by Brendan R. Appel
With the introduction of the Corvette C8 just around the corner, this is the perfect time to revisit why we love the C7 so much. Sure, there’s the looks, the power and the handling that all punch above the Vette’s price-class, but this is a list of 20 little things that make C7 owners fall in love with their copy of America’s Sport’s Car.
1 – Welcome Screens
Our list appropriately kicks off with the first thing you’ll see stepping into your new C7. And while a welcome screen is nothing new, the Corvette’s two graphic displays mean you get twice the greeting. What’s so special about all this? Technically nothing, but the fact Chevy went with these splashy moving graphics over some boring, static display lets you know that the people who made this car love it as much as you do.
2 – The HUD
I’ll be honest, the first time I saw the Head-Up Display on a C6 Corvette, my initial reaction was “get that crap off my windshield.” But the C7 has come a long way since the monochromatic, 8-bit graphics you get in earlier generations of the Corvette. Drive 5 minutes with the 7th Gen’s full-color HUD and you’ll wonder why every car doesn’t have one. In the new Corvette, you can customize the display to show just the speed, just the tachometer, both the speed and a round tachometer or the speed with a racing-inspired hockey stick tach complete with shift lights. This last setting is especially useful at the track when just a glance down at the gauges can mean hundreds of feet of track you didn’t see. In addition, the Corvette’s HUD can also display useful things such as navigation directions, song and artist information, low fuel warnings and other data. About two years after the C7’s introduction, BMW essentially copied this HUD and thought it was so great it actually ran commercials specifically promoting it. That must have amused Stingray owners.
3 – Customizable Gauge Displays
While the computer-screen-for-gauges display has the obvious advantage of being able to change its look and feel to match the drive mode of the car, one of the not-so-obvious advantages is the ability to choose the pocket gauges left and right of the tach. The default setting of these gauges is oil pressure on the left and oil temp on the right, but these can be changed to show everything from battery voltage to – get this – the current amount of horsepower being used by the motor!
One additional nice touch in the “they didn’t have to do this but did anyway” category is the way the odometer and trip computer numbers turn – as if they were on a vertical spindle. Like the splashy welcome screen, it’s these little touches that show the Corvette team wasn’t just throwing things together just to save time and money. Someone actually had to think about programming the numbers to turn this way, something most C7 owners probably haven’t yet even noticed.
4 – Hidden Vette Symbols
Ever been to a Disney park and looked for the hidden Mickeys? Apparently, the C7 design team did, because they loaded the Stingray with iterations of the C7’s logo – some obvious, like the badges on the hood and rear fascia, but some much more hidden. Did you see the logo on the center caps of the wheels? How about under the hood in relief? What about the symbols in the headlights? And finally, did you find the ones in the rear window? Did Chevy need to do this? No, but did the designers have fun doing it? Clearly. And speaking of Chevy, the only place you’ll see its trademark bow tie is inside the Vette’s own logo, and the only time you’ll see the name “Chevrolet” is that brief flash in the welcome screen.
5 – Hidden Compartment
While James Bond has traditionally preferred cars of British heritage, the Chevy team paid 007 homage in the C7 with the inclusion of a hidden compartment behind the infotainment screen. Its only downfall is they marked the button with the word “Screen”, but that can be easily remedied with a little carbon fiber tape. The space is great for sunglasses, sunblock, hair ties for the ladies or anything else you need to store in your Vette. There’s even a USB plug in there, allowing you to connect your phone or other small device and leave it out view. The button becomes inoperable in valet mode (along with the glove box and trunk), so it’s a great place to store your valuables. The aftermarket has even stepped up with a fitted shelf to help keep things organized.
6 – Magnetic Ride and Variable Exhaust
Two options on the Stingray, which are standard on Grand Sports, Z06’s and ZR1’s, are magnetic ride and a variable exhaust system. Magnetic ride uses electric current and magnetic fluid in the shocks to change the Vette’s ride from compliant and comfortable in weather, eco and touring modes, to sporty in sport mode and race-car firm in track mode. This allows the Vette to adapt to whatever the situation requires, and it really works. Have to drive a bumpy road? Touring mode helps to soak up the bumps. Looking at a twisty mountain drive? You definitely want sport mode. Headed to the track? Not only will track mode give you the firm suspension you want, but having magnetic ride also gives you access to Chevy’s awesome Performance Traction Management system, which allows you to choose between Wet, Dry, Sport 1, Sport 2 and Race modes, depending on conditions and driver skill and comfort.
The other option C7 owners definitely want is the variable exhaust, which allows the driver to select a quiet “stealth” exhaust note, routing exhaust gasses through only the muffled center two of the Vette’s quad pipes, or a “loud” exhaust note that also engages the outer two “straight” pipes for a much more aggressive sound and a 5 horsepower and torque gain. Like most everything on the C7, the driver can select which driving modes get which exhaust sound.
These two options paired together allow the C7 Vette to go from mild-mannered and comfortable GT cruiser to snarling track beast with the turn of a single knob.
7 – Performance Data Recorder and Valet Mode
If you want navigation in a C7, you are also forced to take the Performance Data Recorder system as well. This bumps the price of navigation up to a steep $1,795, but what you quickly discover is that Chevy is doing owners a favor in practically forcing the PDR on them. The PDR consists of a forward-facing HD camera, race telemetry and upgraded GPS sensors, and an SD card slot to record your upcoming adventures.
The system can record video with or without several data overlays. Just want an uninterrupted view of your scenic drive or want to use the PDR like a dash cam? Choose no video overlay. Laying down some rubber at the drag strip and want to see your acceleration times? Choose the Performance Timing overlay. Just want to see your speed and G-Forces displayed? Choose the Sport overlay. At the track and want to record your lap times as well as your position on track? Choose the Track overlay and don’t forget to mark the start/finish line. Once you return from the track, you can analyze your laps using the Cosworth Toolbox software, and easily compare laps to one another to see where you can pick up more speed next time out.
But the other incredible feature you get with the PDR is valet mode. In this mode, you enter a 4-digit PIN into the display to turn off the radio, lock the storage compartments and the trunk and – most importantly – record video with speed and RPM data anytime the car is turned on. This is exactly the evidence you need to catch valets, porters and mechanics red-handed if they think about taking your prized Vette out for a joyride. In fact, just arming valet mode should act as a deterrent to any unscrupulous wanna-be speed racers out there. So even though your Vette can’t stop an unauthorized joyrider, at least it can now bust them.
8 – Ventilated Seats
While heated seats are nothing new and cooled and ventilated seats are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace, we can tell you from experience that nothing beats a ventilated seat on a hot day – especially when the top is out of your Vette or you’re flogging it at the track where running the air conditioning is not an option.
9 – Turn Signal Warning
We’ve all been stuck behind that guy whose turn signal has been on for the last 5 miles. In the “Why Didn’t Anyone Think of This Sooner” category, did you know the C7 Corvette will audibly and visually notify you if your turn signal has been on for more than three-quarters of a mile? Yes, your car will beep at you and display a “Turn Signal On” warning in the center display and your HUD to keep you from being THAT guy.
10 – Targa Roof
Did you know that every C7 Corvette coupe is actually a Targa top car? Standard with every coupe is a carbon fiber roof painted the color of the car, which weighs a scant 11 lbs. Optional is an exposed carbon fiber roof for $1,995, a glass roof instead of the standard roof for $995, or both roofs for $1,995 (painted) or $2,995 (exposed). One thing to keep in mind if you’re trying to choose which option to choose is that the standard carbon fiber roof retails for $5,000 on its own, while the glass roof is only $2,000.
With the roof out, the C7 transforms into open sky motoring with all the benefits of a convertible but with the added protection of roof behind your head. You get the added benefit of more trunk room than a convertible and a car you can still take on track without a roll cage. Interestingly, the C7 structure is so stiff in any form that rigidity is not a reason to go with the coupe.
11 – OnStar Map Searches
OnStar has been around for a while now and does lots of things really well, but this feature is one of the little gems that enhance your enjoyment of the C7. We all know how frustrating it is to look up a location using the onboard navigation system; but pull up the MyChevrolet app on your phone, select “Navigation – Send to Vehicle” and simply type in a search for your location, like “Road America”. Once you find it, simply send the location to your Corvette and watch as it almost instantly downloads to your car. This time-saving step can be done at any time before your trip, but it does require the top OnStar subscription.
12 – Trunk Space
Most two-seat sports cars suffer from two things – a stiff ride and no room for your stuff. As we noted earlier, the Vette’s magnetic ride takes care of the stiff ride, and the rear hatch and generous storage in the rear allow you to fit more than you’d think possible in the back of your Vette. Two sets of golf clubs? No problem. How about everything you’d need for a track day, including a jack, jack stands, air compressor, camera bags, tools, parts, and even a rolling chair? Yep, those all fit, too. With its hatch opening, getting things in and out of the trunk is much easier than, say, with a Camaro and its very small trunk opening. So, if your significant other complains you can say, with a straight face, that a Corvette is a practical vehicle.
13 – Gas Mileage
You can also say- with that same straight face – that your Corvette is an economical car as well. Despite its ability to lay rubber and carve up tracks, the Stingray returns an EPA rated 29 mpg on the highway, and owners are seeing even higher numbers depending on their speed and driving style. The ratings for the Grand Sport are slightly less due to the increased rolling resistance of the much wider tires. The Z06 and ZR1? Let’s just say you don’t buy 650hp or 755hp supercharged monsters like those for their fuel economy.
14 – Acceleration Timers
Every car guy wants to know how fast he can hit 60 or run the 1/4 mile, and in the old days you needed expensive sensors or a drag strip to tell you that info, but the C7 bakes those timers right into the car. Simply select the timer, reset the previous run and go! And if you have the PDR, you can record those runs with the times overlaid right on the video.
Number 15 – No Gas Cap
Thankfully, this has been a trend recently, but it’s so nice not to have to mess with a gas cap on a C7.
Number 16 – Functional Air Vents
There’s nothing worse to a true car nut than fake vents and scoops. This all-show, no-go design fakery, which can be seen on Chevy’s other performance vehicle, the Camaro, was thankfully shunned for the design of the 7th-gen Vette. Every vent, scoop, and duct you see – and even the ones you can’t see – on the Stingray, Grand Sport, Z06 and ZR1 are fully functional. Up front, air passes through the front grill, over the radiator and out of the car through this hood vent, which also acts as a heat extractor to cool the engine. At each side of the grill, air is directed to cool the front brakes; excess air here is released through side vents just behind the front wheels. On Grand Sports, Z06s and ZR1s, visible ducts in front of the rear tires cool the rear brakes, while on Stingrays the vents are hidden under the car. Shoulder vents on either side cool the transmission and differential, and excess air in the system escapes through vents at the rear. All these elements work together to keep the C7 running strong and cool, lap after lap.
17 – Front-Hinged Hood
Front-hinged hoods are nothing new. My first memory of them was of a Jaguar E-Type, and my 1988 Bertone X1/9 had one as well. Today, however, there are few front engine cars sporting a front-hinged hood. Even the Viper, which started as a front-hinged hood, changed to a rear-hinge design from 2008-2010. Of course, the advantage of moving the hinges forward is that even if the hood isn’t latched correctly, you’ll never have your view blocked by your hood.
18 – Keyless Entry and Auto Door Locks
Corvettes began featuring true “keyless” entry (where you just need the key on you but don’t have to hit any buttons) way back in 1993, and it’s one of those features that longtime Corvette owners have grown to love. Even better than a door that opens just by touching a pressure pad on the door is the fact that the car will lock itself when you walk away with the key. Even today’s cars that copy the keyless entry feat haven’t yet adopted the keyless lock feature.
Number 19 – Pause and Rewind Live Radio (2014-2015)
One area that Chevy keeps tinkering with on the C7 is its radio. For the launch year of 2014, owners got HD radio, which promptly went away for 2015-2017 and returned in 2018. Chevy gave no real reason for this change, either. For its first two years, the C7 enjoyed one fairly unique feature – the ability to pause and rewind live radio. While you could, of course, listen to that favorite song again, this feature really shined when the baseball game you were listening to was interrupted at an inopportune moment with a phone call. It would go something like this: “Bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the ninth. The pitch – a swing and a drive! <RING!>”. With this feature though, you could simply rewind what happened without skipping a beat. So why did Chevy drop the feature in 2016? We asked Corvette spokesman Ron Kino who claimed their data showed very few customers were using the feature. Of course, Chevy never publicized the feature, so it’s no wonder.
20 – Manual Transmission with Rev Matching
In an age where the manual transmission has become an endangered species, the Corvette team has not only preserved the manual but improved upon it in such a way as to be the transmission of choice for the discerning buyer. First, Chevy added a 7th gear to the transmission, keeping the revs low and gas mileage high, even when cruising over 80 mph. Second, they added a rev-matching feature that – when activated by pulling either of the paddles on the steering wheel (used to shift in automatic Vettes) – instantly matches the engine speed to the wheel speed when downshifting, making you look and sound like a professional driver. If you’d rather heel and toe for yourself, the Corvette’s perfectly place pedals make that a breeze as well. Combine both active rev match and your heel and toe technique and the car will help assist whenever your technique leaves the revs a little low.
With the C8 rumored to be dual-clutch automatic only, manual C7’s may become something of a collector’s item. Let’s hope Chevy comes to their senses, though, and doesn’t leave 30% of its buyers behind with the next generation.
Well, there you have our list of 20 little things we love about the C7 Corvette. What about you? Leave us a comment with the little things you love about this latest generation of America’s sports car.
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