DETROIT — General Motors Co. on Sunday unleashed the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the seventh generation of the classic American sports car and the first new version since 2005.
The Stingray boasts an estimated 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful standard Corvette in history, GM said. The highly anticipated unveiling came on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit during a special preview at the city's Russell Industrial Center.
"For 60 years, the Corvette has represented the state of the art in performance cars," said Mark Reuss, GM North American president, as he stood on stage next to a fire-alarm red Stingray, its tarp just pulled off. "Since 1953, through the good times and the bad times for this company, there was always Corvette, demonstrating what it means to win -- to be the best."
The Stingray, a storied name first used in 1963, represents an important launch for General Motors as it tries to rebound from bankruptcy and shore up declining and historically low U.S. market share. The company will also use the Detroit auto show to formally debut its new Silverado and GMC trucks and its Cadillac ELR -- a plug-in hybrid based on the Chevy Volt that's aimed at the California market.
Corvette production in recent years has plummeted -- from more than 40,000 in 2007 to less than 12,000 in 2012 -- but that can be at least partly attributed to an economy that hampered luxury purchases. Historically, Corvette redesigns, which have averaged once every nine years, have boosted production by 50% or more.
The new Stingray's exterior is a study in sharp edges and angles, continuing an evolution that started with the 2005 redesign of its more-rounded predecessor. If there's a controversial styling element, it's the rather busy rear end, which replaces the 'Vette's signature round taillights with squarish lights that lean away from center.
"Of all the reveals at this week's NAIAS, the Corvette is bound to be the most polarizing," said Jesse Toprak, a senior analyst at auto price information company TrueCar Inc. "So many enthusiasts feel bound to the Corvette's swoopy heritage and may find the seventh-generation design to be too angular."
Bill Visnic, an analyst at auto information company Edmunds.com, said he was "on the fence" about the design.
"There is a need to make them distinctive, but in the case of the Corvette, there is still a need to pay homage to the tradition, and that gives you a mash-up of ideas," he said. "I think it is effective but expected."
If the styling departs somewhat from tradition, Chevy draws on the car's heritage with the return of the Stingray name.
"We knew we couldn't use the Stingray name unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy," said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design. "The result is a new Corvette Stingray that breaks from tradition, while remaining instantly recognizable as a Corvette the world over."
The new Stingray will rip through zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds and achieve more than the force of gravity in cornering grip, according to Chevrolet. The car will also be the most fuel-efficient Corvette to date, exceeding the EPA-estimated 26 mpg of the current model.
The all-new 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 engine features three new technologies: direct injection, variable valve timing and an active fuel management system that enables the engine to throttle down to a four-cylinder configuration in certain situations, such as highway cruising.
Putting power to the ground will be a new seven-speed manual transmission. The automatic transmission option is a six-speed with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
A Z51 performance package will include an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling, and an aerodynamics package that Chevrolet says improves high-speed stability.
The car's interior, a point of criticism in past Corvettes, will include carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather trim pieces, and two 8-inch configurable infotainment screens.
There will be two seat choices: one for all-around comfort and a "Competition Sport" option with aggressive side bolstering to hold the driver in place during hard cornering.
The cockpit also features five settings the driver can select to optimize the car for varying driving conditions: Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track.
GM has not revealed pricing for the new Stingray but said it will be in the range of the current car, which starts at about $50,000 and climbs into six figures in some variations.
GM executives hope the Corvette, which will go on sale in the third quarter, will build excitement for the entire Chevrolet brand.
"As we continue to bolster Chevrolet's best lineup ever, here comes the best Corvette ever," Reuss said as he unveiled the car in Detroit.
Toprak, of TrueCar, said the Corvette could generate street-level buzz for the company.
"In a year where GM's sales are expected to be stagnant," he said, "the new Corvette will bring the much-needed showroom traffic to Chevrolet dealers."
Hirsch reported from Detroit and Thevenot from Los Angeles.