Just as every summer has its signature blockbuster and song, each post-Memorial Day season has its hot-off-the-assembly line “it” convertible. Last year, it was Jaguar’s F-Type—Playboy’s (and everyone else’s) 2013 Car of the Year. And 2014? It’s tough to compete with the drop-top 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Or so the motoring press would have us believe.

To find out for ourselves, we put a torch red test model through its paces on a hot summer weekend, attacking twisty roads around LA and along the seaside cliffs of the Palos Verdes peninsula. In other words: convertible heaven. But before we start, we need to take quick look in the rearview.

When chief engineer Tadge Juechter unveiled the all-new Corvette in Detroit in January 2013—the seventh-generation of the all-American sports car—he claimed that this would sport a light, more rigid frame and be the most powerful base Vette ever, with the best fuel-efficiency. And it is all those things. We drove and adored the coupe in 2013, but could the new drop-top live up to its hype?

STYLING: Like the coupe, the convertible possesses a new, angular design language that is forward thinking and yet true to the Corvette brand. It’s the first generation that—styling-wise, for us at least—can compare to the second and third generations from the 1960s and 70s. The interior is, as one critic put it, “the first Corvette that doesn’t suck to be inside”. When you nestle into the driver’s seat you take in the polished aluminum, carbon fiber, and a tight cluster of instrumentation that seems to wink at you like a partner in crime.

ON THE ROAD: Zero to sixty goes by in 3.8 seconds—not Ferrari fast but quick enough to bounce your eyeballs off the back of your skull. The 6.2 liter V8 supplies 460 horsepower and 465 ft./lbs of torque, put to the pavement via a seven-speed manual with active rev-matching (the car figures out your downshifts before you complete them and blips the throttle for smoothness). The low center of gravity makes for tenacious grip, with surging blasts of power through corners, like your own personal roller coaster. Virtually all of the critics have agreed there is little to no difference in torsional stiffness between the coupe and convertible—a feat Chevrolet deserves to boast about.

TECHNOLOGY: Yes, there’s a customizable eight-inch dash screen, and yes, the “frosted indirect high-intensity discharge headlamps” and “edge-lit amber LED turn signals” rival in coolness those of German sports cars. The car is built with the de rigeur mode selector, which allows you to customize performance: Eco, Touring, Weather, Sport, and Track settings alter the magnetic shocks, steering input, etc., with the Track setting configured to ring out ultimate athleticism, which can never be fully experienced on the street without a loss of your driver’s license.

BOTTOM LINE: With the wind in your hair and the V8 singing, you think to yourself: This is an insane amount of car for the base price of $56,000. And that is what really makes the 2014 Corvette Stingray this summer’s “it” convertible—supercar looks, serious performance, and a pricetag far more reachable than a Jaguar F-type of comparable power, or Porsche’s gorgeous new six-figure 911 Targa. We can’t think of any convertible ever unleashed with this much performance and slick packaging at such a price.