DETROIT – General Motors makes industry history tonight by unveiling the ’14 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, marking the seventh-generation of the iconic sports car and boasting the most powerful standard model in its 60-year history.

GM North America President Mark Reuss pulls the cover off the all-new Corvette during an event here ahead of tomorrow’s North American International Auto Show media opening.

The car’s introduction is unquestionably the biggest scheduled reveal at this year’s show, and for Corvette enthusiasts the biggest moment since the sixth-generation model bowed in 2005.

“Like the ’63 Sting Ray, the best Corvettes embodied performance leadership, delivering cutting-edge technologies, breathtaking design and awe-inspiring driving experiences,” Reuss says in a statement ahead of the event.

“The all-new Corvette goes farther than ever, thanks to today’s advancements in design, technology and engineering,” he says.

Sales of the Corvette are holding up, despite the age of the current model. Special-edition variants helped drive sales up last year by 7.4% to 14,132 units from 13,164 in 2011, according to WardsAuto data.

The newest Corvette revives the Stingray name from the second generation of the car, GM says, because the C7 marks the same revolution in design, engineering technology and performance as the C2.

Backed by an all-new small-block 6.2L LT1 V-8 gasoline engine, the base model C7 boasts an estimated 450 hp and 450 lb.-ft. (610 Nm) of torque. The current-generation Corvette puts out 430 hp and 424 lb.-ft. (575 Nm) of torque.

GM expects the new Corvette will run 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in less than four seconds and achieve more than 1g in cornering grip.

Despite the performance increases, the auto maker says the new Corvette will exceed the 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) highway fuel economy of the current model.

“We believe the Corvette represents the future of modern performance cars, because it delivers more power, more driving excitement and better fuel efficiency,” Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter says in a statement.

As WardsAuto previously reported, a number of advanced technologies contained inside the new small-block V-8 permit output increases alongside improved fuel economy.

Those technologies include gasoline direct-injection, cylinder deactivation from eight cylinders to four when driving conditions allow, continuously variable valve timing and an all-new highly efficient combustion system.

GM also wraps the new Corvette in lightweight materials, according to information supplied ahead of the reveal.

Those materials include a carbon-fiber hood and removable roof panel; composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels; carbon nano-composite underbody panels and a new aluminum frame to achieve an optimal 50/50 weight balance and what GM considers a world-class power-to-weight ratio.

GM does not provide a curb weight ahead of the reveal, but the current generation’s standard model tips the scales at 3,208 lbs. (1,455 kg), and the auto maker says the new model will be lighter despite a more rigid chassis and added features.

The powertrain includes a Tremec TR6070 7-speed manual transmission with a driver-selectable rev-matching feature, which anticipates the next gear and electronically “blips” the throttle for seamless gear changes.

GM also will make available an in-house, carryover Hydra-Matic 6L80 automatic transmission with paddle-shifting capability.

An 8-speed automatic transmission under development at GM and very near production at the auto maker’s Toledo, OH, powertrain facility was widely expected to bow on the new Corvette. Reports say the 8-speed is another year away.

The Corvette Stingray chassis features a new aluminum frame structure 57% stiffer and 99 lbs. (45 kg) lighter than the current steel frame, and the frame rails are made of five customized segments instead of relying on hydroforming technology.

Each segment is specially tuned, GM says, to meet the required performance at minimal weight.

Lighter and stiffer front and rear cradles complement the new frame.

The C7 also ushers to market a fresh exterior design for the Corvette line, as well as a significantly upgraded interior long criticized as its weakest attribute.

“The goal was a bold design statement that embraced the advanced technology of the car, while enhancing its overall performance in everything from the wind tunnel to the track,” Ken Parkinson, executive director-GM Global Design, says in a statement.

“The result is a new Corvette Stingray, a fantastic car that breaks new ground yet remains true to the fundamental elements that make a Corvette a Corvette.”

For example, the car retains classic Corvette proportions such as a long dash-to-axle ratio and a greenhouse evoking the canopy of a fight jet, as well as the familiar dual-element tail lamps, according to advanced press information. From there, designers moved forward on the styling drawing inspiration from aerospace and nature, GM says.

Lighting plays a major role in the Corvette Stingray’s design, reinforcing its high-tech aesthetic, the auto maker says. Up front, indirect white light-emitting diode lamps form a distinctive daytime styling cue. They are set inside black-chrome lamp housings with standard high-intensity-discharge projector headlamps. Turn signals feature edge-lit amber LED lighting.

A new take on Corvette’s trademark dual-element taillamps marks the greatest departure from tradition and rank among car’s most dramatic elements, GM says.

Three-dimensional, sculpted lenses contain innovative indirect LED lighting and hidden LED lamps cast light up from the bottom of the housing into a reverse reflector, creating an even glow, the auto maker says.

LED lamps also are used for the white backup lamps and the taillamps use functional aircraft-style air outlets for the available differential and transmission coolers.

The performance-oriented interior includes authentic carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather, as well as a pair of seat choices featuring lightweight magnesium frames for better support, and dual 8-in. (20-cm) configurable drive-infotainment screen.

The new Corvette also receives a smaller diameter steering wheel promising more direct, immediate feel to directional inputs, and a head-up display returns for ’14 but boasts full-color projection.

A rotary-knob driver-mode selector near the shifter delivers five different settings – Weather, Eco, Tour Sport and Track – and a total of 12 performance parameters are adjusted within each mode to affect everything from the type of gauge cluster the driver prefers to mode-specific exhaust notes to five different settings to tailor torque and brake intervention for track driving.

GM will keep assembly of the Corvette at its Bowling Green, KY, facility, which recently received a $131 million renovation, including an estimated $52 million for a new body shop to build the car’s aluminum frame in-house for the first time.

The car arrives at Chevrolet dealerships in third-quarter 2013.

jamend@wardsauto.com