New-car sales are at their highest levels since the economic crash of 2008-2009 and automakers are enthusiastically welcoming buyers back to dealers’ showrooms with a plethora of new cars, trucks and crossovers for the 2014 model year. While all are significant, two new breakthrough autos will likely dominate the discussion for several months to come, namely the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Long known as “America’s sports car,” the iconic Chevrolet Corvette is a big story if for no other reason because new versions are few and far between. It’s entering only its seventh generation in its storied 60-year history with a major redesign and brings back a revered name from the car’s Golden Age: Stingray. Coming in both coupe and convertible versions, the 2014 Corvette Stingray should give some exotic sports cars a workout for far less money, starting at just $51,000.
The car’s exterior is radically recast with body panels made from advanced composite and carbon fiber materials, yet it bears a certain familiarity that makes it instantly recognizable as a Corvette. Low slung and with the requisite curves and creases it looks like a Hot Wheels toy car come to life. Shoring up one traditional weakness from the previous generation, the 2014 Corvette Stingray’s revamped interior is driver focused and makes extensive use of high quality materials for a far richer look and feel.
A revamped 6.2-liter V8 engine puts an estimated 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque to the pavement through the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission. When equipped with the available Z51 Performance Package, Chevy says the Stingray is good for a 0-60 mph run in just 3.8 seconds, and that’s only a few tenths slower than the Corvette’s previous ZR1 version that cost well over $100,000.
Otherwise, the 2014 Corvette Stingray is lighter in weight but is more structurally rigid than before, with an ideal 50/50 front-to-rear weight ratio that, combined with updated steering and suspension systems and the latest chassis control systems, promise truly tenacious handling. A new Drive Mode Selector allows the driver to tune 12 separate performance attributes according to five different driving situations, including one for use on wet roads and another that enables the engine to run on only four cylinders to garner maximum fuel economy.
While the new Corvette Stingray solidifies Chevrolet’s presence in the world’s sports car market, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class virtually redefines the luxury sedan.
With the automaker having shuttered its ultra-opulent Maybach line last year Mercedes moves its flagship model considerably farther upscale to fill the gap. Coming wrapped in styling that is both bold and sufficiently stately, the new S Class debuts with a 455-horsepower twin-turbo V8-equipped S550 version starting at around $97,000 and a higher-performance S63 AMG 4MATIC with a 5.5-liter twin-turbo 577-horsepower V8 that could well break the bank at about $150,000. Perhaps more noteworthy is that Mercedes engineers have managed to pack so many cutting edge features into the latest S-Class that it’s impossible to list and explain them all in just a handful of sentences.
For starters, the 2014 S-Class is the first production vehicle that can nearly drive itself under certain circumstances. Equipped with a stereoscopic video camera at the front of the vehicle, the car can literally “see” the road ahead and react accordingly to help avoid collisions, adjust the suspension in anticipation of bumps and pavement imperfections in its path and automatically keep the car centered between highway lane markers. The car’s Distronic Plus cruise control can operate both at highway speeds and in slow stop-and-go traffic situations.
The S-Class’ gorgeous interior coddles its occupants with an insane list of available over-the-top amenities that include rear seats that mimic a hot stone massage, heated armrests and an ionizing and perfuming feature for the climate control system.
Now that’s luxury.