Yesterday we had the exclusive opportunity to drive the Corvette Stingray concept, GM's latest Transformers star. With a conceptual hybrid powertrain and iPhone app-like downloads, it represents a merger of GM design and technology from the past, present and future.
The Corvette Stingray concept, first introduced at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show, and starring in the recently-released Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen as Autobot Sideswipe, represents a visionary modern interpretation of the past, present and future of the Corvette. Conceptually, it represents the merger of high technology with high design in the powertrain, exterior and interior.
Despite the recent trend toward concepts as nothing more than an exaggerated preview of a production car, don't expect the next-generation C7 Corvette to look like this concept car. Tom Peters, designer of both the Stingray concept as well as the new Chevy Camaro says very plainly "it's not the C7." Then, pausing, he continued by saying
"that's not to say there aren't elements here that can translate into what the C7's about. There's no parameters to this concept...our goal...I would tell my team, guys, go kick that car's ass. Go beat that."
Despite only being revealed earlier this year, and despite obvious similarities in exterior design between it and the new Chevy Camaro, it's not for the reasons you think. You see, the Stingray was actually first sketched over six years ago, predating the Camaro.
What that means is Peters took the methodology used designing the Stingray concept and applied it to the new Chevy Camaro. That's why you'll see design elements from the Stingray concept in it.
So, despite many enthusiasts' belief the Camaro influenced the Stingray concept car, it was, in fact, the other way around. As Peters says, "that [Camaro's egg crate] grille came from that grille [egg crate grille on the Corvette Stingray concept]." When you see the Camaro sitting next to the Stingray concept, you realize immediately the design influence from the concept's front end to Chevy's new mullet-lover muscle car.
What the Corvette Stingray concept's exterior design did draw inspiration from was almost every generation Corvette — starting with the 1959 Corvette Stingray racer concept, the iconic split rear window from the 1963 Stingray and front wheel arches and side coveys from more modern generations — mixed with distinct, classical aeronautic lines.
The doors open like a Lambo — scissor-style — and the reverse-clamshell hood both open at the touch of a button. With the three carbon fiber appendages spread, it look like nothing less than a bird of prey. It's a sight to see in person.
Achieving the design took a mix of materials that Corvettes are used to seeing as part of their make-up. The concept utilizes advanced composite materials — no new thing for Corvettes, as Richard Pinto, Creative Designer on interior trim told us, aseven the first generation utilized composites — but nothing like the carbon fiber and graphite/nylon reinforced plastic found on the newest Corvettes.
Taking cues from artwork outside the GM Design Center and the flowing, aerodynamic exterior, GM interior designer Micah Jones built a dual-cockpit design to exist in cohesive harmony with the Autobot surrounding it. Sitting in it, we've got to say it works — the ergonomics and touch-zones feel snug but not tight — with all controls available in close proximity to the driver.
Because, unlike base models of the current generation Corvette, this concept's filled to the carbon fiber-gills with conceptual and currently available technology designed to be totally customizable for the driver. To that end, on the steering wheel are two spherical balls. Right side controls shared functions like entertainment, air con and nav. Left side controls the driver's arena — items explained in more detail in the powertrain section below.
The information cluster features, in addition to basic information from a speedometer and a tachometer, small circular screens with 3-D animated shocks and brakes spinning around to give you a visual of what you're adjusting using the two spherical balls.
The center console screen is a dramatic and expansive display where you'll see five settings able to be controlled — the same five you find on the wheel — Entertainment, Air, Home (laptop mode that allows you to access the internet and your information from home. And yes, Twitter fans, you'll be able to tweet from it), Nav and Race modes — allowing you to utilize the advanced haptic touch screen to alter all of these. The really cool features in the center console are a very iTunes cover flow-like ability to shuffle through songs and a system designed to allow for downloadable iPhone app-like racing content — think 0-to-60 timers, race course maps with the fastest lines and the like. Which, given the powertrain, is something we think you'll need.
Under the hood there's a radical conceptual hybrid powertrain, theoretically mating mild hybrid technology with a high performance V8 engine with cylinder deactivation for even higher fuel economy in non-performance driving situations.
The theoretical concept extends to include the driver's ability to switch from pure electric mode for city driving to full use of the big LS-series V8 with five different settings (the left-hand control sphere on the steering wheel) controlling the feel and sharpness of the shift, the intensity and sensitivity of the regenerative brakes, and playing up some of the hybrid system's opportunities. You could theoretically control the output — and how quickly the electricity is put back down to the road — from a more Eco-friendly mode or crank it up to ultimate sensitivity and just pound power out of the car.
But, despite the lettering "Hybrid Stingray" emblazoned on the underhood packaging, it merely represents a futuristic vision from the design studio and not a powertrain exercise. So don't expect the C7 Corvette to get a hybrid powertrain.
How'd It Drive?
It's a multi-million dollar one-off concept car driven at 15-20 MPH, how do you think it felt to drive? Right. It felt awesome, which is exactly how it should feel.