By now, we’ve all seen the pictures and video from its debut at the North American International Auto Show. We’ve seen the right to buy the first car to come off the assembly line sold at auction for $1.1 million this past weekend. So now that the dust has settled, here’s my take.
Lines and accents and angles, oh my!
In an effort to appeal to younger buyers, the designers covered the car with lines and angles, new styling treatments and accents pieces. Did it work? The body panels look stretched taut like strained muscles. I don’t want to go as far as saying it looks like a bad face lift, one which loses all facial characteristics and expression, but it kinda does. Although it’s sitting on a new aluminum frame, engine block and bespoke body panels, the chief engineer for the new C7, Tadge Juechter, states that the goal here was to take any weakness from the old car and convert them into strengths. In that, I see this vehicle as more of an evolution than a revolution for Corvette, which like the Porsche 911, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
While it’s still instantly recognizable as a ‘Vette, most of all in profile, it’s design is more… busy. There’s a lot going on, wherever you look, and I’m not convinced that the designers entirely got away with it. Take the headlight cluster for example. Here we have a single HID projector, a strip of amber LED’s and a third “hockey stick” white LED, which acts as the DRL (daytime running light). Again, it works, but busy nonetheless. The strip of LED’s has been around for a number of years now and starting to look dated and the white LED looks like it was lifted off a McLaren MP4-12C. Incorporated into the new front fascia though, the headlights work well with the grill giving the front end a very clean look. The front end is almost round compared to the squared-off rear with its high haunches. The obvious Chevy design carry-over are those Camaro-style taillights accented by the dropped angular vents at the corners. There’s been a lot of talk over this historical departure from the round taillights. As I see it though, these rectangular lights work better with the overall design language of the car as the round lights inserted here would simply be out of context. Which is why I don’t concur with those honking, round, quad tail pipes. A set of horns like that will surely give the car a ballsy soundtrack but they detract from the angular design cues which make up the rear. Altogether, these new styling elements make for a busy rear end and cheapen the look of the car. Which is a shame, really, because I’m a fan of the rest of it.
One such element I really like is the removal of the “basket handle” – the strip of roof panel running across the top of the old car – in favor of side 3/4 windows and rakish roof line which give the car a cool, new coupe look. This single change really pushes Corvette’s design language forward, which works to great effect. The other area that impresses is the interior. The seats look proper this time around, coming in two versions: standard and competition. The leather, fit and finish really give it an upscale appeal. The dash, too, has been thoroughly revamped as designers have eliminated any analog gauges. I’ve never been a fan of carbon fiber used in the interior and I’m not here. It’s too racy, much better suited to a more hardcore version than the Stingray. The steering wheel is smaller, which is a good thing, but again busy with buttons that’s just overkill with the infotainment system just a few inches away. The hard buttons on the dash do look higher-spec, much better than the Cavalier parts bin knobs used on the old car.
While the design somewhat works for me, I’m a bit disappointed that the designers didn’t give the ‘Vette more of an up-market appeal. Its look is distinct and brash and unrefined. It plays up to its own stereotype of what Europeans come to expect of American sports cars. This chassis was a canvas for a myriad of design options and yet the design chief seemingly chose the path of least resistance. It’s surprising, really. In the press videos, we heard a lot of the need to appeal to younger buyers and that the new car shouldn’t be “Joe the plumber’s” Corvette – whatever that means. But then take the new Viper, launched last year. It looks all grown up; mature; comfortable in its own clothes. Gone are the days of the baggy jeans, throwback jerseys and baseball hats. It’s coming into its own style opting for a more tailored and dare I say it, elegant, look. I don’t think anyone will argue that the new Viper looks too conservative as it hasn’t lost any of its appeal as a mad supercar. The new Stingray though is more polarizing, succumbing to design trends. It’s like the foil to any Aston Martin: a car which takes itself too seriously and oozes British snootiness and self-entitlement. However, where an Aston Martin in ten, twenty years will still look good, the new Corvette will look dated.
That’s my take. For everything else there is to know about the new Corvette visit Autoblog.
Here’s Leno, aka denim on denim, with a sneak peak on Jay Leno’s Garage.