In the age of the endangered manual transmission, the C7 Corvette debuted in Detroit with a seven-speed stick that will automatically blip the throttle to rev-match your downshifts. Go ahead and let the awesomeness of that sink in for a second.
Effectively, it’ll make you sound like you know your stuff when you do a little spirited driving in your new Corvette Stingray, even if you don’t. But the question that immediately crossed my mind when I started hearing about this feature was whether the rev-match feature can handle a 7-4 downshift just as well as it could a 4-2, or a 5-4, or any other downshift combination. According to Chevrolet Corvette spokesman Monte Doran, it absolutely can.
“it will match any shift, up or down,” he said. “The system is predictive, so it can gauge what gear you’re going toward by pressure on the shifter even before you engage the next shift gate. If you’re in 5, it can tell if you’re heading to 6 or 4 or 3, and match the engine speed to the gear selection and vehicle speed.”
Oh, I’m liking where this is heading.
Any driving enthusiast will attest, though, that there’s nothing to make you feel more accomplished, more in-tune with your machine than nailing a perfect heel-toe rev-matched downshift. To that end, can the adventurous spirit turn off the automatic rev-match feature? But of course, Doran said.
“One of the things the team really focused on is making Technology that improves your driving experience when you want it, but doesn’t get in the way when you don’t,” he said.
“As an example, the Active Rev Matching feature is turned on/off by grabbing a paddle behind the steering wheel (actually the same paddles as those on the automatic). As such, you can drive down the highway with the system off, and then simply grab the paddles as you turn on the twisting back roads. Or, you could even shift for yourself through the sections of a track that you have nailed, and then grab the paddles for Active Rev Matching on the trickier corners.”
The feature sounds like something to make owning a manual transmission-equipped ‘Vette a lot more fun, as if it needed to be more fun. Combined with the additional seventh– seventh!– gear, it sounds like something that would give me a big, stupid grin every time I hit the backroads. But then there’s the one buzz-kill I remember from the last-generation Corvette: the dreaded 1-4 skip-shift. Intended as a fuel-saving measure, the transmission would block a simple 1-2 upshift unless you were in the throttle quite a bit, thus signalling some sporting pretense. In normal city driving or at low throttle pressures on those backroads, the feature could baffle an unknowing Corvette rookie and frustrate the brand faithful.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that skip-shift feature is a thing of the past, right? Well, no. It’s still there. But there is one important caveat, Doran, said.
“Yes, the skip-shift feature is still present on the manual. However, the window of engagement has gotten smaller, as the efficiency of the Corvette has improved through uses of direct injection, variable valve timing, and active fuel management, A.K.A. cylinder deactivation,” he said.
Skip-shift or not, I can’t wait to wrap my hand around that seven-digit shift knob and report back on how the transmission and its automatic rev-match system perform in real life.