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Corvette Stingray Over-Delivers on Horsepower

Paul Eisenstein, CNBC Contributor
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 | 2:29 PM ET
2014 Corvette Stingray
Source: chevrolet.com
2014 Corvette Stingray

When it comes to the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, General Motors has decided to under-promise and over-deliver.

The maker had originally said it expected the new sports car, known to fans as the C7, to make an already impressive 450 horsepower once final numbers were calculated.

In fact, the Corvette will come in at 455 hp, and with the optional high-performance exhaust package, that gets bumped up to 460 ponies. This is the most powerful base car in the long and colorful story of the 'Vette, which made its debut six decades ago.

That will make the Chevrolet Corvette the most powerful base car in the long and colorful story of the 'Vette, which made its debut six decades ago.

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But power alone doesn't tell the entire story of the new 2-seater which has been completely remade for 2014 and which GM now hopes will help it compete more directly with the European brands that have dominated the global sports car market.

The heart of the Stingray is its LT1 6.2-liter V-8. The all-new engine has been undergoing extensive testing and tweaking as it approaches production, leading GM engineers to originally issue conservative estimates of their final performance figures. Other makers that have initially over-promised and under-delivered have taken severe hits in the market—and have even had to pay fines when their production versions were found to produce less than power than promised.

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In base trim, the LT1 will make 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. That compares to the outgoing 2013 Chevrolet Corvette's 430 hp and 424 lb-ft. The new C7 also can be ordered with an optional exhaust package that improves the breathing of its engine and ups the ante to 460 hp and 465 lb-ft.

"The 2014 Corvette Stingray's LT1 engine is a triumph of advanced technology, delivering more power and torque than ever before with greater efficiency," boasted Jordan Lee, chief engineer on the engine program.

"The LT1's performance complements the Corvette's low mass with a tremendous feeling of power that builds as the rpm climbs," he added. "Drivers will experience more power and acceleration than ever before with the standard engine—in fact, its power and torque surpass many uplevel engines offered by competitors."

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But that's only part of the story. The new C7 is lighter and better balanced than the outgoing model. Engineers adopted a variety of lightweight materials, such as a roof and hood made of the same carbon fiber found in many of the most exotic models from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini—for significantly more money. Meanwhile, the powertrain has been mounted as low as possible to improve the new Corvette's center of gravity.

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With a better "power-to-weight" ratio, then, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is expected to deliver even better off-the-line launches than the raw horsepower might suggest, around 4 seconds 0 to 60. Meanwhile its improved weight and balance will translate into better handling in curves and corners—if the new model lives up to expectations.

Chevrolet certainly has been building expectations, especially after it acknowledged it would have to delay the introduction of the C7, which it originally hoped to bring to market in time for last year's celebration of the sports car's 60th anniversary. As TheDetroitBureau.com revealed earlier this year, the program actually had to be halted twice because of GM's financial problems, once during the lead-up and again during its 2009 bankruptcy. Senior program managers have joked that this turned out to be a plus, giving them the opportunity to exceed original plans.

Among other things, that allowed them to revise the design of the edgy new sports car, adopting a more radical shape than was originally approved.

"This version almost didn't happen," revealed C7 design director Tom Peters, during a private conversation.

Despite making more horsepower than any prior version of the Corvette, the 2014 model will also get best-ever mileage of 26 mpg on the highway, according to EPA testing.

The seeming contradiction underscores the adoption of new powertrain technologies such as direct injection, variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management, which allows some of the eight cylinders to shut off when the new Corvette is coasting or cruising.

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The new sports car is the first in decades to be given the "Stingray" designation," previously reserved for only the most powerful Corvettes. But Chevy insiders have broadly hinted that even higher-powered spin-offs, such as the Z06 and ZR1 'Vettes will follow over the next couple years, as well as the convertible version unveiled during the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray coupe will be launched late this summer at a starting price of $51,995. The convertible will follow by year's end.

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-By CNBC Contributor Paul Eisenstein; Follow him on Twitter @DetroitBureau

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