There’s something deviously appealing about a car so painstakingly designed for the driver’s experience that it manages, at the same time to tell the passenger, “Fuck you.” The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe has the audacity to be that vehicle — and it works.
If you don’t ride shotgun, there’s a chance you’ll never notice. I know I certainly didn’t until I hopped in the passenger seat of my Stingray to observe a professional driver at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School take a lap around the track. That’s when I realized, oh shit, there’s no “oh, shit” handle. There’s not even a door handle. I just have to use my core muscles to hold myself steady while my driver has all the fun.
But that just made the Stingray all the more delightful when I got behind the wheel the following morning, ready to flex my skills. I couldn’t keep a sly, Grinchy grin off my face. The rest of the world can fuck off; this car is all about me.
Full Disclosure: Chevrolet provided me with a 2021 Corvette Stingray Coupe to drive from the Las Vegas airport to the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School and back again, and the Spring Mountain track kindly put me up at one of their condos and wine and dined me, which was wholly unnecessary because they could have made me camp out in the desert, and I still would have had one hell of a time. All opinions, as always, are my own.
The Corvette Stingray has been one of my dream cars since I was a kid. It was my mom’s dream car when she was a kid. It’s the reason I buy tacky, 80s-style Corvette crop tops and bright yellow Corvette sweatpants from Target. Call me a Boomer at heart, but it really is something to finally get to drive the car you’ve spent your life growing up with.
They tell you never to meet your idols, but when your idol greets you with a suede hug, a V8 engine, and 14 Bose speakers cranking Van Halen at an ungodly volume, there’s a damn good chance we’re going to get along.
- The model I drove started at $70,850; with options and the delivery fee, it cost $81,515.
- 6.2-liter V8 engine
- 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission
- Mechanical limited-slip differential
- 490 horsepower
- 465 lb-ft torque
- 15 mpg city / 27 mpg highway / 19 mpg combined
- Wireless charging, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
- Heated and ventilated seats
Oh, where to start with the Corvette Stingray? Should I begin with the mid-engined body, which offers such balanced handling that I couldn’t spin it on the track, even if I tried? Drive modes so smooth that I had to remind myself to check the speedometer because the massive increase in speed was almost imperceptible? A changeable head-up display that enabled me to optimize what I could see based on whether or not I was on the track? I wish I could narrow it down.
So I’ll start with the basics that I learned at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School. The ‘Vette accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds for me using launch control, which was a little low but was dependent on weather factors. In some cars, launch control can feel a little bit like you’re trying to guide a rocket ship through a pinhole, so violent is the acceleration. With the Stingray, I felt like I was floating like a cloud. Even nixing traction control couldn’t kill my vibe. It’s the same with braking: the sudden deceleration is massive, but it never feels jarring.
Take this car on the track, and you’re in for a treat. The weight distribution of the Corvette is so sublime (thank you, whoever decided to make this vehicle mid-engined) that you’d have to really be throwing it around to get it to spin out. I had a few wiggles that in any other car would have sent me off into the gravel.
But not in the C8. No, sir. I was able to hold it on the track, which gave me the kind of confidence I needed to continue experimenting with ways to put together faster laps. The C8 has a way of holding your hand and coaxing you into really letting your inhibitions fall away.
The short hood offered stunning visibility, and with a mid-body center of gravity, it felt like I was in charge of the car’s direction. Driving this car is a blessedly easy task, but in a way that still keeps you engaged as a driver. The car is taking care of the hard stuff for you; it’s up to you to put in the mechanical controls that will create the perfect lap.
On the road itself, the magnetic ride control reduces the feel of potholes and bumps (so long as you’re in touring mode), and you still maintain that track-ready sense of control over the car’s every move. You’ll just have to be wary of the speedometer. It has a knack for creeping up on you as soon as you take your eyes off it.
As far as aesthetics go, this is a car that’s designed around the driver, so you’ll always be comfortable. The bucket, leather-wrapped seats make you feel like a race car driver while the suede-wrapped steering wheel had me wishing I’d paid a little more attention to my nails so as to have them be worthy of holding something so luxe. Even the infotainment screen was nice; it’s angled toward the driver for ease of access, but it’s also recessed, so it doesn’t draw your eye unnecessarily.
The best feature, though? The volume knob. In a car full of new technology, the decision to retain that knob is the perfect callback to the Stingray’s long lasting heritage. Chevrolet: Thank you.
I hate to be That Guy, but there wasn’t much about this Corvette that I didn’t like. My main qualm was that I’d have liked the ventilated seats to be a little draftier, but that also may have been a natural result of sporting a fashionable layer of quarantine pudge in extremely high desert temperatures.
I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the strip of controls that lined the cockpit separating the driver from the passenger. That was where you toggled everything climate-related, and it could be a pain in the ass. In the sun, the glare would be so bad on the top buttons that I couldn’t easily see them — and those were the ones that controlled my half of the car.
At the same time, I can’t tell you how else I’d have preferred those features to be laid out. It was nice that they were out of the way so that you could focus on the controls that really mattered. It looked sleek, and I liked the insulated feel that the layout gave to the driver, where the car curls in around you to let you know that you’re in charge.
I was also annoyed that I had to get used to using the rearview digital camera. Yes, you can turn it off, but that camera is going to be the only reason you actually see any of the vehicles behind you. I, very grudgingly, put up with it.
Halfway through my first day at the driving school, I learned that I did not actually win the bid I’d placed on my dream house. As I spent lunch wallowing in my own privileged misery, I unfolded my Stingray’s window sticker. If I paid cash for that exact car at that exact moment, it still wouldn’t have been my down payment. And for a very long moment, I sincerely thought to myself, “I could live out of a Corvette.” Ignore the limited trunk space. Ignore the tight, driver-focused cockpit. Ignore the fact that I would no doubt live out my days uncomfortable as hell. I’d have a Corvette.
That, I think, says it all.