The best sports car for the money just got better as it fends off an increasing number of alluring rivals that just seem to be left in the iconic car's dust
The Chevrolet Corvette began as a very pretty 1953 two-seat convertible that was reasonably good but too flawed for its market because it was General Motors' first attempt to build a sports car. But it went on to become an iconic world-class sports car, with a great combination of style and speed for relatively low prices.
For the money, no mass-produced auto can match the performance of even the standard $44,170 Corvette coupe with its removable roof panel or $52,510 convertible. Each has a smooth 400 horsepower V-8 and can do 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds, while delivering an estimated 27-28 mpg on the highway.
The special $69,175 Corvette Z06 coupe has a 505-horsepower V-8 and is the fastest Corvette ever, hitting 60 in 3.6 seconds. It's also the fastest production car GM has ever built.
But how fast do you want to go? More to the point, how fast can you go and not be hauled in by the police?
The Z06 is the most fun but is for car buffs and show-offs and is built in lower production numbers. It's rougher than the regular Corvette, with less sound deadening, and comes only with an occasionally balky six-speed manual gearbox and heavy clutch. The regular Corvette has a six-speed manual and a $1,250 six-speed automatic transmission, which shifts crisply and makes more sense than the manual in the congested Chicago area.
However, for all its thunder, the Z06 still provides an estimated 26 mpg on highways. (Corvette city fuel economy isn't so hot at 17-18 mpg for the 400-horsepower models and 16 for the Z06, but these are big, heavy, well-equipped cars.)
The recently redesigned sixth-generation Corvette finally has the refinement and quality it long has deserved. For instance, the chassis is ultrarigid and the interior no longer looks cheesy.
Drawbacks include rather gimmicky small interior push-button door controls and seats that are short on lateral support. Also, the convertible's power top should be standard and not put in a pricey $5,540 option package. Truth be told, the car doesn't really need a power top, unless occupants want to open or close the top without leaving the car.
A Corvette buyer on any sort of budget best keep in mind high insurance premiums and show restraint when it comes to options. For example, my $52,510 convertible had a bottom-line price of $66,340 -- or $67,165 with freight charges.
Even simple items such as the $1,850 chrome aluminum wheels are tempting, but still ...
Most buy a Corvette with the automatic transmission, and the standard coupe with the automatic is really the best buy for Chicago area residents. However, it might be hard finding a new 'Vette without a fair number of options that will run up the price.
The brightly lit and boldly marked gauges are easy to read and controls work nicely. It's fairly easy to slide in and out, although long doors are a handicap in tight parking situations.
The 'Vette is extraordinarily wide, which means the cockpit is roomy -- although there are few interior storage areas.
On the other hand, there is a surprising amount of cargo room for a sports car. Two golf bags fit even in the convertible, although both the coupe and soft top have high cargo openings -- and the coupe has no partition between the cargo area and the cabin. Don't look for a spare tire because the Corvette has run-flat tires.
While the coupe makes the most sense, the Corvette convertible I recently tested is arguably the best all-around Corvette for many folks because a 'Vette is supposed to be about driving fun -- and they think any ultimate fun car must have a convertible top.
Soft or hardtop, the Corvette is easily used as a daily driver -- something that can't be said for many costlier high-performance sports cars.
The steering has the right amount of quickness, and the ride is good over most roads.
The $1,995 Magnetic Selective Ride Control gives a driver selectable tour (softer) and sport (harder) suspension settings, although I felt no major difference between the two settings in my test car. A standard anti-skid system is a good safety net for overenthusiastic drivers.
Handling and braking are superb. A short trip to the local 7-Eleven even can be fun because it's enjoyable to drive any car that is so responsive to driver commands.
The Corvette is facing an increasing number of alluring rivals, but it undercuts them on price and practicality -- and remains America's dream machine.
2007 CHEVROLET CORVETTE
LIKES: Sexy world-class player. Highway fuel economy. Value for the money. Easy daily driver.
DISLIKES: Push-button door openers. High trunk lift-over. Stiff insurance bills.