The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 convertible plays hard, cruises relaxed

WASHINGTON — The redesigned Corvette C7 hit the streets last year and it was an instant hit. Already, they are tweaking it for 2015.

The new eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the old six-speed unit, offering very quick shifts and better fuel economy. There is also a performance data recorder — a camera that records you driving, like at the track, and lets you watch it back like you’re watching a race on TV.

So, like someone who cares about each of you, I took one for the team and spent a week with Corvette convertible to try out that nifty data recorder and to see whether you can drive the Corvette as your daily driver. The Corvette has been known as a good track car, but not the easiest to drive all the time. The ride was too hard or the interior and seats were not good — just take a look at reviews of the older Corvettes, and you will get the picture. Chevrolet must have had enough of the reviewers, and in 2014 they pretty much went about fixing the concerns.

The complaints about the interior can finally be put to rest. The seats do a better job of holding you in place in turns and still offer decent comfort for long periods behind the wheel. The leather is of nice quality, and materials used throughout the cabin are much better than in previous Corvettes. The turn signal stalk looks the same as on the Chevy Cruze, and the touch screen was sometimes slow, but I’m really nitpicking to find much wrong with the interior. Even with the top down, there wasn’t very much wind noise, allowing normal conversation at highway speeds.

Performance has been a strong suit of the Corvette, and this new one doesn’t disappoint with 460 hp and a slick 7-speed manual.  The LT1 V8 engine sounds really good, and you can change that sound if you choose the Z51 package, which adds dual-mode exhaust that can go from normal to loud.

The $1,795 Magnetic Ride Control should be your go-to option; it allows you to choose from different settings, such as eco or touring for maximum comfort, or fuel economy — like running on four cylinders.

I saw 31 mpg on the highway, and managed a fine 23 mpg for a week of driving — and not the easiest miles either.

The styling is impressive. It really stands out in the crowd; the power soft top doesn’t upset the styling or the sleek lines. It just looks like a car that cost more than the loaded-up $72,000 price tag suggests. The blade silver paint helps show the lines and curves of the car, and I even liked the black wheels — I usually don’t like colored wheels. Some people I work with didn’t like all the black vent scoops, and said they’d have preferred them in the body color. That’s just one of your options: Chevrolet gives you many opportunities to make the car yours.

The 2015 Corvette is a true world-class sports car, with power and great handling, not just at the track but for normal driving that won’t beat you up. Count me as a new Corvette fan — it’s an American sports car that doesn’t need excuses any longer.

Editor’s note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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