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2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray: Best Car To Buy 2014 Nominee

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This is it--our final nominee for Motor Authority's Best Car To Buy 2014 award. Have we saved the best for last?

Maybe.

There's certainly no denying the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray's prowess. It's a beast of a car, and, in our experience, the best production American sports car in history. It's the whole package.

As we noted in our first drive video, the Stingray is capable of putting Porsche's (fantastic) new 911 on notice, for about half the price--and that's before the high-performance versions of the Stingray hit the street. We're just talking about the base coupe with a little Z51 loving.

The "base" Stingray is nothing to sniff at, of course. It offers a minimum of 455 horsepower (460 horses if you opt for the performance exhaust) and 460 (or 465) pound-feet of torque from the new 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 engine. Those are fairly prodigious figures in a vehicle that weights just 3,300 pounds. The result is 0-60 mph acceleration in just 3.8 seconds when equipped with the Z51 package. A seven-speed manual (yes, like the 911's) transmission is standard, with a six-speed automatic available. The seven-speed is a fine unit, while the automatic six-speed is showing some age around the edges, so unless you really can't handle the shifts yourself, we recommend the stick.

You're going to want the Z51 package if you buy a new Stingray. The base suspension is fine, but it's not as well-sorted as the Z51 tune, and the performance package brings some welcome extras to the part, too--for a price of just $2,800. The most notable add-on is the Z51's electronic limited-slip rear differential, which can infinitely (and quickly) vary the amount of lockup between the rear wheels to extract the most traction and performance from the Stingray's already quite brilliant chassis and powertrain.

Another extra you'll find well worth the money is the $1,795 MR (magneto rheological) dampers. Like the e-diff, they can adjust on the fly to improve comfort or performance, soaking up the bumps or stiffening the roll resistance on the driver's cue.

On top of the mechanical advantages of the Z51 package, the Performance Traction Management electronics are another must-have feature. Unlike the lawyer-induced nanny-systems of years past, Chevrolet's PTM system has evolved into something that will not just keep you a bit safer, but actually make most drivers quite a bit faster. It's still possible to outperform the PTM system, but when its most track-ready mode is engaged, it's completely out of your way and transparent; if it steps on what you're trying to do, you're doing it wrong. It's that good.

But the new Stingray's improvements and graces aren't all to be found on the track (or a lonely stretch of canyon road). Many of them are to be found in the cabin. The obvious weak spot of the sixth-generation Corvette, the interior has been updated with fresher design and much higher-quality materials and fitment for the seventh-generation car.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

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The seats, especially, are a step up, even in base form (the upgraded Sport seats haven't yet been made available for testing). Eight-way power adjustments further improve the updated form and feel of the seats, making them comfortable even in long-haul driving. The one complaint we have with the seats is a decision Chevy made on purpose: the base of the seat is an inch or two higher than we'd like for ideal position in the car. Sitting higher no doubt helps visibility for many drivers, however, and with the tilt/telescope steering wheel adjustments, we can still achieve a very comfortable, stable position.

Upgrading through the trim lines to the most maxed-out leather package used to be mandatory if you wanted your Corvette to feel anything but Playskool. Now, it's purely optional, as even the base 1LT trim looks and feels quite nice. Of course, upgrading to 3LT does bring some beautiful trim and materials upgrades, so feel free to take it as far as your eye for style (and wallet) will allow. An optional $999 carbon fiber instrument panel surround is a sharp choice, its satin finish and vibrant weave making it look truly performance inspired, rather than tacky and cheap (as carbon trim sometimes does, even on much more expensive vehicels).

Then there's the new Stingray's exterior design. Chevy clearly decided not to play it safe this time around. While the silhouette and details leave no doubt this is a Corvette, the Stingray's sharp edges, crisp lines, and almost Transformer-esque detail work have proven controversial, both among Corvette fans and the general public alike. Design that makes a statement always brings controversy with it, and while we're not 100-percent sold on some of the specifics, we love the overall effect. The Corvette Stingray finally looks like the exotic performance machine it is.

And yet the base price for the Stingray is just $51,995, a figure that massively undercuts anything that can compete with the Stingray on the street or the track. Configured to our ideal (with Lime Rock Green Metallic paint, gray perforated leather interior, and black Z51 aluminum wheels) with the Z51 package in 1LT trim, plus the MR dampers, the Stingray prices out at just $57,580. Incredible.

But can the 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray take down the rest of the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy nomineesand win the overall award? Find out tomorrow, November 12, when we announce the winner.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

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