We'd like to think we're playing good hosts to our 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, but we know there's no place like home. That's why we jumped at the chance to take a trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, back to the Corvette assembly plant and National Corvette Museum where we first took delivery. There, we'd get to talk to the people who build and honor America's hottest new sports car and cut our teeth around the track of the Corvette Museum's new motorsports park.
On the way down to Kentucky, the closer we get, the more attention our 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray seems to attract. Truckers blare their horns, kids take pictures with their cellphones, and just about everyone gestures at us to drop the hammer and unleash all 460 horses from the 6.2-liter V-8. We're not shy to oblige, but what they don't know is that we're mostly cruising in four-cylinder Eco mode, averaging 31 mpg on the highway. Only when we press on the gas hard enough does the other half of the V-8 engine activate, rumbling with purpose and ferocity.
"The blare of Rick Springfield's 'Jessie's Girl' says it all. Kentucky is awesome."
Where the magic is made
Our first stop in Bowling Green is the Corvette assembly plant. The plant guide is telling us about all of the state-of-the art robotics and advanced manufacturing technologies, but we're struck by the unmistakable hometown feel of the place. Regular, hard-working men and women, many of them in T-shirts and shorts, are the people who make the Corvette. And just because their latest effort finally has the refinement and performance chops to challenge the best of Germany doesn't mean they've traded in their proud American attitude for a steely German character.
Quite the contrary, actually. One door-assembly worker, complete with his cut-off T-shirt and frayed baseball cap, tries to greet us with a friendly word, but we can't hear him over the din of Rick Springfield's “Jessie's Girl” blaring from a nearby boom box. No matter, the song says it all. Kentucky is awesome.
The plant is home to the Performance Build Center, a dedicated engine assembly operation where Chevrolet builds two of the meanest engines around: the Camaro Z/28's 505-hp, 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 and the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06's 650-hp, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. Here, power and perfection are the ultimate goals. “The builder takes complete ownership of the engine and every single part,” team leader Justin Haynes says from inside the glass-enclosed Performance Build Center. “A part doesn't look right, we don't like something, we toss it. No questions asked.”
Time for some action
After seeing how much care and effort goes into every car that rolls off the line, we're dying to get out to the Corvette Museum to take our 2014 Corvette Stingray for a spin around the museum's new motorsports park.
The 3.15-mile road course is not for the faint of heart though. With a design inspired in part by the La Sarthe circuit in Le Mans, the Corvette Museum's track is filled with long straights, technical turns that you frequently need to tackle off-camber, and numerous elevation changes. One drop is so sudden and large that it's aptly called “The Sinkhole.” But all this is just part of the track's joy. It's challenging but not inaccessible to beginners, given that the course can be reconfigured for drivers with various levels of experience.
The new, freshly paved road course is sponsored and supported by Mobil 1, which has been involved with Corvette Racing since its inception in 1996. Being that our Corvette includes the high-performance Z51 package, it comes straight from the factory with Mobil 1 engine oil, too. We also get a chance to pilot other C7 Corvettes on hand at the track, which come strapped with GoPro cameras so we can record our lap times.
Unsurprisingly, our 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray handles the track with confidence. Despite already enduring more than 13,000 miles with the likes of us, the 'Vette is tight, responsive, and, as always, thrillingly fast. We hit 115 mph down one straight and brake hard into the corner as we downshift, letting the automatic rev-matching function keep us right in the powerband as we muscle our way out and into the next section.
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