Along with advance photos, industry experts have another source for clues: They often study the brand's recent concept cars hoping to find forward-thinking styling cues. The designers know that a concept car, especially an outrageous one, has little chance of being developed and brought to market, but that's OK. They serve a greater purpose -- generating interest in the brand while reading the car-buying public's pulse on potential new direction. A dramatic, new design element on a concept car might be toned down by the time it hits a production model in a couple years, but chances are, it'll show up again in some form. In the Corvette's case, its new lines appear to be foreshadowed by the Stingray concept, and whatever design elements make it to production are likely to trickle down throughout the Chevy model range.
Some test mules (the industry's term for cars that are driven by the automakers' design and engineering teams to test specific elements) were spotted with C6 body components -- in these cases, the engineers were probably primarily concerned about getting real-world feedback on engine and mechanical setups.
Even though the mules are still under wraps while they're out running around, the covering still provides some clues -- people who have been doing this for a while, like car magazine editors, are pretty good at divining critical details from shrouded silhouettes. Test cars have been extra careful to hide distinguishing details of the car's tail end, which means it's likely to have a few surprises. It's unlikely the Corvette's tell-tale quad round taillamps will be significantly changed -- it's one of the car's best-known design cues -- but the metal surrounding them is fair game. As best as the magazine editors can tell, the rake of the pillars is a little different, and the C6's wraparound rear window may have been abandoned in favor of an updated design. Also, they note, the C6's quad tailpipes are still there, but they've been arranged in a row rather than in pairs.
Possible carbon-fiber elements could be as dramatic as a full CF roof, which would reduce weight (more on that later), as well as provide an upscale look. Mesh on the front end covering of the test mules suggests the Corvette's new hood features ventilation via a hood scoop or louvers -- both common methods to sweep extra air toward the engine. The C6 currently has HID headlights, but the new headlights will get LED running lamps. However the front end shapes up, it's likely to look more aggressive than the current car.
There's been a lot of speculation about the C7's interior -- previous designs were generally accepted as underwhelming and inferior to the competition [source: Car and Driver]. So, interior materials are supposed to see a major improvement over the C6. The seats, in particular, were so bad that Chevy made an update midway through the 2012 model year. It's a somewhat unusual move to initiate such changes so close to the end of a model's life span. Keep in mind that these details were kept a secret until new photos made the rounds in September 2012 -- however, the interiors fitted to a test car aren't necessarily destined to make it to the production line. That said, several bloggers suggest the front seats might be heated and cooled -- take that for what it's worth.
The driver's controls will get a considerable refresh, in the form of a graphic tachometer in the front and center of an LCD instrument screen. (The other gauges will probably keep a more traditional style.) There are even suggestions of engine stop-start technology [source: Car and Driver].
All this is critical for the C7's success, according to GM. In fall of 2011, GM's global design chief, Ed Welburn, told Automotive News that the Corvette is an especially difficult car to redesign. Improvements need to be significant, but the car has to maintain its overall appeal and characteristic elements. In other words, it's got to be better than the last one, but it still needs to be instantly recognizable as a Corvette. This is a challenge, of course, for every carmaker that's refreshing a current model, but the average family sedan doesn't play a significant role in Detroit's muscle car history. But that's not enough for GM – the company really wants the Corvette to find a wider audience this time around, so all the C7 tweaks will be aimed at appealing to existing muscle car fans, and converting new, younger 'Vette drivers. Appealing to consumers' material instincts is obviously one such strategy, but muscle cars can't get by on looks alone.