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Project C7 Corvette Stingray Z51: Introduction (Part 1 of 2)

by Mike Kojima

MotoIQ recently suffered a great loss, our project Golf TDI. A victim of the great VW emissions scandal, we got a cash deal we couldn't refuse to return her to the motherland for whatever VW plans to do with all those dirty diesels. Although getting great money for a well-used car is always good, it still left us short one very versatile daily driver.  

So the search for the next MotoIQ long term project car started. We looked at a bunch of other cars to try to find a new unicorn. We wanted an STi or a Golf R but we already have a lot of WRX like things in the stable as well as a Golf R which ruled any of those out.

Next, we considered Camaro 1LE. When we went to test drive the Camaro, we liked its new LT1 performance but it had 4 problems that we couldn't get over. These were; 1) Visibility. Yes, it's supposed to be better than the larger Camaro before it, but it still sucked, and the car still feels big because of it. 2) The side window sill is way too high, if you have a Camaro you need to be able to hang your arm out the window or at least be able to rest your elbow on it and that wasn't possible in the new car. The high sill made it hard to see out of the car. Also, this contributes greatly to beef #1. 3)  It has a completely unusable backseat for anyone with legs. It's ok if it was designed for only 2 people, make the back seat area usable storage space or something.  4)  The trunk opening is on top, you can't get a camera case, for example, down into the hole of a trunk. This awful trunk space makes it hard to carry luggage or gear. 

While we were in the showroom waiting on the sales dude to get pricing or something, we sat in a C7 Stingray on a whim. All the problems the Camaro had, the Corvette solved, great visibility, the car doesn't feel big, the window sill is at a normal height, and most importantly, there is TONS of storage space in the rear hatch area believe it or not.

The Corvette driving experience was a whole lot better too. The car felt lighter, handles and responds exactly like you want it to.  We would never have considered a new Corvette but we got a stupid good deal on a 2016 3LT with the performance Z51 package and a 7-SPEED manual gearbox that had been on the lot forever down in San Diego probably because it's a manual and most elderly Corvette buyers have bad knees!

However, the C7 Corvette isn't just a weekend toy for the viagra set anymore.  It is a world class supercar loaded with features, materials, and technology that would unheard of from a domestic car company just a few short years ago.

 

The C7 is a complete redesign from the C6, it first came out in 2014. There is a few year over year additions we got on the 2016 that weren't available on older models.  

Off all the new features the C7 has to offer, one of the ones most appreciated by us are the forward facing cameras that keep us from smacking the front lip into parking curbs. It's kinda hard to judge distances over the long hood. If you have a low car with an airdam, you can't believe just how handy this feature is! We have seen everything from GT-R's to Porsches smacked up against parking blocks and curbs, and we will never do it to this car thanks to the cameras.

 

Our C7 is equipped with the high-performance Z51 package which includes: performance brakes/slotted brake rotors, dry sump oil system, Z51 performance suspension (specific shocks, springs and stabilizer bars), performance exhaust, P245/35ZR19 front and P285/30ZR20 rear tires, silver-painted aluminum, 19" front and 20" rear wheels, performance gear ratios, Electronic Limited Slip Differential, rear differential cooler, transmission cooling and Aero Package.

The Z51 package is the highest-performance Corvette short of the ZO6 and Grand Sport Models. Our car probably sat on the lot because most owners of fully loaded base Corvettes are mid-life crises non-enthusiasts that want a carrying case for a blonde or retirees that want a smooth ride, an automatic transmission, and room for golf clubs. Performance guys buy the ZO6 or the Grandsport and are done with it!

 

A large driving force of the C7 redesign was to provide a more aggressive appearance that would appeal to a younger demographic. GM's product planning data showed that 46 percent of Corvette owners were 55 or older.  

Chevy wanted to shed the old man's toy image the Corvette portrayed reasoning that no one wants to be seen driving an old man's car but everyone wants to drive a young man's car.  For this reason, the C7 looks low, aggressive and mean compared to its predecessor with angular styling and sharp edges.

 

Big Brembo brakes are part of the Z51 performance package, although impressive for standard equipment, they are still a step down from the huge anchors that come on the Z06 and the Grand Sport.

 

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Comments
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Monday, July 17, 2017 4:01 AM
You know, I don't know what kind of response this will get for the normal readership... but I just have to say, cool! A Z51 or GS Corvette is one of the few currently manufactured performance cars I'd go spend my money on as opposed to so many things where it seems like each new generation has all sorts of qualifiers or is just plain worse. Didn't know it actually got an active rear diff too.

Overall, just interested to see what you make of the car and do with it.
theneil
theneillink
Monday, July 17, 2017 6:33 AM
I hate to be negative again, but a publication called 'corvette magazine' already exists.
Hap
Haplink
Monday, July 17, 2017 8:06 AM
I too hate to be negative again, but a car with an engine that is two valve with pushrods just does not deserve to be called supercar. The engineering in the motor is from 1956. The horsepower is not impressive from 6.2 litres, given Ford is getting 435 hp out of the Coyote's 5 liters and 526 hp out of the 5.2 litre VooDoo in the GT350, both naturally aspirated. I also think the C7 styling is a step back from the super slick C6, which I feel is the best Corvette visually.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Monday, July 17, 2017 8:55 AM
Direct injection was far from common in 1956, just saying.
Supercharged111
Supercharged111link
Monday, July 17, 2017 9:34 AM
Hap Ford isn't making anywhere near the low end torque of the 6.2, you're comparing apples to oranges here. The 2 different approaches to making power are very evident here. Rap an LT1 past 7000 and those little 5 liters won't stand a chance.

Mike it's good to finally see a Corvette on here. I've long wanted to add my Z06 to the list of project cars on here, but they're not exactly cheap to modify and I've since bought a race car so the Z doesn't get the mod love I once aspired to give it. They're a lot more liveable than you realize, something you don't realize until you get one.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, July 17, 2017 10:21 AM
Hap, the Ford engine is a lot larger and heavier and makes less torque. It also has a lot less power potential in NA form because it is pretty maxed out from the factory and it doesn't have as much aftermarket support. Personally, the LS based engines we build here make 1200 plus hp in racing trim and last more than a season of brutal abuse between getting freshened with isn't really that involved considering. All with less mass and volume than just about any alternative with similar power density. I feel that modern pushrod engines with a larger displacement get the job done in a smaller lighter package with more torque and a wider power band. This is based on competition experiance. If there is not a limitation on displacement, I will probably choose a modern pushrod LS or SBC II type engine for racing use. Also if you look at the tech in this car's chassis and suspension vs something like a Porsche or a GT-R you have to say that the Corvette is probably just as sophisticated if not more. After driving and spending time in a C7 I am really impressed and I own an R35 GT-R myself for instance.
ginsu
ginsulink
Monday, July 17, 2017 1:45 PM
I would think that leaf springs would limit your ability to have sufficient droop travel.
Jeff Naeyaert
Jeff Naeyaertlink
Monday, July 17, 2017 2:41 PM
the leafs basically just press down on the top side of the lower control arms (with adjustable pads in between to allow easy ride height changes)--they aren't physically connected with a bolt or anything.. if the rest of the suspension allowed enough droop the spring would just unload completely and float.

bjokumura
bjokumuralink
Monday, July 17, 2017 5:21 PM
Hi Mike,

I'm really happy to see that you got this C7 into your fleet because I just purchased the 2017 C7 last Memorial day.

Mine is the very base model (non-Z51, LT1 trim, non-mag ride) with 8 spd auto.
Yes, I admin that I'm bit old in mid-life crises and this is my DD, usually get stuck in traffic during my commute.

I did test drove several cars, such as 370Z, BMW 3, Subaru WRX, Mustang, etc... prior to purchasing, but I have to say that the performance of this car is already very impressive even with the base model, at least for me. I came to appreciate it even more after reading this article and learning the details about this car.

I can't wait to see what you have cooking for it!! I'll definitely be following this project and hope you'll enjoy this car as much as I do!!
warmmilk
warmmilklink
Monday, July 17, 2017 6:04 PM
if you guys didn't already buy the T1 suspension, take a close look at the part numbers. A buddy of mine bought a Z51 last year along with the T1 suspension package and then later figured out that the T1 dampers and the Z51 dampers are the same part number. He's since moved on and has LG coilovers along with huge NT01's (R7's now but hasn't tracked it yet with them) and loves it
i23sonny
i23sonnylink
Monday, July 17, 2017 6:19 PM
Push-rod or not, doesn't necessarily mean the vehicle's an outdated write-off undeserving of 'Supercar' status (not to mention it's dry-sumped already come on! haha).
Remember a car is an entire package.

The times and performance figures speak for themselves. The C7 has knocked down some big hitters. Besides I'm sure when just driving it one can ascertain it's capability and how it measures up to Supercars. The MotoIQ crew would know.

On another note, that interior. I absolutely love it.
I'm a JZA80 Supra owner and I feel it is so strongly similar and a proper evolution of what the Supra has. I certainly like it more than what I've seen so far of the FT-1/Next Supra concepts.

Great write-up Mike.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, July 17, 2017 6:49 PM
Leaf springs still droop like any other spring.
ginsu
ginsulink
Monday, July 17, 2017 8:14 PM
Regarding leaf springs, the point is, by being a 'flexure' they don't have AS MUCH droop travel as a coil spring. I'm trying to find a counterpoint against running them, as Mike was doing a good job convincing us why they aren't that bad.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, July 17, 2017 9:19 PM
you don't need tons of droop travel.
Xaqtly
Xaqtlylink
Monday, July 17, 2017 10:25 PM
Now that's more like it! I also own a C7 Stingray, equipped almost exactly like yours. Z51 package, 7 speed manual, 3LT option pack with PDR. I'm really glad the C7 Stingray will be getting the MotoIQ treatment, because this is a car that deserves some recognition for how genuinely good it is.

So many people I talk to still think the Corvette is a saggy, rickety septuagenarian cruiser, and that's not fair to the sheer level of excellence the engineers at GM bestowed on this thing. I remember the first time I drove it, I thought "Holy shit - this is a REAL CAR now". As opposed to the C6, which was fast but very kind of cheap and plasticky. It also didn't have that buttoned down feel of the C7, it was more wild and brutish.

The C7 is a masterclass on refinement. It's a Corvette, and the sheer tightness of it, the solid feel, the way it responds to your input like it's telepathic, surpasses a LOT of what are generally considered high end supercar brands.

Looking forward to this series.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 10:21 AM
I think GM is mostly using transverse leaf springs due to tradition but ... I mean, at its core, spring's a spring. Only big downside is that it's harder to change the rates to what you need if what you need isn't what GM thinks you need.
warmmilk
warmmilklink
Wednesday, July 19, 2017 11:23 AM
transverse leaf spring is also less unsprung weight, might be lighter overall too with the composite material they use. Also, Hyperco makes replacement leaf springs for the Vette. I'm not sure how much choice you have in spring rate, but there are options...
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, July 19, 2017 8:43 PM
If people think the C7 is like the older Corvettes being fast but crude and unrefined, they really need to take a drive in a C7. It has good body structure, great NVH and a lot of refinement, world class even. Like I said in the story, I own an R35 GT-R, one of the newer more refined ones and the C7 is much better in NVH and creature comforts and refinement. I never thought I would be singing these sorts of prasies on a domestic but now days our American car makers are making world class products. Especialy as the Japanese seen to have forgoten with a few exceptions how to make cool, quality cars.
2MCHLAG
2MCHLAGlink
Friday, July 21, 2017 1:25 AM
Don't get me wrong, I really like the C7 vette. It was one of the cars I test drove before buying my GT350 along with the new 1LE.

There are multiple reasons why I chose the GT350 but the biggest is the engine. The low end torque to me is useless. The lack of low end torque is forgotten when you are still pulling up top at over 8000rpm at the track.

It's an amazing feeling, my friend has a 15 1LE with a cam and he can't get over how high my car revs too just as I can't.

Like I said I respect the corvette but it's not for everyone.
warmmilk
warmmilklink
Friday, July 21, 2017 12:55 PM
I think I might be the only person in the world (thats into cars) that doesn't like how the GT350 sounds. To me, in person, from inside the car, by about minute 7 of a track session, I wanted to get out cause the noise was annoying the crap out of me.
engineered
engineeredlink
Friday, July 21, 2017 7:50 PM
Gratz on the sweet C7. Looking forward to future reports on it.
Darnold
Darnoldlink
Wednesday, August 02, 2017 10:08 AM
Very interesting comments. I find the polarization quite fascinating. As a car guy I love a LOT of cars; it's not about what is better than what, but what I like. As a result I respect and appreciate a lots of different marques, and I don't feel threatened when someone talks about how great one car or another are. As a result, I also don't get the snobbery and perspectives in the hobby/sport which say a car has to be based upon a certain engine/suspension platform to "qualify" for a particular class/capability of car. Nor do I get the constant banter about why "only" certain cars are worthy of press ink. So bravo on choosing the Corvette MotoIQ.

Pertaining to the C7, please remember that it is a further refinement (electronics and interior) of its grandfather C5, with the C6 being in between the two as a slight improvement (via the interior) over its dad. The C5 is what broke the mold and created the platform that the following two marques are based upon. It moved the transmission to the rear, gave a real upper suspension arm to the rear suspension (instead of using the half-shafts for double duty), had a completely different chassis that was much stiffer than anything before (don't be fooled by the GM press that subsequent models have stiffer chassis, this has been well debunked through deep analysis on CF), and the all new LS1 engine. Thus the C5/6/7 platform has always offered current world class handling and performance.

The difference (since the chassis are literally identical save for the switch from steel to aluminum, and thicker tunnel plates to stiffen the chassis more, has been with the increase in engine displacement/oil sump tech/cylinder deactivation tech. Along with the aforementioned has been the VAST improvement to interior quality, that wonderful computerized LSD, and that great track data logger.

Being able to pull high RPM's is more a function of the engine's powerband than anything else and the LSx/LTx Vette easily pull 7k - 7.5K RPM's. Discounting a car's engine because it doesn't pull 8k - 9K RPM's is both snobbery and a function of choice. Discounting lower-to-mid-range torque as being "unuseable" is opinion, and can seem fearful. If one likes high revving engines; cool. If another likes low-mid range torque; cool. It's all good. Btw, the "unuseable" low end torque that has been referred to on the C7 was found to be due to mis-alignment on the rear caster settings. Once Probst and others changed that alignment, they have written that the C7 has become one of their absolute favorite cars to run on a road course. They could finally put the power down and use that supposedly "unuseable" low-mid torque.

Remember, most performance engines can be made to put out 700 - 1000 HP, so ANY platform can be made to be fast. Let's respect all of the performance cars out there. Every one of them has a right to have a day in the sun, and not just the same ole' hand full because a vocal enough group of people formed a consensus that only a small pool gets to "qualify" as being worthy of ownership and print.
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