2019 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible Test Drive Review: Supercar On A Budget

Test Drive

The C7 Corvette Stingray boasts the performance and looks of a supercar for a fraction of the cost.

While the – and chances are it’ll be another year until – the Stingray remains Chevy’s performance maestro. In Z06 and ZR1 spec, the Corvette sits among the world’s elite sports cars, but the base Stingray is no slouch and considerably less expensive, with a supremely capable chassis, a 455-hp V8 powerplant up front and sharp styling.

Aside from a couple of new body colors, not much has changed for 2019 - which is a good thing as the C7 is brilliant fun to drive, looks and sounds great, and is properly quick.

We had a week with the Corvette Stingray Convertible, spending time in downtown LA before stretching the Vette’s legs over two days on a bucket list drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco where its gasoline guzzling burbling V8 shook Tesla owners to their core.

Exterior Design: Sexy As Ever

Elkhart Lake Blue and Shadow Gray are new shades for 2019, but ours came in black with black-painted aluminum wheels for a sleek and stealthy look. The Corvette turned heads and put smiles on people’s faces wherever we went, save for San Francisco’s EV warriors who were doubtless smiling on the inside. Having grown up with a yellow 1978 Stingray in central London, this is not a new phenomenon for me. Looks may be subjective but the Vette is one handsome automobile. In fact, compared to similarly priced sports cars on the market, the Stingray is the best looking by far.

Especially with the roof down, which can be operated with the press of a button while driving at speeds up to 30 mph or remotely with the key fob. With the power-folding convertible top in place the Stingray Convertible holds its shape, but for my mind at least the Coupe has the superior aesthetic.

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Low slung, long hood, swoops and curves for miles – the black also does a fine job shading the creases and vents – with black-painted five-split spoke wheels staggered 19/20 inches front/rear, and the centrally-mounted quad exhaust at the rear, I’d be happy to see this on the driveway every morning. I was genuinely sad to bid it farewell from outside the airport as it peeled away, roof down, exhaust dialed up to a magnificent scream.

Engine, Performance & MPG

The Stingray’s beauty is more than skin deep. Strip away the body and a glorious 6.2-liter V8 is ready to deliver 460 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque (455 hp and 460 lb-ft without the Z51 package or performance exhaust). And with it a gritty base note that resonates through the cabin from lumpy idle at start up and when plodding along in traffic to the screaming howl the eight cylinders emit at 6,000 rpm when tearing up the freeway.

A seven-speed manual comes standard and while we would have loved rowing our own gears, the optional eight-speed automatic does a fine job of getting the power down to the tarmac. It’s also the sensible option if you plan on hitting the highway regularly, where the Vette cruises along at 1,500 rpm, officially swallowing a gallon of fuel every 25 miles. It’s combined fuel economy is 18 mpg and 15 mpg for city driving, but we suspect most drivers won’t get anywhere near those numbers if they plan on having any fun. The automatic also offers superior acceleration, sprinting from 0-60 mph in a neck-snapping 3.7 seconds. Top speed is around 175 mph.

Driving Impressions

The 2019 Corvette Stingray is a surprisingly capable all-rounder. Once you get accustomed to looking over the vast carbon-fiber hood, it’s a breeze to drive, the magnetic ride control soaking up the bumps while the masterful chassis can be set up for a range of driving scenarios. Swivel the Driver Mode Select to Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track and the Vette will make the necessary adjustments to a range of systems, including the steering, traction, damping, and differential.

Tour mode is the go-to for standard commutes you want to complete at a cruise with Sport and Track progressively tightening the chassis and adding weight to the steering that’s quick to react making the most of the grip from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer-only tires (P245/35ZR19 front, P285/30ZR20 rear). The Vette doesn’t need a lot of provocation to loosen things up at the rear, which is easy to do if you forget just how powerful the engine is.

The Stingray’s cabin doesn’t possess the rarefied feel of a supercar, but it has the ability to perform like one. It is unapologetically quick and seriously loud with the multi-mode quad exhausts on full tilt, and has awesome stopping power courtesy of Brembo’s steel rotors. It took a while to learn how to get the most out of the Vette, but after a couple of days, it became a seriously addictive car to drive.

The Stingray Convertible is not that happy in the rain, however, especially when wearing summer rubber. The final 100 miles of a 450-mile drive was in the pouring rain on a light-deprived highway. In Weather mode, the Vette kept its composure while moving through an unrelenting thunderstorm, but it's much happier with the roof-down and sunny blue skies overhead.

Interior Design, Features & Dimensions

This is one area where buyers that are cross-shopping with a Porsche 911, BMW M4, Audi RS5 or Mercedes-AMG C63S will most likely find fault. But with expectations kept in check, there is a lot to like about the cabin. The leather power-adjustable bucket seats kept my average (6-foot) frame well supported, the driver-focused dash is easy on the eye and the leather-wrapped steering wheel nice to the touch, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot kept me well connected, and the head-up display is superb. Of course, there’s too much plastic and it lacks German sophistication in its execution, but you won’t care a jot about that once you fire up the V8.

Trunk & Cargo Space

Having waited so long to tick this bucket list item, when Chevrolet offered me the Stingray Convertible I didn’t even think about it. On reflection, I wish that I had as the Coupe’s notoriously large (albeit shallow) trunk shrinks considerably in the drop top.

With the roof up you can just about squeeze a suitcase in there, but then you can’t enjoy the roof-down driving the PCH offers in abundance. Anything more than a couple of small weekend bags and you’ll be confined to keeping the fabric roof firmly in place. My solution was to have the passenger seat carry my gear, but that wasn’t really the look I was after when cruising through Santa Monica. If you want a more practical sports car with decent cargo capacity, the Coupe apes the M3 in terms of trunk space. The Convertible is fine if you travel light.

The cabin offers adequate stowage space, including what would be a sweet secret compartment behind the touchscreen if it wasn’t for the large operating button giving it away.

Price & Trims

The Stingray Convertible starts from $61,495, a $4,500 premium over the Coupe. For that buyers get the 1LT, the lightest possible Vette that comes with 9-speaker Bose system, power seats, carbon-fiber hood, Brembo brakes housed in Z-51 style wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport.

Buyers looking for comfort and convenience features can step up to the 2LT trim for $65,950 that adds a color Head-Up Display, better seats with lumbar and wing adjustments and emblems.

For $71,240, the 3LT adds some luxury in the form of a leather-clad interior with sueded-microfiber trim, and a Performance Data Recorder.

Each trim can be further enhanced with the Z51 Performance Package for an additional $5,000 that adds a dry sump oil system, electronic limited-slip diff, bigger brakes with black calipers, stiffer suspension setup, an aerodynamics package that reduces lift at high-speeds, a performance exhaust, and rear spoiler. Essentially everything you need to transform the Stingray into a bona fide sports car.

Option the Stingray Convertible with the 3LT and Z51 package and you’re looking at $76,240.

Premium color options add another $995, while decals and dual racing stripes cost up to $950. If you want anything other than silver-painted rims, then you can spend up to $1,995 (the black-painted wheels we had looked great for $495), the eight-speed automatic adds another $1,995 as do the Competition Sport bucket seats. Other options include badges and plaques, spoilers and ground effects, and before you know it, the final price can creep to beyond $85,000.

Compared to similarly priced sports cars like the Porsche Boxster, the Stingray’s cabin feels distinctly average. Our tester came with the 2LT that spruces things up slightly, and the 3LT takes this even further. The Z51 is essential if you plan on canyon carving the Vette – the steering and sound enhancements are worth the five grand alone – so be prepared to spend the best part of $75,000. But remember, you'll be getting supercar performance and looks for a fraction of the price.

Shop around for deals, as Chevrolet will be keen to get C7s off lots in the build-up to the C8's release.