If there was a Corvette 1LE, these accessories would do it.
The 5th generation Chevrolet Camaro 1LE pulled down several parts from its 580 horsepower brother, the Camaro ZL1. In the same way, the 455-460 hp C7 Corvette Stingray borrows some of the best parts from its big brother, the 650 hp C7 Corvette Z06. All of the details can be found in our former coverage of Chevrolet’s announcement, but the skinny includes the following Z06 parts: radiator fan, aero kit, rear quarter panel vents, front grille, trans oil cooler, prop shaft assembly, carbon fiber underbody braces, and front brake cooling kit. Just about everything sans the wide body, rims, tires, carbon brake kit and supercharged LT4 V8 engine. In addition, Chevrolet also announced the T1 competition suspension package for non-magnetic-ride-control-equipped Corvettes. After a few laps around one of the many configurations of Spring Mountain Motorsports Park, we can soundly claim that these components make a difference.
Aesthetically, a C7 Corvette Stingray without its stock grille (no “retainer”) is a plus. The Z06 grille will unanimously win a beauty contest against the standard Stingray mouth. And it will also win in functionality. It’s hard to beat a grille design that allows more airflow inward than if there was no grille altogether. This of course contributes to downforce, engine air intake, and cooling. However, our brief laps around the circuit couldn’t really give a good impression on cooling. That’s for somebody with a full day to expend, though Chevrolet claims noticeable improvements on all fronts.
Really, what changes the game here is the T1 suspension system. It’s non-magnetic, and turns the C7 from a well-rounded sports car, to a more focused track star. A Corvette Stingray, or even a Stingray Z51, with a T1 suspension is a caged animal. And should only be set loose on a track. As the name goes, this suspension setup is for the SCCA’s Touring 1 class, and necessary to compete in the Michelin Corvette Challenge.
Before we were able to jump into a Corvette Stingray with a T1 suspension kit ($3,250 a la carte), we were immersed in more standard models. At this point, we’re more familiar with the C7 Corvette Stingray than we are any other performance car out there (we wouldn’t be — the still independently owned and operated — GM Authority if it was any other way). For the price, there’s nothing that touches the Corvette Stingray in track performance combined with day-to-day niceties and technology. And it goes without saying that a C7 Stingray on the track is genuinely sublime and a joy to drive. A very competent and predictable chassis with a great balance of power. But again, we’re talking solely of the Stingray here.
The C7 Corvette Z06, in all its performance and glory, has some hinderance. One being that, for the money, you still get that essentially the same interior as the significantly less-expensive base model. Second is that the 650 horsepower and 650 pounds-feet of torque are simply insane power figures for this platform, and performs as such. When you hear people say this car is maxed out, this is what they mean. It’s at the literal bleeding edge of acceptable behavior from the factory. Incredibly capable, yes, as many comparison tests show, but the Z06 can be more than a handful in everyday life. And even if you were to be a track rat with it, there’s going to be heat soak from the supercharged engine one way or another. And while the current Z06 demand may be surprising Chevy, a Stingray is still the model we find ourselves more comfortable in. The balance of all things — power, comfort, handling — align themselves more properly than its bigger badder brother, in our opinion.
Enter the T1 Corvette Stingray. This one’s the one. If the setup of a Z51 Corvette wasn’t satisfying enough for you, this ought to do it. Expressively tuned for the track, the suspension setup of this car felt significantly different from that of the base model during our time around the track. By that we mean it was stiffer — less yaw, less dip, and less give. The car would hold better on turn-in and track-out. Ultimately meaning that more speed can be carried into a corner, and the power can be put down harder upon corner exit. The passive dampers of the T1 suspension package have been calibrated for both street tires as well as racing slicks. The added assurance of Z06 iron rotors also contributed to closing the gap between having our foot on the gas pedal and off of it. All in all, an improvement over what already has proven to be a sublime sports car.
So, Corvette enthusiasts, take note. You may want the go-fast parts of the 2016 Corvette Z06. And yet you may want the more manageable LT1 power output of the 2016 Corvette Stingray. But more importantly, the race track is your weekend home. Between the Capable Corvette Stingray and the Chevrolet Performance Catalog, a tailored Corvette combination awaits.