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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible Test Drive

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    Chevrolet

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    Chevrolet

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    Chevrolet

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible may look like it’s all about having fun in the sun, but it’s also an expert at crisis management.

No, not the corporate kind that GM is so familiar with these days, and not your mid-life crisis, either. It’s the one where you're trying to decide whether to buy the convertible sports car you really want or the coupe version you know is going to be a better car.

In the case of the new Corvette, it was designed from the start to be turned into a convertible and is built on a super-stiff aluminum chassis that does just fine without a roof. Chevrolet says the drop-top is only 1 or 2 percent less rigid than the Stingray coupe, compared to 40 percent or more for many vehicles.

Of course, Chevrolet did cheat a little to pull off this amazing feat. The Stingray “coupe” is really a targa with a removable center roof panel, so it’s already pretty much an open-top car. Nevertheless, both are significantly stiffer than the last true hardtop ’Vettes -- the 2013 Z06 and ZR1 -- but one can’t help but wonder what a couple of roof rails might do.

As it is, the convertible gains just 64 pounds in the conversion. With the box checked for the optional $1,195 performance exhaust, which increases the power of its 6.2-liter V8 from 455 hp to 460 hp and gives it the voice of an angry Titan, it’s good to get you to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and down the quarter mile in about 12 ticks – assuming your local drag strip allows convertibles without rollover protection, which is one place the coupe still holds the upper hand.

More telling is how capable it is on a road less straight. Without a twisting, bending chassis it’s as sure-footed and stable as any Stingray, delivering a fine ride along the way. Previous Corvette convertibles were a bit of a mess, with quivering body panels and shock waves accompanying every little bump. This one is as solid as a bauxite rock.

A Z51 performance package and magnetically controlled active suspension are available, and I’d recommend both if you were buying the coupe, but seeing as how the convertible isn’t a track car, you’re better off saving the money, because it doesn’t need it and you do. With a starting price of $58,995, the convertible costs five grand more than the coupe.

You can skip the six-speed automatic, too. It’s merely adequate, and an 8-speed is on the way sometime next year. The standard 7-speed manual is a slick-shifting gem with automatic rev-matching on downshifts and a stratospheric overdrive that keeps the motor turning at just 1,200 rpm at 70 mph, good for a conservative 29 mpg rating. Cracking 30 mpg is no problem in the real world.

Speaking of 30, the top can be opened at speeds up to 30 mph, or remotely via the keyfob when the car is parked, neatly tucking under its hard tonneau cover. When it’s up, the thick, triple-layer fabric roof keeps the cabin as quiet as a hardtop at the expense of rearward visibility, the Stingray convertible’s main drawback. OK, so maybe you can’t have it all.

That is, unless you’re talking about the interior, which gets the exact same treatment as the coupe’s. It’s well-appointed, fitted with a touch-screen infotainment system, available head-up display, and a configurable digital instrument cluster with three layouts, a G-force meter and an automatic stopwatch for timing sprints, among other functions.

The not too big, but not too tiny 10-cubic-foot trunk may prove more useful, however, easily swallowing a couple of duffle bags for your weekend at the beach. Convertibles are all about fun in the sun, after all.

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible

Base price: $58,995

Type: 2-passenger, 2-door convertible

Engine: 6.2L V8

Power: 455 hp, 460 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 7-speed manual

MPG: 17 city/29 hwy