Design Analysis: Chevrolet Corvette C7

While American car companies are still firmly in the throes of retro-futurism (when appropriate—think Camaro, Mustang, Viper) there are definitive signs that ‘retro’ is falling out of favor. Ford’s current designs are fresh, if not revolutionary and Chrysler is experimenting at the bottom end of its range (Dart—historic nameplate, but modern design). Chevy is also seeking a new form language (think Spark or Volt).

Internationally, BMW maintains classic proportions, but embraces modern surfacing. VW/Audi continues to explore rational, geometric forms but are clearly moving from the traditional New Beetle/TT proportions. Within this global design context it’s easy to understand why the seventh generation Corvette’s design had to progress.

And so it has. The most interesting thing about the C7 is the apparently different proportion — the hood looks shorter, the rear deck longer and it loses its beltline once again. However, the proportion is actually rather similar to the C6. Throughout the reveal, “European” was thrown about like some sort of magical buzzword conceived to prove the Corvette’s worth. Granted, this new generation is more European-looking than the C6, C5, C4, or C3 and the Corvette was first envisioned as a European gentleman-racer. But is it that different from the sixth generation model?

We maintain that it is not. The main reason that the new ‘Vette appears different is because rather than having an all-glass hatch, this generation has a blacked out B-pillar and a C-pillar, which runs to the very back of the car giving it more visual length in the back. And while it’s only two inches longer overall than the C6, it looks substantially longer.

Moreover the C7 lacks a beltline. Much like the C5 and C3 it relies on its fender peaks and graphics (the side-cove) to convey a theme. Unlike the third- and fifth- generations, however, it also relies on its roofline. In fact, the graphic that Chevrolet used all over its media kit and wall art consisted of two lines—one the body-side, the other the roofline.

The surfacing of this car is sophisticated and lends the Corvette a much more expensive look (perhaps that’s what “European” means). The surfaces are taut and close to being overwrought (particularly on the hood) but effective. The back of the car is only ‘Corvette’ because it has four tail-lamps and four exhausts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, recognize that the ‘Vette needed to dispense with some of the nostalgia factor. The back end appears to have more section (or 3D) because the quarterpanels leading aft along the side remain fairly flat and appear to overlap the rear slightly.

Our initial opinion is that this new Corvette bears a strong resemblance to the Nissan GTR or Ferrari F12. They’re all front engine, rear-wheel drive monsters so no big deal. But there is more than a surface similarity and this is due to aerodynamic considerations. All cars need to move through air efficiently so it shouldn’t surprise you that supercars use comparable methods.

We were also struck by the fact that this latest iteration doesn’t scream Corvette. It has a bit more GT in it than sports car. The C7 has presence; additionally, it’s more mature and refined than the Corvette has been in a long time. But is that such a negative? Frankly, the design of the Porsche 911 is boring (also beautiful, but still boring) because the current gen looks like the last gen, looks like the last gen, etc… But this new ‘Vette is more revolutionary than Corvettes have been in a long time. Let the Germans stand on tradition; thankfully, the American sports car is moving forward.


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