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Old 06-30-2014, 05:29 PM   #1
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Deal's Gap Comments '14 Stingray vs '13 1LE

I thought I would post my feedback on driving two powerful Chevys on one of the more notorious rounds down here in the southeast. Here are my “Tail of the Dragon” musings on the two cars my family owns:

2014 Corvette Stingray 2LT, automatic non-Z51 (Dad)
2013 Camaro 2SS 1LE (Me)

For those of you who don’t know, the Tail of the Dragon through Deal’s Gap in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee is one very challenging road with something like 300 turns in 11 miles. Some contend that part of the challenge is avoiding the Tennessee side’s aggressive LEOs. (A Smokey in the Smokies gave me a ticket in my 1LE for doing 51 in a 30 mph zone last August.) I have been to “the Dragon” (and other Smokey Mountain hot-spots) three times since May of 2013, and finally got the chance to drive the Stingray there last week. I am normally a bike guy, and have a Kawi ZX-10R that I use for my real canyon-carving, but still enjoy the bejeebers out of my 1LE.

The Vette would normally be in a different weight class, but with my father and our luggage in the car, it was probably “only” a 300 lb difference. While the Vette is an auto, it has the best flipper-style manual mode I’ve ever driven, and I kept it 1st and 2nd, with a hint of 3rd through the gap. When you combine it with its “Track” mode (versus Eco, Touring, etc.) it did quite well. Note that steering wheel-mounted shift paddles on such a twisty road had my fingers swatting at air a couple of times when I wanted to grab a gear. (Since the steering wheel was turned so that the paddles were at 12 and 6 o’clock instead of 9 and 3 they were in a difficult position to tap.)

The Vette did not immediately outclass the 1LE in the turns to the degree I thought it might. Even the really tight stuff did not show any deficiencies on the Camaro with its track-oriented suspension bits borrowed from the ZL1. The Stingray had its stock wheels with 245/40-18s up front, and 285/35-19s in the rear all in Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flats. I stuck with the outstanding dry summer 285/35-20s Goodyear F2 Supercars on the 1LE at all 4 wheels. I’m betting if my father had opted for the Z51 package (which I urged him to do) there would have been a more noticeable disparity. He sure as hell didn’t opt for the magnetic ride suspension, btw.

One thing helping the constant turns while in the Vette is its superior field of view and narrower feel. The Dragon is a two lane road with soft/non-existent shoulders, plus it has so many blind corners that you have to stay within your lane most of the time or face a potential head-on collision. I am close to 5’10”, and I’ve never belly-ached like a lot of Gen 5 Camaro owners about visibility, but the view from the cockpit of the Vette is much better. Even with plenty of experience training my eyes to look around the Camaro A-pillars, the Vette is easier in that regard. When you constantly have to look out for “the other guy” cheating in the oncoming lane, the slimmer Vette and its sightlines makes it a little easier.

Braking is a toss-up between the two, believe it or not. Even with all of the turns, keeping the machines in second for a lot of the run means a lot of compression braking assistance, and neither car experienced fading. The bigger, stickier tires on the 1LE make up a lot of ground on the Vette. The quality and size of the contact patch between tire and road should never be discounted. The stock pads on the Chevy-licensed Brembos worked fine. Acceleration-wise the Vette comes out on top, but the lack of straight-a-ways really blunts the advantage. My scoop-fed ADM cold air induction and Thorley exhaust helps to provide a better throttle response so it felt like it could push you back in the seat just as hard in the Dragon’s limited “straights”.

You can’t talk about such a curvy road without talking about how you’re physically positioned within the vehicle. Normally, I don’t give a swinging dingleberry about seats/seating comfort, but the Vette is a leg up on the Camaro again. Neither car had those ridiculous Recaros, and my Camaro has custom-fit naga-syntha-pleather (whatever) seat covers that offer slightly more friction and a little tighter fit. (I swear by the way some of my Gen 5 brothers go on and on about movement during turns that they must be wearing silk pajamas, or use some kind of KY Jelly inspired leather care on their seats.) Naturally, with 300+ turns you’re going to want a stable perch.

My point is that wearing reasonable pants and really dialing in my bucket seat from previous “spirited” driving has me pretty firmly in place in my 1LE. (I think it is dang comfortable, too, even on 6-hour drives.) The Vette’s seat however, is even better. It has more adjustments to the seat like width and lumbar support so you are securely positioned, plus with an Automatic, you can keep your left foot braced on the floor support. But the best thing is the fan venting INSIDE the perforated seat. It has a low-med-high setting for circulating air on your keister and back, and works well. Especially in a windows-down, A/C off situation in late June down south. I thought it was gimmicky GM-marketing at first, but vented seats kick ass (as it cools them). I could see how they’d be a blessing on a track day by blowing air on your derriere despite the possible pound it could add in weight.

Neither car built up any heat that it couldn’t shed. Coolant and tranny temps climbed, but never sky-rocketed (I think Mustangs must run hot though, because I saw an owner look at another and say “Mmmm, that’s one hot tranny!”). One good thing about the 2SS rally-pack of gauges is that you can glance at them any time you want instead of two at a time in the Vette. In the Vette, you get them all in digital Technicolor format in the DIC (Mustang owners: “That’s one impressive DIC!”), but it’s a little bit of a pain to reset your dash to display them. I’d say it is out of the question to try and swap them while you’re driving in the twisties like the Dragon. The Vette HUD is miles ahead of my ’13 2SS (the ’14 gets color and other perks), and I loved the constant lateral g-force feedback. Most turns were slightly banked so I didn’t get close to that mystical 1.0g threshold, but my quick glances confirmed what my inner-ear was telling me. I got the back ends of both cars to break lose in certain sections (the Gravity Cavity being one of them), but understeer was more than manageable. While turns were frequent, none were ever prolonged and I never sensed a fuel delivery hiccup in either car.

[I never felt like the splitter-endowed 1LE was missing downforce at any point, and if the new (for ’14) heat-extracting downforce-adding vented hoods were necessary, I would sure like to see the data that was used. I have seen some pretty fluffy wind-tunnel illustrations/graphics, but would like to see what a stopwatch or g-force meter has to say. As for the heat extractor with an LS3, I have never personally had a heat problem burning 93 octane and I have yet to swap out the factory coolant, and I use Chevy’s recommended oil. The years the LS3 spent in hoods of prior generation Corvettes bears this out (with the exception of pure track cars burning god knows what). Conceptually, I can grasp what the 2014 grill/heat extractor is supposed to do, but as a practical matter, I think Chevy solved a problem that didn’t really exist all in the name of styling. (The LS7, however, is showing to be one hot-running powerplant. But that’s probably from the conduit formed between the cars and Hell when their lucky owners souled their souls to get a hold of one.)]

In summary, even compared to a Corvette, the 1LE feels securely planted at the speeds my conscious allowed. Without a long straight-a-way to take advantage of the quicker acceleration of the Vette or its greater top speed and slicker aeros, the track inspired 1LE is not wholly outclassed. What would have tipped the scales (literally) would be to drive the Stingray sans passenger or luggage. That would give the Vette back its weight benefit. If the Vette had the Goodyear F2 Supercars, it would have shown even more of its pedigree, and don’t get me started with what my dad left on the table when he passed on the Z51 options group. (I might ask for a paternity test.) The take-home message: both cars are awesome on the Tail of the Dragon. Taking the time to dial in your seating/driving position in both cars pays dividends on this ultra-twisty road, and using high quality rubber is a necessity. (If in order to have quality tires I would have to switch to drinking apple-flavored beer, well call me Johnny Appleseed. And buy stock in orchards. I think I have a problem.)

To anticipate the question… If I had to choose a car, it would be the Stingray. I am a performance guy at heart, and no matter how much fun it is to get my left leg involved and thunder through the mountains in an adjusted-for-the-track muscle car, the Vette is a world-class supercar that was bred for it rather than adapted. Its comparative weight, speed, chassis and ergo advantages sum to an across-the-board tastiness as an instrument for the Dragon.

Thanks for reading. Hope everyone but the Mustang guys enjoyed it.
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:14 PM   #2

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Great review and nice writing style OP. I was going to post my own review of mountain driving my 1LE but yours is much better doing it on the dragon compared to a Stingray. I agree 100% about the lousy sightlines and the width of the Camaro. It does give one pause to hold back a little. But while the Vette is slimmer it feels cramped to me. I also might add the 1LE brakes will get really hot on long downhill sections. Brake ducts and ZL1 front brakes make a great 1LE addition.

I just took my 1LE on a 2,500 mile road trip to Florida and besides being a top notch corner carver the 1LE sucks up lung distance asphalt like a big dog with a steak. My daughter and I spent over 12 hours in the car and still felt fresh at the end of the day. I planned to swing by the Dragon on the way home but ran out of time. Maybe next time.
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:40 PM   #3

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Definitely a Great road, We just got back from there after a week long trip but We were on motorcycles. We rode it 5 times among all the other roads down there. While I do think it was a very technical road there are more technical roads down there.
I got pulled over by the State Cop on the Motorcycle but I lucked out with only a warning to slow down.
All in all a great trip.
One thing we were Not prepared for though is that most places around there are DRY?? The thought never even occurred to Us since We are not from that area. We had to drive some 20 miles one way each day for a case of beer.
But as all vacations go it went far too quick!
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:45 PM   #4

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OP, great write up! Very well written, long but kept me interested...
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Old 06-30-2014, 10:49 PM   #5
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Great write up but without the Z51 mag ride your missing a big part of the Stingrays.....well Sting. lol
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Old 06-30-2014, 11:22 PM   #6
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My brother just ordered a 2015 3lt z51 with the new 8 speed auto. I can't wait to drive it! Great write up as well OP.

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Old 07-01-2014, 06:36 AM   #7

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Nice write up! I'm driving from Venice FL to Toronto Ont tomorrow in my 650whp ZL1 and am going to spend a day driving the Dragon and other roads on the way back.
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Old 07-01-2014, 12:36 PM   #8
Bring the funk!
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"Thanks for reading. Hope everyone but the Mustang guys enjoyed it."

Sorry, I enjoyed it! : )
Tail of the Dragon - 318 curves in 11 miles!
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Old 07-01-2014, 07:28 PM   #9
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Size:  122.8 KBNice write up I was down that way a couple of weeks ago and that road/area is amazing. Here's a shot of my sticker from down their.
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Old 07-02-2014, 09:56 AM   #10
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Thanks for the comments (and messages) guys. I thought I would comment on the Tail of the dragon because it is a common denominator of a twisty road that many of us have shared. Glad so many of you have had good experiences at the Gap.

One cautionary note... always be sure to plan ahead to make sure there is no crappy reunion going on there before you go. When the Miata folks, Smart e-car, Can-Am trike fools are there, it ruins it for everyone. The Dragon and the Cherahola Skyway turn into slow-moving parades of vehicles with little passing lane relief.
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:17 AM   #11
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Good write up. I don't have anything to compare to the stingray portion since I have not driven one yet.
I do however live and work quite close to Hwy 129 and have spent many days there. I've had my current non 1le ss there and the sightlines did bother me some. I've ridden motorcycles there in the past and know how some of those guys operate. Never, NEVER cross the yellow lines. Ever.
I thought the SS brakes worked wonderful with great pedal feel and feedback. The car with its long wheelbase is pretty easy to control when it steps out but you do feel its heft and physical dimensions on the dragon.
For reference, I used to spend a lot of time up there in a C4 corvette. Talk about a difference from a current SS. That car feels tiny by comparison. For the record, the C4 was much faster. An (headers, cam, gears etc) LT4 powered C4 with R compound tires can be a blast up there and while I would never recommend that anyone exceed the posted speed limit on a public road I'll say that it is possible to make it from one end to the other in under 11 minutes.
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