New automatic Corvette doesn’t lose a step

The Dallas Morning News (TNS)

Every slinky Stingray at the old Steakley Chevrolet dealership in Dallas bore my sweaty teenage imprints.

As a car-dazzled dreamer, I’d go to check out Corvettes, pressing against their windows to make sure they all had stick shifts and clutch pedals.

No snorting, self-respecting ’Vette should ever be emasculated by some sissy slush-box automatic, I harrumphed.

Real Corvettes required strong arms and legs, demanding that drivers wrestle them down the road stabbing clutches as stiff as a leg press at the gym.

Those days left deep marks.

My semi-senior feet still dance daily across three pedals, moving to a faint melody I learned decades ago.

But in the push-button 21st century - when some folks view lifting a fork as aerobic exercise - automatics absolutely rule.

I knew the end was near for us left-legged drivers when Lamborghini and Ferrari quit offering manual transmissions. Then, Porsche began building its road-ripping 911 GT3 and 911 Turbo in automatic only.

And now, my thundering Corvettes.

Sure, you can still order a seven-speed manual in the 2015 Stingray. But the heavily redesigned ’Vette is also available with a new eight-speed automatic that most buyers will surely select.

Just go ahead and put me out to pasture - but leave the gate open.

Because here’s the deal: Like most modern, highly computerized vehicles, the new Corvette with the eight-speed automatic is slightly quicker than the manual-transmission cars.

Drat. Another illusion evaporates.

The screaming yellow 2015 Stingray I had recently with the optional ($1,725) eight-speed automatic certainly didn’t look short of snort.

Every line on the car cut like a laser. Radical, vertical-shaped headlamps - vaguely reminiscent of some Ferraris - lay atop chiseled fenders.

A long, hard-looking hood with a power dome in its center stretched to a seriously laid-back windshield and hatchback top.

Naturally, in a road racer like the new Stingray, the car’s black 19-inch wheels up front and 20-inchers on back were pushed to the corners.

The fronts wore 245/35 tires and the rears spun meaty 285/30s.

The 3,500-pound coupe’s razor-slash styling looked especially strong on the sides, with two character lines providing all sorts of edginess, as well as broad shoulders over the rear wheels.

Four exhaust pipes in the rear, each big enough to swallow the Soul’s dancing rodents, left little doubt about the ’Vette’s extra-legal intentions.

And the 6.2-liter, 460-horsepower V-8 beneath its radioactive-yellow hood could certainly fill those big pipes with real street music.

Mine was a Z51 model, equipped with a tighter suspension and the so-called multimode exhaust system - a nice way of saying it absolutely thundered beyond 4000 rpm with a roar that sounded pretty much unmuffled.

In sport mode, the engine had a slightly lumpy, old-school growl at idle that sounded like a loosely leashed Rottweiler. Any sudden shoves on the accelerator produced immediate wheel spin that often kicked the rear end out a bit.

Hit the loud pedal hard and the car squirmed against its traction control before blasting forward with a roaring force that pinned driver and passenger deeply into their seats and threatened to stretch necks.

Sixty flashes by in 3.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver, with the new slush-box clicking off tight 6000-rpm shifts.

Moreover, it automatically downshifted heading into corners as I eased up on the gas, holding the ’Vette in gear through curves.

Here’s the thing that was hardest for a 20th-century guy like me to believe, though: While the Stingray was rated at only a modest 16 miles per gallon in town, it carried a 29 mpg/highway number and barely missed qualifying for 30.

By the way, the car also has a top speed of 180.

But new Corvettes are just as amazing in curves as they are on straights.

As I’ve mentioned previously, General Motors is now among the best in the industry at tuning electric power-steering units - a true black art.

Right from the first roll, the wheel felt alive in my hands, twitching slightly with the pitch and surface of the road.

It was also eye-blink quick, darting into corners with sweet aggression.

The body never moved in the high-speed corners I, uh, carefully tested, ripping through them flatly with seemingly unflappable grip.

Between the ’Vette’s natural athletic grace and all of its various electronic handling-nannies, the car could be pitched hard into curves and drift lightly through them with little sweat.

Although its window sticker said $67,445, my Stingray did not have the optional, more opulent interior - and seemed none the worse for it, really.

The coal-black interior in the car I had featured a cockpit-style layout and a swoopy dashboard that tumbled down to a broad console.

While the plastic was plentiful, it looked upscale, with decent texture and tone.

But I was slightly baffled by the instrument panel, which offered traditional analog gauges for the speedometer, fuel and heat gauges. Right in the center of the IP was a large digital tachometer that looked as if it belonged in some tacky computer game.

Why? It felt even more conflicted than me, veering from the 20th to 21st century in a matter of inches.

I didn’t get too worked up about it, though, because I rode in black-leather seats that provided good lateral support and had perforated suede centers.

Likewise, while the door panels were mostly black plastic, they wore white “stitching” up high that kind of elevated their stature.

Enjoy the seats, because the Stingray in sport setting had only two modes of sailing down the road - stiff and light beating.

On the moderately smooth pavement, the Stingray’s ride was resolutely firm but did not blur the view of a rich array of billboards - thankfully.

The ride is a small price to pay, I say. The new automatic Stingray just seems too easy, combining smoking acceleration with organ-displacing handling in a package that anyone can drive.

And while inching along, making hundreds of up- and down shifts, that can look pretty good - even to a dinosaur in Dockers.

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.