The C7 was the last old school 'Vette. Also, it had up to 755hp. What more reason do you need?
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, 6 November 2022 / Loading comments
- Available for £50,000
- 6.2-litre V8 petrol, naturally aspirated or supercharged, rear-wheel drive
- Old-time design elements, up-to-date supercar performance
- It wouldn’t win a fit-and-finish comp against the best Euros
- Even the 755hp ZR1 can be had with a manual box
- Different, rare and appealing on many levels
You know things have gone squiffy when a car’s release is delayed because of an argument about which end of the car to put the engine. That’s what happened to the 2014-19 seventh-generation (C7) Chevrolet Corvette. Its forerunner, the C6, had been around since 2005 and was a relatively minor rework of the 1997-on C5, so the C7 (slated for a 2011 launch) needed to be special. A plan was hatched by GM’s North America Chairman and automotive visionary Bob Lutz to switch to a rear/mid-engined layout. He knew that this design would ease the integration of the fuel-saving cylinder shutdown tech that was key for the continued saleability of GM products.
Cylinder deactivation was brought in on the C7, cutting out four of the eight cylinders for cruising, but Lutz was overruled on his deviation from the car’s front engine, rear-wheel drive layout that had been the norm for the Corvette since the very first C1 of 1951. Not just because a longitudinal drivetrain was cheaper to produce, but also because Chevy traditionalists – many of whom were getting on a bit – were horrified by the idea of anything else.
The wrangling about the C7’s format went on long enough to keep the C6 line running until 2013, two years longer than intended. There was one useful bonus. The 2007 C6 Corvette ZR1 became the only car to run the 640hp supercharged LS9 engine, at that time the most powerful engine ever used in a GM production sports car. It gave the ZR1 a claimed top speed of 205mph.
In 2020, ten years after Lutz retired from GM, his preferred rear/mid engine format finally came to pass in the latest (and still current) Corvette C8. It’s highly unlikely that Chevrolet will be returning to front-engine rear-wheel drive for the C9, or for any other future Cs come to that, so the C7 will be the last old-school ‘Vette. That’s got to be worth something. At the very least a buyer’s guide, which is what you’re getting here.
The C7 was available as a targa coupe or a convertible and came in three trim levels: 1LT, 2LT and (have a guess?) 3LT. The base model was deemed worthy of the old Stingray name, an award granted to only two previous Corvettes. It was reported at the time of the C7’s launch in 2014 that the only two parts the C7 shared with the C6 were the release lever for the roof panel and an air filter.
Whether you believe that or not, on a more general level one thing that did remain unchanged in all of the Corvette’s seven decades was the extensive use of fibreglass and composite panels to keep weight (and tooling costs) low and performance high. Not just in the bodywork either. Even the rear leaf springs were made of fibreglass-reinforced plastic, composites having been used in this area in Corvettes since 1981. The bonnet and removable roof panels were made of carbon fibre. The rest of the bodywork sat on a 45kg lighter aluminium spaceframe with the central transmission spine providing the main rigidity – of which there was 57 per cent more than on the C6.
The other benefit of lightweight bodywork of course was enhanced performance. This had been a source of worry for diehard Chevy fans waiting for the C7. There had been blasphemous talk of a 3.6 litre V6, so everyone was pleased when the C7 came out with a naturally aspirated small block 6.2-litre LT1 16-valve pushrod V8 with modern-ish engine tech like variable valve timing and direct injection. This produced 455hp and 460lb ft, good for a manufacturer’s claimed 0-60 time of 4.2sec with the 7-speed manual.
Your other transmission choice was a 6-speed Hydra-Matic torque converter auto. This was replaced by a GM 8L90 8-speeder t/c auto in 2015, the year of release for the Z06 variant. This, the first Z06 since 1963 to be offered as either a coupe or a convertible, had an Eaton supercharged dry-sump LT4 motor with forged conrods and pistons. It generated 650hp and 650lb ft, enough for a 3.2sec 0-60 time with the 7-speed manual gearbox (which in this application had a bespoke lightweight clutch and flywheel assembly) or a claimed 2.95sec with the 8-speed auto – serious performance by any internal combustion measure.
All non-Z06 variants were available with the Z51 Performance Package which comprised 19in front/20in rear wheels, dry sump lubrication, an electronic limited-slip diff, bigger front brake discs, Z51-specific suspension rates, ‘performance’ gear ratios, an active dual-mode exhaust system and an aero kit to cut down on high-speed lift. Magnetic adaptive suspension was a commonly ticked option. All Euro-spec cars came with this Z51 package.
The specced-up Grand Sport – another old name harking back to a legendary 1963 Corvette race car – gave you enhanced 3LT equipment (suede A-pillars, Nappa leather, red brake calipers) and the option of a Z07 Performance pack which tuned up the adaptive suspension and added carbon ceramic brakes plus a mean-looking aero package (spoiler, splitter, diffuser, winglets). The 500-off limited edition C7.R Edition of 2016 had this Z07 package. It was also an option on the 2017 Grand Sport on top of its Z06-derived package of chassis, cooling and performance tech.
2018 signalled the nearing end of the C7 marked by cosmetically enhanced Carbon 65 Edition cars. On 31 August 2019, C7 imports to the UK were brought to a rude end by the new WLTP emissions regulations. 2019 was the last year for the C7 anyway but it didn’t half go out with a bang in the bonkers form of the ZR1, a 755hp/715lb ft aeroed-up beast with carbon ceramic brakes. Its LT5 engine featured GM’s first dual injection system (port and direct). The ZR1 monstered the 0-60 in 2.85sec and the 0-100 in 6.0 dead (both as an auto, although remarkably you could still get it with the 7-speed manual).
A massive rear spoiler was part of the optional ZTK track package which also included stiffer springs and revised magnetic damping. Chevrolet attached that spoiler to the top of the bodywork behind the bootlid, making it hard to use the boot for anything much deeper than an envelope, but who cared about that when you could reputedly use the ZR1 to lap Virginia International raceway 1.37sec faster than a considerably more expensive Ford GT? It wasn’t cheap relative to other Vettes, mind: at $121,000 (or about the same in pounds if you wanted to import one) it was well over twice the price of the basic $55k model.
You’d think that 2022 prices of used Corvette C7s in the US would look annoyingly low to would-be Brit buyers, given that new Z51-specced cars were the equivalent of £33k over there when they came out in 2014. It’s not like that though. Used C7s have become expensive in the US as well, so there’s no value in trying to import a C7 from the States, especially as shipping, duty, tax and other costs will add nearly 40 per cent to the price you paid, magically bringing your final invoice up to what you would have paid for a car that was already here. In the UK, C7s were sold exclusively by Ian Allan Motors in Virginia Water, which is still the UK’s sole dealer for the current C8.
The absence of right-hand drive cars (a shortcoming that was put right in the C8) kept UK C7 sales low so you can add rarity to the many other reasons – looks, handling, and high calibre performance – that should be convincing you to put the Corvette C7 on any serious two-seater sports car shortlist. You can add value retention to that list too. In 2019, UK Corvette prices started at £64,995 for the entry-level Stingray model. Today, in 2022, you can easily find three-year-old Stingrays with single-figure mileages wearing the same £65k price tag.
At the time of writing the most affordable standard C7 on sale in the UK was a 2015 coupe at a little under £55k, which is only £6k less than the new price back then. We’ll give you a link to that at the end of the story, along with one to a wild card option for £50k – the cheapest C7 on sale in Britain as we went to press. Will we also be giving you reasons not to buy a C7, though? Let’s find out by taking a V8-powered trundle through the potential ownership story.
SPECIFICATION | CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7 (2014-19)
Engine: 6,162cc V8 16v NA/supercharged
Transmission: 7-speed man or 6-speed auto (8-speed post 2015), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 455/[email protected],400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 460/[email protected],600rpm
0-60mph (secs): 3.8 (man)/3.2 (man), 2.95 (auto)
Top speed (mph, claimed): 182/196
Weight (kg): 1,562/1,598
MPG (official combined): 23.0/20.0
CO2 (g/km): 279/322
Wheels (in): 18 or 19 (f), 19 or 20 (r)
Tyres: 285/30 (f), 335/25 (r)
On sale: 2014 – 2019
Price new (2014/15): £61,495/£90,445
Price now: from £50,000
Figures are for Euro-spec Z51/supercharged Z06 auto
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The 6.2-litre LT1 pushrod motor may have seemed a touch prehistoric to European enthusiasts but there was method to its apparent madness. The simplicity of the overhead-valve design allowed the engine to be more compact, which in turn allowed a lower bonnet line. It worked brilliantly too, delivering blood-stirring acceleration that graduated to crushing in blown format.
The quad pipe exhaust might have seemed a bit ‘look at me’ but the ‘listen to me’ part fully justified it, and it was all real noise too, none of your computer-generated stuff. Compared to the C6 motor the new unit felt a lot angrier, especially when there was 3,000rpm on the tacho, when it felt like it was living up to the power number promise more authentically than previous models had. Trying to nail down definitive top speeds and 0-60 or 0-62 times for the various C7s is like trying to pin a tail on a Tasmanian devil. The factory was coy about some of this sort of stuff, possibly preferring to let urban myth and exaggerations do their PR for them.
De-catting and camshaft changes were common mods but you had to ensure that your tuner was on the ball when it came to modding the engine management software to suit. On Euro-spec cars, cylinder deactivation only happened in Eco mode. There were reports of damage to the torque tube caused by any sudden open-throttle switch from four-cylinder to eight-cylinder operation. Some cooling issues arose with hard-driven early model (pre-2018) Z06s resulting in overheating and a descent into limp mode. GM upgraded the radiators to fix this.
On any C7 Corvette you didn’t want to see blue smoke from the exhaust. An inhibiter was there to prevent high revs before the engine was properly warm, but that didn’t prevent a flurry of blown-up LT1 engines on cars from the first two years of production. Poor machining was blamed for some of these issues. Oil filters were known to fragment too, with nasty results.
There was a particular oil filling and checking regime for the dry-sumped Z51 and supercharged engines. The servicing frequency on C7s had increased over the C6 to every 7,500 miles and it was important to do an oil change in the first 500 miles to head off the negative effects of oil foaming that could be caused by silicone gasket sealants.
Chevrolet gave it large in 2015 about how their new 8-speed Hydra-Matic was quicker than Porsche’s PDK. Be that as it may or may not have been, it was a decent box, but jerkiness and poor shifting problems were reported on some late C7 Corvettes fitted with it, leading to a flurry of class action lawsuits. GM’s solution in 2019 was to flush out the old transmission fluid and replace it with Mobil 1. This appeared to cure the juddering and improve the shift quality.
Weirdly, the manual had shifter paddles on the steering wheel. Rather than going to the expense of two-wheel designs Chevrolet had repurposed the auto paddles into controls for the manual’s rev-matching system. If you left it engaged it would blip the throttle for you on downchanges. The narrow shift gate meant that you could easily wrong-slot into seventh instead of fifth, but at least you could enjoy the wonderfully relaxed gearing in top which asked just 2,000rpm of the engine at 100mph, equivalent to 1,500rpm at a typical motorway cruise. Some manuals suffered from the occasional odd vibration.
Technically manufacturers can’t insist on you using an unofficial independent for servicing, but the chances are that most UK owners will stick with Ian Allan Motors as the sole approved UK service and parts dealer for the car. Unfortunately there is no servicing price structure on their website.
Despite those plastic leaf springs at the rear, the C7 was a very enjoyable drive. It was no 911, but a 991 Carrera 2 S with a slippy diff would have cost you over £90k at the time. Of the C7’s five driving modes – Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track – the softest two weren’t used much by UK owners as even the sportiest Sport and Track choices were perfectly useable here. Most testers rated the Corvette’s handling fluency at least on a par with that of the F-Type, although the body control over sudden bumps wasn’t quite up to Jaguar standards. Again though you were talking £80k for an equivalent Jag.
Chevrolet’s Performance Traction Management system wasn’t that dissimilar to Ferrari’s F1 Trac setup. The stability control could be fully deactivated and the magnetic damping worked well. Even though the quick, electronically assisted steering got a bit weighty in Track mode it was accurate, predictable and confidence-inspiring. Grip on Michelin Pilot Super Sports was impressively strong. Wider versions of these were specially developed for the Z06, which needed new bodywork to accommodate them.
For the C7, Chevrolet switched from forged wheels to cast aluminium ones which did acquire a reputation for warping and cracking. GM’s suggested solution was to avoid driving into potholes, triggering legal challenges from some owners who thought it was more to do with the wheels not being strong enough to handle the torque of the more powerful models.
Some front-end drag and shaking were noted in low-speed manoeuvres at extreme steering angles. This seems to be regarded as a normal quirk of the car. All 2018 cars switched to the Z51’s 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels as standard. The standard braking didn’t stand up that well to repeated heavy use and the pedal could become slightly inconsistent in its responses. Carbon ceramic brakes saving more than 10kg were part of the optional Z07 Performance Package.
In pictures, the C7 looks like a big car. In fact, it was almost exactly the same length as a contemporary Porsche 911, which it rivalled on performance and easily undercut on price. Track and wheelbase were both up by an inch over the C6, but the C7 felt smaller than the C6 from the driving seat possibly because of the shrinking effect of the sharp new bodywork, with its cool doors that were opened by buttons inside and out.
The drawback of composite bodywork is that accidents tend to crack it rather than dent it and repairs are often difficult or impossible, in which case complete panel replacement will be required, so you should look at even mild body imperfections with a sharper than normal eye as they could be indicators of more serious problems elsewhere.
Colour choices are always subjective but we reckon the C7 looks great in blue. There have been issues with paint bubbling. Creaks from the targa tops are commonly reported. Rubber seal protectant normally sorts this out.
Chevrolet said that they took inspiration from jet fighters when they were designing the C7’s cabin. Overall it was a big step forward on the C6. The central TFT screen and steering wheel certainly looked the part. The driving position was more than decent although the control weights on manual cars were perhaps predictably on the butch side. You could choose standard GT seats or Competition Sport seats if you were planning on lots of trackday fun.
Even lower 2LT-specced cars were not short of equipment or luxury, coming as they did with electrically adjustable heated/ventilated seats, leather, dual-zone climate, keyless entry and start, 360-degree camera, cruise and a lowerable 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen incorporating sat nav, smartphone integration, digital radio, Bose audio and GM’s OnStar driver assistance and wi-fi system.
The touchscreen could put plenty of data your way but it wasn’t always immediately obvious exactly how to access some of it. A head-up display that was standard on 2LT and 3LT spec cars (i.e. most of the ones that came into the UK) was much improved on the C6 offering and gave you a clear view of the essentials. From 2015 a Performance Data Recorder was added which allowed you to hi-def video your heroic track exploits with telemetry overlays. 2016 brought a front-view camera, useful for the low-rolling Corvette, and Apple/Android compatibility.
More than one C7 infotainment screen flickered or went blank. Often this was nothing more than loose wiring in the HMI module behind the driver’s sidekick panel which needed to be plugged back into place, especially on pre-2016 cars, or maybe a broken ECU connector. Simple stuff, but not the sort of thing you would expect to find in something that was intended to do battle with a premium Euro-product. Elsewhere, a bag of golf clubs would go into the boot no bother, and stay there in disgrace probably if you’re as good at golf as we are. The targa roof panel didn’t rob too much space when it was stashed in there and it was very easy to fit or remove.
The brief for the C7 Corvette was to produce something that could genuinely take on the best from Europe. US auto standards of fit and finish were improving when the C7 arrived but they were still nothing to get excited about relative to everyday European or Asian products. That apart, the C7 was a very good effort at hitting the brief. The mechanicals might seem old school but as long as you keep an eye on things they’re well up to the job in terms of both performance and reliability.
Even at inflated British prices, ads from specialist dealers encouraging owners to sell their cars indicates that demand is exceeding supply. High-horsepower C7s are very rare indeed in the UK. The standard 455hp car will be more than quick enough for most UK drivers but they’re not exactly common either. This rarity makes it difficult to come up with definitive used values. It’s a case of keeping your eyes on the classifieds and hoping to get lucky. Don’t expect to find many bargains as C7 prices are holding up very well indeed. Perhaps that isn’t too surprising as the C7 wasn’t blown into the weeds by the comparatively revolutionary C8.
Here’s that 2015 car we mentioned at the beginning. At £55k this was the cheapest standard C7 that we could find on sale in the UK at the time of writing. It’s an auto with the top 3LT cabin spec. Not sure how well the chromey wheels will stand up to a few months exposed to the British climate but apart from that it looks good and it’s only done 8,000 miles. Judging by the spec this Watkins Grey 2018 car is another 3LT auto. More miles than the 2015 car at 20k and a bit more money too at £59,995.
Fancy something different? How about this supercharged 13,000-mile ‘15 car at a tempting £50k? It’s not a Z06: instead, it’s had £12k’s worth of work done on the installation of a Magnuson blower. It might not be available anymore as the eBay reference quoted in the ad comes up with nothing. That could be down to our hamfisted keyboard-bashing but we wouldn’t be surprised if it had simply been sold and just not updated on PH Classifieds yet because, why wouldn’t you? Well, maybe because some say you should never buy a modified Corvette, although the vendor says that this one is still under warranty.
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