When we first drove the new Stingray Convertible, we found ourselves quite content without the Z51 Performance Package. We wagered that those opting for the full drop-top Corvette wouldn’t have any need for the performance upgrades. Opting for the Stingray Coupe, a car that can live on the road and at the track might make the package more appealing. But how much difference can a single options package make?
Checking the Z51 box on a new Corvette order adds $5,000 to the total. In return, your Stingray gains a long list of revisions and upgrades. The engine gets a dry sump oil system for better lubrication in high-g scenarios. The 7-speed manual gearbox has more aggressive ratios and an additional radiator. The rear end is upgraded with an electronic locking differential and cooler. Unique shocks, springs, and stabilizer bars reduce body movement. Slotted brake rotors improve high-temperature performance. Wider tires are added for more grip and the body is revised with a unique aero package. Finally, the performance exhaust, a must have option, is included in the package. The sum result is a road-going Corvette prepped for your favorite autocross or track day.
What else has changed from our first go-round with the Stingray? 2015 brought the addition of the Performance Data Recorder. More than just a dash cam, GM’s PDR system records HD video and overlays it with telemetry data to make your weekend adventure look like everyone else’s racing simulator. Not only do you get neat videos saved to an SD card, the car also saves the telemetry data. Using Cosworth Toolbox, the same free software used by the Corvette Racing team to analyze data, you can see just how much harder you could have braked into turn 3 on lap 6. The software makes recommendations for improvement and can download professional lap data so you can see just how much better they are.
The best parts of the Corvette Singray remain unchanged. At its core, the 6.2L V8 still produces 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft torque. The 7-speed rev-matching manual transmission is still standard. And the Corvette’s supercar good looks still keep you glancing over your shoulder every time you walk away. In hardtop form, the Stingray maintains the classic Corvette silhouette. Like previous generations, the roof panel is removable, making the Corvette a targa instead of a coupe. Three latches release the panel, which clips securely into the trunk. It’s a 5-minute operation made easier by our tester’s lightweight carbon fiber roof. With the top off, there’s slightly more wind buffeting than the convertible but less insulation between you and the exhaust. If you don’t live somewhere where you can drop the top year round, the Stingray coupe is the clear choice.
The Corvette’s driver-centric cabin is a worthy match for its exterior. It’s a car that seems to shrink around you. The supportive seat lines up perfectly with the thick wheel and well-weighted clutch pedal. The seven-speed gear level sits a perfect forearm length away. Chevy’s MyLink touchscreen and the temperature controls are close at hand. The central tachometer and heads up display are tied into the Corvette’s drive mode selector. Moving between Eco, Sport, and Track changes the view along with the car’s performance settings. If you’re like us, the Track setting’s classic hockey-stick rev counter pairs nicely with the most aggressive suspension, steering, and throttle settings.
Last time, we said the Stingray does everything right. We’re happy to report that’s still true. If anything, the Z51 package broadens the Stingray’s capabilities. Magnetic Ride Control can be every bit as forgiving as the normally-sprung car. But it can also be sharper. This is a drivetrain that gets under your skin. The cacophony of sound generated from burying your right foot will have you itching for more. The close-ratio gearbox is a willing instigator. This is a car that looks fast, sounds fast, and will go fast. And it’s not a one-trick pony. The Z51 is set up to brake harder and grip more firmly…and it’s build to do it repeatedly.
How big a difference does the Z51 Performance Package make? Under normal conditions, you likely won’t notice much of a change. When it matters, when the driving conditions are anything but normal, the Z51 has an edge. If the performance benefits alone aren’t enough to sway you, the visual changes help set it apart from other Stingrays. We’ll stop just short of saying this is the best Stingray on the market, however. The 2017 Grand Sport promises to take the Z51’s enhancements even further. With Z06 aerodynamics and even more performance upgrades, the Stingray just keeps getting better.
|2016 Corvette Stingray Coupe Z51
|Removable Roof Panel in Carbon Fiber||$1,995|
|Performance Data and Video Recorder||$1,795|
|Red Brake Calipers||$595|
|Black Painted Aluminum Wheels||$495|
|Battery Protection Package||$100|
|Carbon Flash Painted Mirrors||$100|
|As Tested MSRP||$70,930|