Small rocks crunched beneath the tires and a cloud of dust rose from the dry ground as I pulled off the deserted two-lane road next to a desolate pasture. A few cows looked on. It was too much. I needed a break. I needed the adrenaline to subside. The engine powered down and my ears continued to ring from its bellow. The heat made my neck sizzle and my legs shook as I stepped onto the baking asphalt and looked back the snaking road I had just conquered. Amid the dust, the deep green Corvette Stingray gleamed in the sunlight.

Just minutes before, I was driving the car as hard as I could along the spectacular California State Route 25. I slalomed around the relentless tight, blind curves, redlined along the straights and slammed the brakes into the hairpins. As I stood on the shoulder of the road, I felt a high set in. The drive was punishing, tiring and mentally draining. But it was beautiful. It was exactly how driving a Corvette should be. A huge smile broke across my face and, after a few minutes in the ninety degree heat, I walked back to the car, ready for more. Turning the key, the small block V8 came to life like a crack of thunder and I was off again. The pasture disappeared rapidly in my rear-view mirror.

The 2014 Stingray is the Corvette we've been waiting for. And not simply because it's been several years since GM provided us with a new one. Rather, every generation of Corvette has been scrutinized as falling short of perfection we seek in it due to flaws in the exterior design, handling or interior appointments. That is no longer the case. Lighter, sharper, faster, more precise, stiffer, more comfortable and more fuel efficient, this new Corvette, called Stingray, is the vehicle for the driving enthusiast. Sixty years after the first Corvette came into being, it has been reborn as a truly brilliant sports car.

Without further ado, here it is: A supercar starting at $51,000, the price of a midsize luxury sedan, palatable to the working man and woman, which is, after all, the point of creating a car like this within the Chevrolet brand. Read on for more.

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The Basics

Sticker Price: $51,000 - $58,800

Invoice Price: $46,410 - $53,508

Engine: 6.2L V8

Transmission: Seven-speed manual or six-speed automatic

Performance: 455 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque, 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds

Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Seating: 2 people

Cargo Capacity: 15.0 cubic feet

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Exterior Design

The outside of the Stingray is entirely new, and there are some aspects that are a dramatic departure from what we're used to seeing in a Corvette, such as the new square taillights. The overall body style is recognizable, but it's the details that make the car different -- and very attractive. Almost everything about it hints at its aggressive performance on the road. The stance of the car looks like a lion ready to pounce. The blacked-out intake vents and grille catch the eye. The jagged headlights and sharp lines give the vehicle a blade-like feel, hinting at its ability to slice through the air. The four linear exhaust pipes tell you a lot about what the V8 is capable of.

Many of the visual cues on the new Stingray serve an important purpose: aerodynamics. In order to ensure that the car can slip through the air and experience minimal lift on the front end, the engineers used strategically placed vents, creases and fins. The Corvette's design is as functional as it is attractive.

The Stingray I drove came in a deep green color that, when coupled with black wheels, looked positively nasty. I loved it, especially when the unfiltered inland sun made it gleam. I sincerely hope that green is making a comeback as a vehicle color because when it's executed like this, it is stunning.

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Interior

The interior of the Stingray is very much driver oriented. In fact, there's a physical barrier in the form of a small bar that separates the driver from the passenger. The overall interior works well. Everything is ergonomically placed, making shifting, using the infotainment, reading the gauges (of which there are a lot) and adjusting the climate quite easy. The seats are nicely supported and bolstered, and most surfaces are soft to the touch. Aesthetically, the interior is sporty and aggressive, with sharp color schemes and fonts that all convey performance driving.

It's also quite loud inside. Depending on the type of driving in which you're engaging, this can be a good or bad thing. If you're ripping around the back roads, it's awesome. You can hear the deep scream of the engine, the squeal of the tires and the wind rushing past you. But if you're commuting, especially on the freeway, road noise can become a nuisance and, after a while, exhausting.

There's a pretty large blind spot on the driver's side, which can make for dicey merging. Some blind spot detectors could really help out when it comes to freeway driving. Perhaps, dare we say, something akin to Honda's LaneWatch system, which displays the rear view of the lane you are heading into via the center console screen.

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Passenger And Cargo Room

Passenger room is adequate, though it's important to remember that you can only have two people in the car at a time, including the driver. There is ample head, leg and shoulder room, allowing for easy movement and a trip free from claustrophobia.

Unfortunately, cargo room is hard to come by. You can fit a few backpacks and small suitcases, but you'll be hard pressed to conquer a larger trip to the grocery store with the Stingray. I haven't driven the convertible, but I have to imagine that trunk space is even worse, considering that big roof has to be stored somewhere.

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Driving Dynamics

I set out from the Marina airport, a few miles inland from Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. The marine layer blocked the sun, giving a bite to the air. I knew it wouldn't be like that for most of the day. I had gone over the route map earlier and understood that as soon as I started to head east, the clouds would clear and the sun would bring temperatures well over 90 degrees.

The main part of the drive route was along California State Route-25. It's a road that snakes south from Hollister and along Pinnacles National Park. It's a Corvette road. There's very little traffic, tons of undulation, blind curves and straightaways long enough to get going as fast as you're comfortable doing. The clouds disappeared, as I had predicted, and the day heated up. The Corvette's deep engine note echoing off of sheer rock walls, I came to realize that this car is really something special.

Chevrolet has made a number of updates to the Stingray's body and engine that make for a superb driving experience, most notably in weight reduction. The Corvette has had the reputation of being a big clunker when compared to competition like the Porsche 911. The Stingray should put that image to bed once and for all. The all-new aluminum frame is 57-percent stiffer and 99- pounds lighter than the old steel one, making for more responsive handling and quicker acceleration. In addition to the aluminum frame, Chevy employed carbon fiber and carbon nano-composites in places like the vents, hood, roof and underbody panels. Overall, these efforts have brought the Corvette down to a curb weight of 3,298 pounds and have given the car a perfect 50/50 weight balance.

All of these advancements in weight reduction, balance and aerodynamics, in addition to more torque from the 6.2L V8, combine to form a car that handles so well on the road that you have to take breaks just to let it sink in. The human mind and body feel completely connected to the car and the pavement, especially on the right road and in the right drive mode (I always used Sport), as it perfectly executes sharp corners, accelerates to 60 mph and beyond in a few measly seconds, effortlessly passes slower cars without needing to downshift and brakes easily on demand. Every sense is stimulated, the eye barely blinks. It's a remarkable machine, powerful and precise at the same time. It is, simply put, crazy fun.

But it doesn't drive itself. The car is burly and demands respect. The traction control systems are cutting edge, but the car can turn into something much wilder than you may have anticipated if you're not in tune to the the road and what the car is telling you. While I was pushing it on a small autocross track later in the day, for instance, I spun out when taking a gradual turn much harder than I should have.

The transmission is a little tricky, too. If you haven't driven a seven-speed manual transmission before (don't get the automatic -- there's nothing wrong with it, but it's just not as much fun), it takes getting used to. It was my first experience with such a gear box and I found it very easy, when shifting from fourth into fifth gear, to push the shifter too far over and into seventh. It takes some finesse -- something that is hard to come by when furiously tackling a straightaway. It's a great box for the most part, with an easy throw in between gears and optional rev matching, but it's quite easy to make mistakes in the early going before familiarity sets in.

Finally, the suspension on the Stingray is very, very stiff. It makes for excellent handling, but it also results in a punishing ride on the freeway. Commuters beware: Even in "Touring" mode, which eases up on some of the Stingray's more aggressive driving aspects, just thirty minutes on the freeway is tough to manage, especially the crumbly ones in the Midwest and even in California--victims of stingy state governments and a Congress to whom "infrastructure" has become a dirty word. Perhaps if they drove the new Stingray, they'd change their tune. Until then, I recommend you stick to the curvy back roads with this car.

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Tech And Infotainment

While most people will pay attention to the Stingray's looks and great driving dynamics, the technology the car employs is certainly notable. For starters, the new generation of Chevrolet's MyLink, which is hosted on an eight-inch touchscreen, is easy to use and has a handsome user interface. With 3D maps, high definition radio, gesture-recognition technology and a great sound system, the entertainment is both intuitive and effective.

I'm a big fan of Head-Up Displays (HUDs) and the one included with the Stingray is one of the best. It comes with several different information displays for speed, RPMs and other information, allowing the driver to keep their eyes on the road more of the time.

With the simple twist of a knob, the driver can tweak up to twelve vehicle attributes at once, such as the limited slip differential, launch control, traction control, performance traction management and the electronic throttle control. All in all, technological advancements have made driving the Corvette highly customizable.

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Fuel Economy

Using active cylinder deactivation, which shuts off four cylinders when cruising at highway speeds, and a seventh gear, the Corvette is good for 17 mpg City and a remarkable 30 mpg Highway. Here's how the Corvette compares to some of its competition:

Porsche 911: 16 mpg City, 24 mpg Highway

Audi R8: 11 mpg City, 20 mpg Highway

BMW Z4: 22 mpg City, 34 mpg Highway

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Bottom Line

One of the best parts of my day with the Corvette Stingray came when Chevrolet allowed me to drive a Corvette from every single generation. From C1 all the way to the previous C6, I got to experience firsthand the evolution that the car has undergone. As I went through each car, noting the clunky handling and absurdly heavy clutch pedals of the older generations, I found that each new one was clearly more refined than the last. It all led up to the C7, the Stingray -- the culmination of GM's engineering efforts over the past sixty years.

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a superb driving machine. I would argue that at $51,000, this is one of the best values out there, considering how much vehicle you get for that price. Powerful, sharp, attractive, affordable and fuel efficient, there's not much more you can ask for in a sports car.

While writing this review, I found myself using a lot of the language I employed when describing the Audi RS7, which, to me, is the perfect vehicle package. Though the Corvette sacrifices versatility in only having two seats and very little trunk space, it's certainly on par when it comes to driving dynamics and aesthetics. And it costs half as much.

If you like to drive cars -- if you love speed, aggression, torque, g-forces and hot days spent on desolate roads in the middle of nowhere, the Stingray is for you. This is a driver's car, evident in every aspect of its design and engineering.

AOL Autos accepts vehicle loans with insurance and a tank of gas for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own – we do not accept sponsored editorial.

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