When we woke up at 6:00 this morning, in Geneva, to head to the local convention center in time for Chevrolet’s show-opening global introduction of its new Corvette Stingray Convertible, the outside temperature hovered around freezing. But this did not stop the Vette from taking off its thick, three-ply, padded, rectangular glass-windowed top, a feat it can now achieve fully electronically, as well as remotely (via the key fob), and at speeds of up to 30 m.p.h.
This was wonderful news to those of us who had squandered countless hours mentally (or virtually) undressing Chevy’s latest fiberglass firecracker, since its coupe-y January introduction in Detroit. But it was even better news to anyone who ever drove a C6 Corvette Convertible and had to suffer that car’s roof retraction mechanism, which involved pulling and twisting a cheap plastic release handle that felt like it fell off an ILLCO Woosh backyard toy, in 1975.
Aside from the conveniently usable roof, how does the C7 Stingray drop-top differ from its carbon fiber targa’d cousin? Not in the powertrain department, where it shares the same 450 hp, 450 ft/lb 6.2 liter direct-injected pushrod V-8 and seven-speed manual or six-speed paddle-shifted slushboxed rev-matching transmissions. Not at each corner, where there are still double wishbones, four-piston calipers, and 245 mm front and 285 mm rear tires—along with available upgrades to magnetorheological dampers, slotted discs, and bigger rims (19s for 18s front, 20s for 19s rear) with the Z51 performance package.
And with the exception of the twin black accent panels that follow the contours of the plastic tonneau, and the movement of the seat belt mounting points away from the now non-existent B-pillars, the new — and much improved interior — is exactly the same as the coupe’s, which is to say, spattered with available carbon fiber and aluminum and leather and micro-suede trim, sporting a pair of eight-inch infotainment screens, and featuring two different options for magnesium-framed seats, both of which promise to improve on the C6’s de-accessioned AirTran Economy chairs by at least one million percent.
The biggest change from the coupe is, sadly, the rather brutal elimination that car’s most distinctly positive design element: the Italianesque rear quarter-windows. While we’re pleased that Chevy kept cost, weight, and complexity down, and storage space up, with a fabric top, we miss the elegance of the C7’s delicately rendered profile and wish the retraction action retained a bit more of its grace. Instead, the car’s oddly shrunken lid leaves the hunky new Vette looking oddly pinched and indistinct—like the Farnese Hercules wearing Mr. Potato Head’s teeny hat. Or like the C4.
We’re sure this car is going to be an inspired hoot to drive when it arrives late this year. And, topless, it’s still quite lovely to look at from most angles that aren’t the rear. But in this most Ferrari-esque of Corvettes, we wish Chevy had had the conviction to be a bit less modest and a bit more Mondial.