When's the last time a Corvette lived up to your fantasy of what a Corvette should really be? Yeah, us too. Until now. The all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray scratches an itch that we've had since we were kids about what an American 2-door, 2-seat sports car was going to someday be. A car that looked as lovely as the old Vette Stingrays from forever ago, but drove like stylish supercars rather than fiberglass bolt buckets. That American dream is now safe to have, and it only costs around $52,000 to have it -- pretty good deal for a dream.

The new Corvette enjoys the lightweight advantages of an aluminum frame and a fiberglass and carbon-fiber body -- including an easy to pop out and remove roof panel for an open-top ride. Its exterior looks fresh, mean and elegant in the real world of traffic. Now is a good time for you to click and linger on the images in the slide show at the top of this story.

It's in the unreal dream world of performance, however, that the Stingray blossoms. Starting with 6.2 liters of full-force V8 power -- 455 of horsepower, 460 lb-ft of torque power (the really-important-for-acceleration kind) -- the Corvette can be mated to a 7-speed manual transmission or, more likely these days, an easy-shifting 6-speed automatic. A Drive Mode Selector on the center console adjusts the Corvette's handling, steering, throttle response, and even the exhaust note, among five driver-selected programs, from the docile "Weather" mode to the racecar-worthy "Track" setting.

Also: 10 Reasons to Love the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette

On the road, the new Corvette Stingray is an A-Plus player. The V8 engine rolls out acceleration without even breathing hard, and it can clock 3.8 seconds from 0-60 on a sprint or log 30 miles per gallon on a fuel-economy run (the official EPA mpg numbers are 17 city, 29 highway). An automatic cylinder-shutoff turns the V8 seamlessly into a V4 to save fuel when the full roar of the beast is not needed. The Chevy's steering is responsive enough to give Porsche night sweats, and the braking has that buttoned-down, all-business feel that makes driver confidence a given. Unlike many such systems, the Drive Mode Selector really does change the character of the Corvette -- the ride and handling differences between the default Tour program and the all-performance Track mode were especially strong.

Easy on both the eyes and the body, the Corvette Stingray's interior is a premium space upholstered in leather and trimmed in aluminum and carbon fiber. The seats are a real treat to be engulfed by and to behold, as is the 8-inch color screen on the center dash. Details, for a long time not a specialty of Corvette interiors, are now a point of legitimate pride, including two power USB ports in the center console and surprisingly good cargo space under the rear hatch.

This new Corvette feels finished throughout, with no "it's a great car, but..." compromises sticking out. It's not especially quiet, but it's light-years away from the kidney-stone-pummeling noise of a car like the SRT Viper. In fact, perhaps we've already made too big a deal out of this -- the V8 is music, and when you want some different music, there's a standard 9-speaker Bose sound system to keep you company.

Also: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Premiere Edition Unveiled

The 52 grand mentioned earlier is the price for a 2014 Corvette Stingray coupe, on sale this fall, with a convertible model ($57,000) coming before the end of 2013. But we'd recommend adding the $2,800 Z51 Performance Package to either model. The Z51 option hottens things up quite a bit on the Stingray by adding bigger wheels (19 inches in front, 20 inches at the rear), quicker gears, deliciously bigger brakes, an electronic limited-slip differential (the standard car gets a mechanical limited-slip diff), plus a few other techno-details to improve handling and brake/differential cooling.

Nobody puts on a horsepower-for-dollar show like the Chevrolet Corvette. But that's old news. The new news is the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray -- finally, a dream worth having.


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