional 11 with composite body panels made from a mix of glass and carbon fiber with a nano clay filler.
Still, over the 200 or so miles I spent with the car, I averaged 16 mpg.
That number jumped to an impressive 26 mpg when I was driving in the distinctly un-Corvette-like eco mode _ one of five drive modes, including tour, sport and track, that can be paired with stability and traction controls, all of which are accessed through a knob to the left of the gear shift.
A steering-wheel button allows more aggressive driving to be paired with a racier look for the dashboard, including a track theme that blows up the size of the tachometer and presents it as a colored, horizontal bar graph that offered better visibility than a gauge when pushing pedal to metal and approaching redline.
The Corvette is available with either a six-speed automatic or seven-speed manual transmission with a short throw and rev matching. The rare sports car to have a stick shift, the Corvette was particularly fun to drive as a manual, especially with its rev matching feature turned on through paddles mounted to the steering wheel. The exhaust note on the Corvette is already as throaty as the Allstate pitchman under aggressive acceleration, but rev matching is an additional aural cheap thrill.
Chevrolet's goal in updating its most recognizable nameplate wasn't only to up
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