Thursday, June 4, 2015

UAE Trip - Part 2

In part one, we were still reviewing day one of the trip, and we had just found a good place to rent a C7 Corvette in Dubai, which was 30 minutes away from closing. Today we continue that story.

We canceled our JBR outing and chose to head to the dealer immediately before they closed. The trip to there should approximately take 30 minutes. For the first time in my life, I was about to drive a real Corvette, and a Stingray no less, so I wasn't going to miss this opportunity.

I have driven a few powerful cars in the past, but for short periods of time, and honestly, nothing as powerful as a 470 hp 600 Nm V8 or as light/sporty as the Vette. The closest thing was an E39 M5 with a 400 hp 500 Nm V8. The Corvette has been my dream car ever since I was 15 years old when I had access to dial-up internet. My passion started with the famous Corvette Forums. Back then the C5 was the latest model (C5 Z06 was not revealed yet) and I was following the forums very closely. I followed all sorts of modifications and power adders that were shared on the forums. I followed racing videos featuring anything Corvette. I even downloaded the PDF Owner’s Manual and learned everything about the car. And this passion didn’t stop till today. I still love the Corvette, and I love to hear it’s rumbling V8 and deep throaty exhaust note. Keep in mind that we hardly have V8 cars in Egypt, let alone a Corvette. This should be the realization of my childhood dream then.

We reached the renting company and finished the paperwork. Still deep in my thoughts, I was in a trance like state. I woke up when the guy from the renting company took us to the car, and fired up the beast for the first time. I heard the startup exhaust snarl, followed quickly by a deeper lopy rumble as it idled. Believe me when I say I still couldn't believe what was happening. My knees were literally shaking. When they handed me the keys, I asked the guy from the renting company to take the car from the parking lot out to the street since I was shaking badly. I went beside him to get a feeling for the car from the passenger seat as the reality of what I did started setting in. My childhood dream was coming true. 17 years later after I first knew about the Corvette, and I will actually be driving one, for one full day. No time to waste then. Maybe I shouldn’t even sleep.

We left my friend’s car at the renting company’s parking lot, and went back to our staying place together in the Vette to enjoy the experience, instead of driving two cars back to Abu Dhabi. The driving distance was around ~ 150 kms. The car had a removable roof that can be neatly packed in the trunk. The trunk is unexpectedly quite roomy as long as the roof is up. Once you put the roof in the trunk, it eats up space and access to most of the trunk, although you have space between the roof and the trunk's floor to put small bags and stuff. We started our trip with the roof off.

I gathered my courage, and actually started driving very carefully inside town to the main highway that would take us to Abu Dhabi. My first impressions can be summarized in two points: first, the hood is too long and far out than any other car I drove before, it was like driving a normal car from the back seat, second, the car was an absolute putty in my hands. It was very easy to drive with light steering, strong assisted brakes and a long travel throttle that makes it very easy to modulate the power without getting close the risky bits of power without warning (remember that I saw a zillion Corvette street videos, and I saw lots of accidents from people who didn’t know how to tame the power of that V8 while simply launching from a traffic light). Once we got out of town, I was already more familiar with the car, and I had a good feel for its handling and brakes, but not the full power yet.

If you don’t know, the C7 Corvette has a very good exhaust system. It can behave like a civilized car with quite a muted exhaust note, and; at a switch of a button, it can transform 180 degrees and turn into a monster with a very deep, throaty and loud exhaust note. This can be achieved by switching between the driving modes, with “Sport” and “Track” having the louder exhaust notes (and sportier cluster gauges shown on the big LCD screen behind the steering wheel). Traction Control had a separate button. I enjoyed driving in Sport mode for the evil exhaust note alone. While this car is not a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, and in a country like UAE who had exotic cars around every corner, I was still getting some attention from people who appreciated the car. I got thumbs up from a Camaro, greeting from Mini Coopers, and so on. Oh. How enjoyable the experience was.

Around 30 kilometers out of Dubai, and out of nowhere, it started raining heavily, and I was suddenly driving on a wet slippery road, with the roof open! We immediately stopped on the roadside once we found a suitable spot to put the roof back on, and went on our way, albeit a little more carefully. Like it started, after around 5 minutes of driving, rain suddenly stopped and we were driving on dry roads once again. We stopped at the next fueling station (around halfway through the distance to be covered) for something to eat, and to have a more careful look at the car and all the different settings. I snapped a few shots with the LX100. The car was dirty from the rain, but we didn’t bother, and we didn’t waste time to wash the car before we returned it the next day.

Ever since I knew about the C5 Corvette, they always said the Corvette had subpar interior quality compared to European cars. The C6 interior received the same comments. I never saw either myself. However, reviewers posted that the C7 Stingray has a brand new interior that is quite refined. I agree, but in my opinion it needs higher quality plastic material for the buttons to truly match European cars.

Can we now talk about the engine please? By now you must be wondering about the cars’ performance, which is what this car is all about. In two words: literally breathtaking! Acceleration from standstill is violent. The car shoves you back in your seat, and keeps you pinned down while it fights asphalt for traction. A 0-100 km/h acceleration time in the 3-second range is something that has to be experienced to really appreciate, no matter how I try to describe it. The other notable acceleration-related feature is the triple-digit speed acceleration with all that monster torque available. At speeds above a 100 km/h, acceleration doesn't feel as violent as the launch does, but looking at the speed gauge, you wouldn't believe how quickly speed climbs up. At one instance I was passing a car on the left most lane and I saw an open stretch of road in front. I was cruising around 85 km/h, and one kick-down later, I was travelling at 185 km/h in what felt like 4 or 5 seconds. Scary fast!

At the end, we reached Abu Dhabi at around 2 am. This is where I enjoyed driving the car more than I did on the highway. Every time you stop at a light or slow down for a speed bump, you get to listen to the glorious exhaust rumble as you pull away inside the town, and between the buildings. The exhaust echo sounded even louder and more threatening. We tracked down the long tunnels in Abu Dhabi, and kept going through them back and forth to listen to the cars’ sound more and more. It was intoxicating. Finally, at around 3 am, we pulled into the parking lot to get a good night’s sleep to be able to continue the Vette adventure next morning. Sleep was hard to come by with the car keys beside my bed.

That was all day one. Next morning, we did more driving, we climbed mountain roads, and we got stuck in a 90 minute long traffic jam. But that’s a story for another post.


UAE Trip - Part One
UAE Trip - Part Three
UAE Trip - Part Four

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