SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
It was only a few years ago that the idea of General Motors or Chrysler even talking about high-performance cars would be the subject of criticism considering the dark cloud that loomed over the Detroit auto industry.
This year, which marks the debut of the new 2014 Corvette Stingray featured at the North American International Auto Show along with the new SRT Viper, the tone is much different with both GM and Chrysler recently posting some of their best sales numbers in years and earning car and truck of the year awards.
The new Corvette and Viper on display at the show, which opens to the public Jan. 19, have been the buzz of Cobo Center since media and industry executives started pouring into Detroit for the event.
The center of attention has been the new Corvette, which was first unveiled Sunday at an exclusive media event in Detroit’s Russell Industrial Complex, a warehouse district just north of downtown.
Ed Welburn, GM VP of Global Design, said the reveal of the 2014 Stingray in Detroit has been one of the most memorable events of his 40-year tenure with the company.
“This in many ways is the best of American design, the Corvette, and to do it right here in Detroit is huge,” said Welburn. “We never for a second thought about doing the reveal any place else but here.”
The new Corvette is the most powerful standard model ever, with an estimated 450 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. It is also the most capable standard Corvette model ever, able to accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than four seconds. It’s also expected to be the most fuel-efficient Corvette, exceeding the EPA-estimated 26 mpg of the current model.
The car shares only two parts with the previous generation Corvette and incorporates an all-new frame structure and chassis, a new powertrain and supporting technologies.
However, the most striking element of the 2014 Corvette, which is sure to leave auto show attendees starstruck, is the new exterior and interior designs.
“I can’t say enough great things about what the sculpturers have done in the whole execution of the forms throughout the car,” said Welburn. “I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised.”
The 2014 Corvette represents the seventh generation of the car. Each has been defined by all-new or significantly revised design, architecture and technology features — including powertrain and chassis/suspension technologies — that have helped Corvette maintain its iconic status.
The 2014 model is only the third to be honored with the iconic Stingray name in the 60-year history of Corvette.
“We knew we couldn’t use the Stingray name unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy,” said Welburn. “The result is a new Corvette Stingray that breaks from tradition while remaining instantly recognizable as a Corvette the world over.”
The new Viper, which was first unveiled in 2012 at the New York Auto Show, includes a new clamshell, all carbon fiber hood, LED taillamps and the redesigned Viper badge. The new Viper also features a new GTS model with some additional unique styling elements.
Scott Burgess, Detroit editor for Motor Trend magazine, said the new Stingray and Viper represent a new era for GM and the Chrysler Group.
“These cars may connect Detroit’s carmakers to their muscle car past, but they represent the future as well,” said Burgess. “Both are halo vehicles for their respective brands. The Corvette sells a lot of other Chevys and the Viper will continue to further all of Chrysler’s products.”
Ralph Gilles, president of Chrysler’s SRT division, said the idea that the new Viper is still being built in Detroit at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant makes the raves about the vehicle even more significant.
“There is not a better location on the planet than in Detroit for the hand-built assembly of the fifth generation SRT Viper,” said Gilles. “This plant has produced Vipers since 1995. We couldn’t be prouder that our flagship American supercar will be meticulously assembled inside a modern, state-of-the-art and legendary facility.”
Both the new Corvette Stingray and SRT Viper represent the fighting spirit of the Detroit auto industry, said Burgess.
“The Corvette and Viper are unashamed Detroit,” he said. “They are in your face and aren’t going to apologize for it. Both companies should be proud of them.”