It’s hard to remember a time when the Chevrolet Corvette was as popular as the new eighth generation Stingray has proven to be. Chevrolet’s decision to challenge the exotics at a fraction of their price by switching to a mid-engine layout led to 45,000 pre-orders last year, and far more demand than General Motors allocated. In fact, if you’re considering ordering a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, it will likely be a 2022 model, even though we’re one month into 2021.
And now, with the arrival of the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible, one has to wonder if it’s worth it, given its $7,500 premium.
That said, the 2021s do boast a couple changes from 2020. First, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and you no longer have to order the Z51 Performance Package to get the Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension — a very worthwhile option. Finally, Chevrolet is adding “Buckle To Drive,” which prevents the car from shifting out of Park if the driver’s seat belt is not buckled for up to 20 seconds.
Who asked for that? GM’s legal team?
Overview: Of course, if you’re paying attention, every Corvette is technically a convertible, since the Coupe has a removable Targa panel that stows in the trunk. The problem is that whatever trunk space offered disappears once you do this, leaving a diminutive front trunk as the only storage space. Also, the top is a bit bulky, so removing it solo requires a bit of strength.
The convertible resolves this dilemma by lowering the windows and folding the top in a “lets lower the roof at the traffic light” 16 seconds and at speeds up to 30 mph, all at a touch of a button. And there’s still a trunk that’s large enough to hold a set of golf clubs, a couple small overhead-sized suitcases or even a couple duffle bags. Plus there’s still space up front between the wheels for an overnight bag or two.
Exterior: Even more so than the coupe, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible is not a vehicle for those in the Federal Witness Protection Program.
“… There are plenty of cars at any price that attract attention, but few if any elicit the smiles, thumbs up and goodwill that the 2021 Corvette does …”
Stylistically, the Convertible varies little from the Coupe, retaining its aggressively creased skin, sinister headlamps perched atop its yawning maw, outrageously massive side air intakes, aggressive side buttresses, energetic black accents, and purposeful quad exhaust.
But the Convertible loses the Coupe’s most beautiful site: its large rear glass hatch with seven air vents showcasing the Corvette’s classic small-block V-8. Instead, the space is used for the top when it’s folded.
Interior: It’s arguable that this is the finest interior General Motors manufactures, regardless of brand. That’s especially true of the test vehicle’s 3LT interior, which adds $11,450 to the price tag, but nets you a decadent Nappa leather-trimmed interior with GT2 bucket seats trimmed in carbon fiber, although it would have been nice if the passenger seat didn’t rattle when unoccupied. They are very comfortable and supportive, even on long drives and the heating and ventilation make them even more comfortable.
As in the Coupe, each seat is as divided as America’s political discourse, thanks to a very tall center console with an extraordinarily shallow center console bin that’s useful for holding a pair of sunglasses and a packet of pocket facial tissues. One suspects that tall tunnel lies in wait for the electrified Corvette E-Ray yet to come. The power rear window, which recedes like an old Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, is a nice touch.
Technology and Safety: Being a sports car, Chevrolet doesn’t go overboard with driver-assist safety systems, only adding those that truly aid the driver, like rear cross-traffic alert and rear park assist – both of which help given this car’s lousy over-the-shoulder and rear visibility.
The Corvette’s 8-inch touchscreen uses the latest Chevy infotainment software and seems far less sluggish than other GM vehicles. It’s very intuitive and easy to use. Track hounds will appreciate the 12-inch digital information cluster that features a g-force meter, 0-60 mph timer and other track-ready goodies.
Driving Impressions: GM’s eternal 6.2-liter V-8 is slotted behind the driver, generating 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. Opting for the optional Z51 Performance Package ups each figure by five, and adds performance tires, larger brakes, an electronic limited slip differential, more aggressive gearing in the transmission, additional cooling capacity, and a front splitter and rear spoiler.
GM’s first 8-speed dual-clutch transmission funnels all of that goodness to the rear wheels, where 60 mph arrives in 2.9 seconds – making it the fastest Corvette ever – on its way to an 11.2 second quarter mile at 121 mph and a top track speed of 194 mph.
Chevy’s new dual-clutch transmission has a very low first gear, while gears two through six keeps things at a boil, followed by taller seventh and eighth gears for highway cruising.
The car’s mid-engine layout places you farther forward in the cabin than before, which quickens your reaction time. Certainly the powertrain enables that, providing abundant power and lightning quick shifts. Its compelling, intoxicating and incredibly capable.
Throw it into a corner, and it remains flat, all the while comfortably absorbing any road irregularities. It’s a very easy car to drive fast, and it is likely the fastest you’ll come across at any price. What’s most remarkable is that this is done with far less horsepower than its competitors.
In the end, you’ll find this Stingray exceeds every parameter you can throw at it on your favorite meandering mountain road.
Wrap Up: While the eighth generation of GM’s answer to European sports cars is its most radical transformation to date, it is the one that outshines them. It is a remarkably good world-class sports car, and a tribute to the iconic status its name has engendered.