Chevrolet has lifted the lid on the fastest and most powerful convertible it has ever brought to market, a ragtop version of the seventh-generation Corvette sports car that, in coupe form, was one of the stars of the Detroit Motor Show barely two months ago. The new soft-top also will have the fastest and simplest-to-operate foldaway roof.
The convertible version of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray– the C7 to fans – made its formal introduction at the Geneva Motor Show, a move that underscores Chevy’s goal of increasing its worldwide presence, with the ‘Vette as its halo car.
“The convertible has been a part of the heart and soul of Corvette since the very beginning in 1953,” said Ed Welburn, GM’s vice president of global design. “With the all-new Corvette Stingray, we designed and developed the coupe and convertible simultaneously. As a result, the Corvette Stingray offers an open-top driving experience with no compromise in performance, technology or design.”
As with the coupe, the C7 convertible will be powered by the 450-horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 V-8. Making 450 lb-ft of torque, it will be paired to a 7-speed manual transmission with Rev Match, or a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
In fact, there are surprisingly few differences between the Stingray convertible and the C7 coupe, GM officials emphasized. Tadge Juechter, the director of engineering for the project, told TheDetroitBureau.com that a convertible was part of the original plan and that meant a design in which no structural reinforcements would be needed even after removing the coupe’s aluminum roof.
Both versions rely on a rigid aluminum frame which, Chevy says, is 57% stiffer than the old steel-frame sixth-generation Corvette, while also weighing in 99 pounds lighter.
The challenge was to minimize the amount of weight added by the ragtop assembly. The difference is modest, the maker said, so the Corvette Convertible is expected to be only a fraction of a second slower than the coupe. While final engineering work is still underway on both models, the hardtop is expected to launch from 0 to 60 in “less than 4 seconds,” according to Juechter.
While 0 to 60 times will clearer play in the Corvette convertible’s favor, Chevrolet recognized that competitors have made significant improvements in the functionality and appearance of their own ragtops. One goal was to maintain the basic shape of the Corvette Coupe, which Chevy has done reasonably well.
The top is also easier to operate and significantly faster than the clumsy foldaway roof on the prior-generation ‘Vette. Meanwhile, it can be operated while moving at speeds of up to 30 mph – or from a distance via the car’s remote key fob.
All that’s fine, but why go all the way to Geneva to introduce the new Chevrolet Corvette Convertible rather than, say, waiting for less than a month and reveal it during the last of the season’s big U.S. car shows in New York?
The answer has to do with the changing nature of Chevy itself. While you might think of it as “the Heartbeat of America,” as it long billed itself, the modern reality is that nearly two of every three Chevrolet products will be sold outside of North America this year. In an otherwise retrenching European car market, it’s one of the few growing marques. It’s an increasingly strong player in China and the bowtie brand has traditionally been one of the most powerful in Latin America, as well.
While many of those markets get unique products, such as the Captiva crossover, that we don’t even see in the States, the Corvette has been as much a halo car for Chevrolet abroad as it has been at home. And with GM’s largest brand aiming to turn the C7 remake of “America’s sports car” into a truly global competitor, targeting exotics as far afield as Porsche and even Ferrari, Geneva takes the fight to their home turf.
“It’s fitting to introduce the new Stingray convertible on the global stage at Geneva, because Corvette is the face of Chevrolet the world over,” said Susan Docherty, president and managing director of Chevrolet and Cadillac Europe. “It is an icon that has long been recognized and admired even in countries where it’s never officially been offered.”
The unveiling of the 2014 Chevrolet Stingray Corvette convertible comes barely a week after the last “C6” Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Bowling Green, Kentucky – the last model, fittingly, a white ragtop. The plant is already being updated for the C7 line. The first cars should reach showrooms in mid to late-summer.