For $20,000 more, does the Corvette Stingray best Lexus and BMW?
The Chevrolet Corvette gets a redesign for 2020, with the engine going to the middle and (of course) better performance numbers. But can it beat lower-priced offerings from BMW and Lexus?
2020 Lexus RC350 F Sport AWD vs. 2021 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe vs. 2020 Corvette Stingray Coupe: Which is the most fun for 60 grand?
This week: Corvette Stingray Coupe.
Price: Well, you can, in theory, have one for the starting price of $58,970. This one cost $80,315. Options include adjustable height, $1,495; aluminum wheels, $995; sueded microfiber steering wheel, $595; and much more mentioned below.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the “performance that rivals exotic cars, comfortable enough to drive daily, nicely trimmed cabin,” but not that the “exhaust note is only exciting at full throttle, limited driver-assistance features, manual transmission not offered.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Precision makes its presence known.”
Reality: If you’re really in a hurry and feel the need to be noticed …
What’s new: The engine has gone to the middle. The whole sports car is redesigned, and now it looks like a McLaren. Not a bad look, actually.
From the start: The Corvette wants you to know it’s different. Run your hands under the door flap to find the opener button, then you’ll be able to enter.
Start looking around for your exit right away, as well. Another button on the armrest controls the egress. Explain to passengers ad nauseam.
Up to speed: It’s a Corvette, so there’s plenty of speed to get up to, naturally.
Though a convertible might seem super fun, the coupe has a window to allow occupants to view the 6.2 liter V-8. The 495 horses shoot the two-seater to 60 mph in an unbelievable 2.8 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Trust me — it’s all true. You can be going far too fast before you’re aware of it.
Shifty: The eight-speed transmission sports paddle shifters, which are best left alone unless you can hit them every third of a second. I actually slowed the car by not keeping up with shifting, when the tach started getting to redline and then the engine dialed off the acceleration.
The push button-ish transmission features unusual pull-type levers for Reverse and Drive, and I’m a fan. They require more concentration than a buttons-alone setup does for changing gears.
On the road: Sturgis son-In-law 1.0 said it best. “I’d rather drive a slower car fast than a fast car slow.”
The week before the Corvette, I tested the Volkswagen GTI Autobahn and just had a roaring good time. The GTI is made for country roads, and it just zigs and zags and goes quickly at lower speeds. The Corvette definitely handles curves and corners like a boss, but the fun falls apart with Corvette-like velocity every time you get behind another car.
And other cars are a problem. Sports car people are pushing on your rear bumper in the passing lane — doing north of 80 — while the hall monitors pull right out in front of you to “teach you a lesson,” I imagine. Sigh.
The Corvette with Z51 Performance Package ($5,000) does have plenty of modes — weather, my mode, touring, sport, and track.
Driver’s seat: The Corvette sports a real cockpit feel, with everything angled toward the driver.
Almost all passengers and I had the same complaint — the GT2 bucket seats ($1,495) are tight in the bolster and a little sharp in the lumbar.
Friend and stuff: With just a two-seater, you’re not carrying much stuff. At 5-10, I had enough room behind the seat to store my backpack, but I do sit more upright that the average driver. It should be OK for tall people.
A small storage space up front could hold a little bit of luggage. Another behind the engine has a little more room.
But you’ll get plenty of testing in when all your friends and neighbors want a ride in your Corvette.
Get some sun: Even in the coupe, the roof comes off for some sunshine fun. But then the rear compartment is taken up by the roof panel, so plan accordingly.
Play some tunes: The stereo system is upgraded beyond the standard General Motors fare. It features just a dial for volume control, a few buttons for function — audio, map, etc — but then it’s all touchscreen. It faces toward the driver but is accessible to the passenger, as well.
Sound from the Bose Performance audio system (part of a $7,300 package adding front curb view camera, rear camera mirror, heated and ventilated seats, and much more) is just good, about a B+. Bass, midlevel and treble adjustments couldn’t find me a happy tune.
Keeping warm and cool: The HVAC and seat temperature controls are all in a row between the driver and passenger, on the tall console. It takes some getting used to.
Fuel economy: I averaged about 14 mpg in a week that included plenty of performance tests.
Where it’s built: Bowling Green, Ky.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports gave the 2019 model a top reliability rating; no information on this latest redesign.
In the end: It’s a new Corvette, and all the Corvette lovers are going to rip me a new one. The Corvette is awesome — for the track.
But here on planet Earth, the RC 350 and 4 Series both perform far better. The Lexus may be slower, but it’s far more enjoyable in normal driving, and the stereo sounds awesome. The 4 Series splits the acceleration difference, offers plenty of driving fun, and offers actual room for actual people, and saves $20,000. And people don’t bother you in either of these when you’re out for a drive.