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On The Road

More sensational than practical

courtesy of Chevrolet
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe features a V-8 engine that boasts 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. The car has a base price of $53,800.

Not all cars are purchased for the sole purpose of getting from point A to point B. Some people buy a vehicle to resolve a midlife crisis, make a personal statement or try their hand at playing race-car driver.

Two cars we drove last month – the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe and the Nissan 370Z Nismo – are not models anyone actually needs to own. But judging by the number of admirers drawn to these vehicles, lots of people want them.

They’re loud, stiff and challenging to drive, but the Corvette and Nismo are good at what they’re designed to do – catch the eye of enthusiasts of all ages and provide the possibility of high-performance fun for the driver.

Corvette Stingray

What we drove: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe with Z51 performance package.

What it costs: $53,800 base price; add $17,165 for interior and exterior convenience and appearance packages for total MSRP (including destination charges) of $71,960.

What we liked best: With 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque from the traditional pushrod V-8 engine, coupled to the Z51 track package (electronic limited slip differential, performance suspension, improved brakes, closer gear ratios), this all-new Corvette promises a driving experience equaled only by cars costing at least $30,000 more. Moreover, the interior is significantly better than previous ’vettes, for the first time on par with the car’s performance.

What didn’t impress us: The designers clearly wanted to make a visual statement with the exterior – and we’re sure posters of this car will find their way onto every teenage enthusiast’s bedroom wall (a group of local teens took video of it on their way to lunch) – but the result is just too busy. The ride is too harsh for comfortable daily use, except by someone who can indulge in racing fantasies on the way to work. We’d definitely take the six-speed selectable automatic over the seven-speed manual if we had to commute in this car.

Nissan Nismo

What we drove: 2014 Nissan 370Z Nismo.

What it costs: $43,020 base price; add Bose package ($1,350), in-mirror rearview monitor ($790) and small cosmetic options ($420) for a total MSRP (including destination charges) of $46,370.

What we liked best: The V-6 engine producing 350 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque provides more-than-adequate power, though perhaps not as much as the sleek Nismo (Nissan Motor- sports) exterior might suggest with its elaborate aerodynamic wing, front spoiler and sport wheels. The interior is nicely done – suggesting the minimalism of a competition cockpit but with attractive trim details. The Bose sound system is one of the best we’ve heard in a car – too bad it can’t be heard at cruising speed over the engine and road noise.

What didn’t impress us: The suspension is as rudimentary and stiff as any backyard tuner of the past 20 years might install; it would be perfect for quick handling on a smooth racetrack, but in everyday use it gets old in a great hurry. With seats only a few inches off the ground, the car is awkward to get in and out of. And that front spoiler should have sensors of its own, or it’s soon going to lose to a parking lot stanchion.

Bottom line

Our impressions of both of these cars would be extremely positive if we were looking for maximum track performance in a recreational car at a reasonable cost.

But if either of these cars is being bought as a daily driver just to make a statement on the street, the price may be too high.

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