Buying Used: 2014-2019 Chevrolet Corvette
Typical Used Prices: 2014 - $52,000; 2019 - $66,500
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Supercar performance, highway gas sipper, last three-pedal Corvette
- What’s Bad: Touchscreen glitches, cracked and bent alloy wheels, transmission woes
America’s sports car sweetheart, the Chevrolet Corvette, has a long and illustrious history studded with moments of greatness, though its launch in 1953 was an inauspicious one.
Its radical fibreglass body was the inaugural Corvette’s only new element. Everything else was taken off the parts shelf, making the Corvette essentially a run-of-the-mill Chevrolet sedan under the skin powered by an aging 150-hp “Blue Flame” inline six-cylinder engine mated to a two-speed automatic transmission.
Of the 300 Corvettes hand built that year in Flint, Michigan, only 183 were sold due to their ho-hum performance and lofty sticker price of $3,513. A new Jaguar XK120 retailed for $3,345 at the time.
The 1955 Corvette earned some sports car cred after adopting a 195-hp, 265-cubic-inch (4.3 litre) V8 engine and three-speed manual gearbox. By 1957, the Corvette was the first mass-produced American automobile to boast one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement (283hp/283ci).
The Corvette’s die was cast, with ever-escalating horsepower numbers, improved suspension designs and a succession of jet-fighter body styles through seven generations capturing the hearts and wallets of eager buyers.
With the introduction of the eighth generation (C8) Corvette – which finally achieved mid-engine nirvana – it’s time to kick the tires on the C7 and examine its used-car appeal.
Folklore has it that GM’s engineers spent all of 2007 developing a radical mid-engine Corvette, but the Great Recession and the automaker’s own bankruptcy pushed those plans far into the future. As a result, the C7 Corvette became an evolution of the C6 design, albeit a pretty ambitious one.
In an attempt to cut curb weight and improve structural rigidity, carbon-fibre floor and bulkhead panels were bonded between the hydroformed-aluminum main members of the patented space frame. The carbon-fibre hood and roof panel, die-cast magnesium crossmembers, aluminum cast and forged suspension and driveline components, not to mention the time-honoured plastic leaf springs, all contributed to the C7’s lightness of being.
The Corvette was offered as a coupe or convertible in Stingray, Stingray Z51 or Z06 trim. The coupe features a removable roof panel that stows in the trunk, while the convertible has a power soft top that can be operated while the car is moving at speeds up to 48 km/h. The coupe’s hatchback provides 15 cubic feet of cargo capacity, while the convertible’s trunk can hold 10 cubic feet of gear whether the top is up or down.
Chevrolet was determined to make the car’s interior competitive with the premium import nameplates. The cockpit is driver-centric with a canted centre stack that solely serves the pilot. The seats provide firm, well-shaped support, while the available sport seats add even more lateral snugness. The cabin turned out better than ever, but there was room for improvement.
“The materials used are just so-so, closer to Walmart than Brooks Brothers. On a sunny summer day the amount of glass in this car makes the cockpit uncomfortably hot, unless you are willing to take out the roof panel or buy an aftermarket insert,” noted one owner online.
The standard 8-inch touchscreen display utilizes Chevrolet’s MyLink electronics interface, which includes smartphone integration. There’s also a customizable display in the instrument cluster that has a different layout for each drive mode selected: Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track – all of which tweak steering, throttle, transmission and stability-control calibrations.
POWERTRAINS AND UPDATES
The Corvette Stingray and Stingray Z51 are powered by an aluminum 6.2-L V8 that drives the rear wheels. While retaining the classic small-block pushrod architecture, it’s thoroughly updated with direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation.
Standard output is 455 hp and 460 pound-feet of torque, while the optional performance exhaust ups those numbers to 460 and 465, respectively. A seven-speed Tremec manual with automated rev-matching is the default gearbox, with a six-speed automatic optional only in 2014, replaced by an eight-speed autobox starting in 2015.
The Z51 sports package provides an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, closer gear ratios in the manual gearbox, larger brakes, dry-sump lubrication to prevent oil starvation, and additional cooling for the brakes, differential and gearbox.
The high-performance Z06, introduced for 2015, steps up to a supercharged and intercooled 6.2-L V8 that generates 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. The eight-speed automatic marks the first time a slushbox was available on a Corvette Z06.
The new-for-2017 Grand Sport largely mirrors the Stingray Z51 in terms of the 460-hp drivetrain, but adds some performance kit from the Z06, including its upgraded cooling system, wider fenders and tires, bigger brakes, adaptive dampers and beefed-up suspension components.
The final model year of the C7 saw the re-introduction of the fabled ZR1, which uses the all-new LT5 6.2-L pushrod V8 equipped with a considerably larger Eaton supercharger that helps the engine produce 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. The car’s active exhaust system and wind-tunnel aerodynamic tuning helped the ZR1 achieve a top speed of 345 km/h.
DRIVING THE C7 CORVETTE
A raucous, V8-powered American sports car with sharp handling and styling to match never gets old. Drivers rave about the C7’s athletic chassis, precise electric-power-steering system, comfortable ride quality and endless supply of horsepower and torque on tap.
Zero to 97 km/h comes up in an astounding 3.9 seconds with the manual transmission in Z06 sports trim, and 4.0 seconds with the automatic. The Z06 can also generate 1.03 g of grip on a skidpad and stop from 70 mph in 137 feet (42 metres), easily the best sports car performance you’ll find at the Corvette’s modest price point.
At the same time, the C7 is a thoroughly modern car that remains eminently accessible as a daily driver and highway cruiser, owners say. The ride is surprisingly forgiving for a car with big wheels and run-flat tires, though the wide rubber generates a lot of noise, especially in the convertible. The optional Magnetic Ride Control dampers provide exceptional ride quality and come recommended. The Corvette exudes a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde duality.
“It can be very comfortable in Touring or Eco mode, or it can be set for track and drive like a race car. I have taken 2,000-mile trips and been very comfortable, and I have taken it to track days to have a blast,” remarked one owner of a 2015 C7.
Drivers are equally impressed by the Corvette’s ability to sip gas. Given the engine’s tractability and tall gearing, highway mileage can easily exceed 35 mpg (8 litres/100 km) with a light foot. Around town, the C7 typically gets 13 litres/100 km, which is hardly punishing.
OWNERS TALK RELIABILITY
Sports cars live a pampered life for the most part; owners tend to drive them on weekends and store them indoors over the harsh winter months. Free of the travails of daily commuting, low-mileage sports cars usually earn rave reviews from owners. Conversely, it makes any complaints about mechanical issues all the more glaring.
The most common issue involves cracked and bent alloy wheels, mostly belonging to performance-oriented Z06 and Grand Sport models. Owners usually have to pay for replacement – at more than $1,000 per wheel – because dealers attribute the cracks to road hazards. Owners disagree and now there’s a U.S. class action lawsuit that alleges 2015 to present Z06 and 2017 to present Grand Sport models are equipped with rims made of a weaker cast alloy rather than forged metal.
Some owners have also reported fuel leaks that can form puddles under their vehicle. A GM-issued letter acknowledges some 2014-17 Corvettes may exhibit cracks on the top of the left fuel tank pump module flange that may cause a fuel leak and odour. The factory issued a technical bulletin (GM 17469) that covers the repair for 10 years.
There are reports of transmission woes in the C7, in limited numbers. The eight-speed automatic has been a little troublesome, with some drivers noting that they’ve had their transmission replaced early on.
“At 29,000 kilometres, the transmission was replaced and at 52,000 km the torque converter was replaced. I understand this was not unusual for the 2015 models,” one C7 owner posted online.
Other mechanical maladies include inconsistent cooling from the air conditioner and seat cooler (if equipped), glitchy touchscreens, intermittent power-steering assist and, in a few cases, engine overheating.
Despite the negative reports, the vast majority of Corvette owners are a happy and forgiving bunch who reason that the relatively low entry price for a Chevrolet offering world-class supercar performance means there’s money left over for repairs. There’s also the matter of driving a crowd-pleasing icon.
“A Torch Red C7 Corvette turns heads wherever you drive. If you’re a shy, quiet type I’d suggest you drive a minivan.”
Also Read: A Look Back at Seven Generations of Corvette