Chevy saved the Stingray designation for the most-extensive makeover of the iconic sports car in decades. Design and engineering changes were aimed at enhancing driving dynamics while delivering improved fuel economy and global appeal.
When it goes on sale in the third quarter, it will be the fastest and most-powerful standard Corvette ever, putting out an estimated 450 horsepower and 450 pounds-feet of torque and covering 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds.
The car, codenamed C7, will get up to 30 mpg on the highway, thanks in part to a new V-8 small block engine with cylinder deactivation, a feature that the current Corvette lacks.
GM has also addressed perhaps the biggest gripe historically among Corvette enthusiasts: a bland and uncomfortable interior. Cockpit enhancements include swaths of soft-touch materials, aluminum, and optional carbon fiber.
Chevy's latest infotainment system, an 8-inch video screen for the gauge cluster, and a choice of seats for either touring or racing, will also be available.
The exterior styling is evolutionary -- making it unmistakably a Corvette. But it includes departures such as rear-quarter windows and hexagonal taillights, eschewing the round taillamps seen on every Corvette since 1961.
The futuristic styling touches reflect Chevy's bid to cultivate a new generation of fans for the Corvette and move beyond its longtime base of Baby Boomers. The average age of a Corvette buyer today is 59, according to Strategic Vision Inc., a California market research firm.
"Like the '63 Sting Ray, the best Corvettes embodied performance leadership, delivering cutting-edge technologies, breathtaking design and awe-inspiring driving experiences," GM North America President Mark Reuss said in a statement. "The all-new Corvette goes farther than ever, thanks to today's advancements in design, technology and engineering."
In the big picture of GM's humbling recovery from its 2009 bankruptcy -- its bid to construct an ironclad balance sheet, rebuild its U.S. market share, reduce costs -- the C7 won't mean a whole lot for GM's bottom line.
Despite sales of over 1.5 million over the years, it's never been a high-volume car, and that won't change with the latest Corvette.
IHS Automotive predicts that sales will eclipse 21,000 in 2014, its first full year on the market. That would be a roughly 50 percent jump from the 14,132 Corvettes GM sold in 2012, but less than 1 percent of Chevy's U.S. sales.
But the Corvette -- long GM's most-powerful halo car -- will be a showcase for the company's current design and engineering talent. It could serve as a rallying point for a product development organization still buffeted by charges that it hasn't shaken off enough of the Old GM dysfunction.