2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray review:

Tech makes this Corvette one for the ages

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Chevy's new LT1 engine relies on big displacement for power. Josh Miller/CNET

The wonders of electronic throttle control made this powerplant easy to control, and never so sensitive that I felt like it was getting away from me. The Stingray can go from Main Street cruiser to track day star at a turn of its drive mode dial.

I had the opportunity at an earlier press event to drive the Stingray on a cone course. Thanks to its rigid construction, precise steering, and suspension, I was able to throw it hard around the corners and floor it on the straights with complete confidence. The back end might start to come out, but I found it easy to correct even mid-turn.

I also have to give credit to the Stingray's Performance Traction Management, Chevy's sport-oriented traction control program. It worked with a sport program in the differential to help keep the car on its line. Some people might deride these programs as "electronic nannies," but in the Stingray they enhance performance rather than rein it in.

Multiple views
In a big nod to new technologies, Chevrolet gave the Stingray an LCD tachometer. The instrument cluster features three analog gauges -- speed, fuel, and temperature -- but the literal centerpiece is a large, color LCD that changes configuration depending on the drive mode.

With the car in Weather, Eco, or Touring mode, the display showed a simplified tachometer, while Sport mode made it look more like an analog gauge. Track mode turned it into what one Chevy engineer called the hockey stick, a race-style display that shows the engine speed on something that looks like the Nike swoop logo.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The LCD instrument cluster showed a variety of driver-selected displays. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Along with engine speed, I could select from a number of interior displays, showing useful information such as trip data, or just a big vehicle speed readout. That last was very useful, as the analog speedometer is off to the left of the instrument panel and not particularly easy to read at a glance.

There was about a second delay between switching drive modes and the new screen coming up, an odd little bit of lag.

The head-up display mirrored the LCD instrument cluster, or I could set it for different display information. For public roads, I found it handy to show the digital speed read-out.

The instrument cluster LCD comes standard in the Stingray, as does a sizable center touch screen LCD for cabin tech features. The center screen features an iteration of Chevy's MyLink system, other versions of which I previously saw on the Sonic, Cruze, and Impala models.

The interface seemed a little confusing, with a menu button on the end of a center dial along with a button bearing a home icon below the LCD. It took me a little while to figure out that the home button called up a main screen with touch icons for navigation, media, radio, phone, and apps; while the menu button called up context-sensitive menus, such as destination entry when the navigation system was up. There were hard buttons below the LCD for radio and media, but I had to use the home screen to access navigation.

I didn't like how this interface brought up three rows of preset buttons over the media screens, forcing me to swipe down on the LCD to see song information, or how I had to bring up the navigation menu bar to zoom the map screens. Likewise, that navigation menu remained up on the screen, obscuring a big part of the map, for far too long.

The navigation system's maps looked good, and rendered buildings when in perspective view. Although I usually like perspective view, the rendered buildings created too much of a visual cacophony in downtown San Francisco, obscuring the intersections I wanted to see. I had to set this navigation system to plan view.

In most of my regular routes, I found route guidance worked just fine and was easy to follow. But on one excursion, from Napa to San Francisco, the system initially gave me a route across the Bay Bridge, and showing a three-hour drive time. Using my local knowledge, I headed for the Golden Gate Bridge, waiting for the system to recalculate for that route. Even when I was a mere mile away from the bridge, the system kept insisting I take an off-ramp and head back in the opposite direction. It wasn't until I was on the Golden Gate that it finally relented and gave me the route I wanted, which was half the projected drive time of the route it tried to put me on.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The center LCD was sometimes overwhelmed with preset buttons. Josh Miller/CNET

Chevy does the legacy thing of putting radio and local audio sources in two different buckets, and Pandora as a completely separate menu item on the homescreen. It makes more sense to put all the audio sources on one screen. Instead, if I wanted to go from listening to Bluetooth streaming to a source plugged into one of the two USB ports in the car, I had to repeatedly push the Media button to cycle through the local sources. There was also no obvious way to call up the music library screen for an iOS device or thumb drive plugged into the car. I found, through trial and error, that turning the menu dial under the LCD automatically brought up the library selection screen.

Music played through a Bose audio system developed specifically for the Stingray. This bass-heavy system sounded designed for classic rock, which seems appropriate for the buyer demographic. However, the sound is very clean. I had one of those music epiphany moments listening to Muddy Waters, as the system brought out the nuances of his voice and guitar picking.

Being a GM vehicle, OnStar is included in the Stingray. Along with its traditional emergency services, it includes concierge features that complement navigation. Most importantly for such a showy car, the stolen vehicle service lets OnStar locate the car, and even bring it to a safe stop if the perp has gone off on a Fast and Furious-style police chase.

Exhibitionist streak
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a remarkable GT-style sports car. Chevy fully embraced tech throughout its running gear, making it very suitable for the streets and a track day contender. It really is the kind of car you can drive to the track, spend a day doing laps, and then drive back home. However, the manual version proved uncomfortable to drive in stop-and-go traffic, and the binding of the steering system with the wheel hard over was disturbing. Although the Stingray could turn in mid-20s fuel economy in normal driving, this car is meant to be flogged through the turns at high revs.

As a grand tourer, there is certainly a place for electronics in the dashboard -- the Stingray is no stripper. Chevy has done good work refining its MyLink system, and it offers good connectivity for external devices through USB ports and Bluetooth. The head unit offers many features, although some of the execution is lacking. The navigation system routing was problematic, as were some of the interface elements. The lack of a screen to choose audio sources was a big miss. The highlights of the cabin tech were OnStar, the Bose audio system, and the LCD instrumentation, including the head-up display.

The biggest lesson I learned spending a week with the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray was that it's not a car for wallflowers. From its audacious design to the thunder from the exhaust, you will be noticed.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Trim 3LT with Z51 Performance Package
Powertrain Direct injection 6.2-liter V-8 engine, seven-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 17 mpg city/29 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 20.2 mpg
Navigation Optional with live traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources Internet-based radio, Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, HD radio, satellite radio
Audio system Bose 10-speaker system
Driver aids Rear view camera, head-up display
Base price $53,800
Price as tested $71,960

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