Return of the 'Ray

Powerful, fast and sexy yet remarkably refined, fuel-efficient and bristling with techie touches, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette may be the ultimate muscle car for the new millennium. Recognizing this, Chevy is attaching the storied Stingray nameplate, which is traditionally reserved for only very special generations of Corvettes, to the model for the first time since 1976.

First introduced in 1953, the Corvette has been an aspirational American ride for generations, and it’s this country’s best-selling sports car. The “Stingray” name (originally as two words, “Sting Ray”) first adorned a glamorous 1950s race car and then intermittently appeared on production Corvettes from 1963 through the mid-1970s.

Formally dubbed the C7, the latest Corvette generates a thrill-seeking 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque from a 6.2-liter V-8 power plant and leaps to 60 mph from a standing start in just 3.8 seconds (when equipped with the optional Z51 Performance Package).

Although the new Stingray, at 177 inches nose-to-tail, remains large by sports-car standards, it delivers an incongruous 29 miles per gallon on the highway and 17 mpg in the city. These impressive stats are largely due to a direct-injection engine with a deactivation system that shuts down four of its cylinders during open-road cruising.

Inside its wonderfully quiet cabin, genuine carbon fiber, aluminum and available Napa leather are welcome upgrades over the outgoing ’Vette’s abundance of plastic. A touch-screen navigation system with Chevrolet’s latest tablet-inspired MyLink infotainment setup and heads-up display, plus a customizable instrument cluster, may appeal particularly to younger drivers — an important demographic for Chevy — as will the C7’s relatively angular silhouette compared with most of its prior generations.

The resurrected Stingray continues something of a trend for reviving classic muscle cars, following the reappearance of Dodge’s Charger in 2006 and Challenger in 2008. Starting at $51,995 for the base coupe ($56,995 for the convertible), including a $995 destination fee, the new Corvette costs considerably more than these fellow returners but is faster and more luxurious and sophisticated than either while still more fuel-thrifty than V-8 versions of the 2013 Charger and Challenger (which return 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway).

While purists may gripe about details — notably the absence of signature round taillights — the 2014 Corvette Stingray, due in dealerships this fall, more than honors its six-decade heritage, delivering handling and performance at a decidedly Chevy price.

Paul Rogers, Brand Publishing Writer

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