Tadge Juechter is the Chief Engineer of the absolutely brilliant 2014 Corvette Stingray. By association, that makes Tadge Juechter brilliant. But there are a few features of the Vette that are puzzling. I cornered Tadge and made him have an awkward conversation about them.
(Full Disclosure: Chevrolet invited me to drive the 2014 SS and Corvette Convertible, and in between doing those things, I was able to con my way into having the chief engineer sit at my table during dinner. I tried to take advantage of it instead of just making fart jokes the whole time.)
First of all, you need to know that Tadge is a supremely cool and down-to-Earth guy who isn't afraid to speak his mind. He's funny, friendly, easy to talk to and willing to answer nearly every question (questions of a next-gen ZR1 did get him to tell me there's a "100 percent chance that it's possible").
This is a man who knows his stuff, who drives a Corvette in Michigan year round with snow tires on it. He's one of us. And here's what he had to say about some of the 2014 Corvette's more interesting features.
The Parking Brake
The 2014 Corvette has an electronic parking brake, because that's cool these days. What's even cooler is theoretically driving your Corvette into a theoretical hairpin and pulling a manual handbrake for some theoretical rally oppo action.
Tadge said that a manual parking brake "takes up a lot of prime real estate and passengers were using it as a handle." That's a bad thing. He also said you'll "need to be more creative to get the car to rotate." Translation: Put your foot on the gas, pansy.
A seven speed is the only manual gearbox available in the Corvette, and I think it's a good one. But the frustrating part is that there is no lockout on seventh gear, meaning you can shift into seventh from any gear, which means a mistaken shift can happen. Tadge says there "should be random access at all times." He also said that he goes from 4th to 7th on the highway a lot. Ok, fair enough.
But there is another feature in the transmission that stands squarely opposed to that, and it's the simply terrible fuel economy saving 1st to 4th skip shift feature. That's the opposite of random access. Granted, the skip shift only lasts for about 200 or 300 RPM, so Tadge's advice was to wait. Or instead we could have start-stop. Which would you rather have?
Ah, start-stop. It's one of my least favorite features in new cars, mainly because of how disconcerting it is when stopped. The 2014 Corvette doesn't have start-stop, thank God. Tadge said that you don't want it on "an engine with character," which the LT1 has in spades.
It's disconcerting to have a high performance engine turn off at a stop, so the trade off is the skip shift. I think that's perfectly fine, because start stop is utterly infuriating.
If you've been in a C6 or C7 Corvette, you'll notice that it has push button handles, not regular locks. engineers just wanted to move the locking mechanisms so this was the solution. If people can't get used to it, well, they just need to.
Why Isn't There A Shooting Brake Corvette?
"We have our proponents, but we aren't doing it." He said Callaway will, though. He also made mention of a ZR1 that is "rear-engined, brown, diesel, and can fly."
What is the Corvette Engineer's Ideal Corvette?
"I don't know what exact spec yet, but it would be a coupe."
A lot of people like to question why an automaker makes certain decisions, or what they see as compromises, especially in a car like the 2014 Corvette. Tadge gets that. And when I mentioned to him that some people still don't like the Corvette no matter what you tell them, he said that "a lot of people don't want to let facts get in the way of their opinions."