Corvette illustrates once and for all what American can-do ingenuity is all about. The iconic V-8 Chevrolet certainly qualifies as a SuperCar, but with a bottom line thousands less then others with prestigious-heavy names like Ferrari and Lamborghini. Starting in the $50,000 neighborhood, this two-seat, two-door thriller is a comparative bargain with over-your-head horsepower and in-your-face torque. It's an American built (in Bowling Green Kentucky), American engineered rear-drive bundle of joy. Raising eye brows since the mid 1950s, it's one of the longest-running nameplates in the new, slimmed down General Motors.
Corvette's low-slug profile encourages participants to sit relatively close to the ground. That didn't stop a 70-year-old volunteer calling shot gun from entering and exiting with minimal trouble. Corvette ingress and egress is easier than many competitors including some higher end low-slung German rivals or the Dodge Viper.
Racing enthusiasts may squawk at less-than-luxurious, but welcoming interior materials. Corvette's dash has thin, yet soft-touch stitched nuances. This car gives you its money's worth under the hood.
It's a niche vehicle, but that doesn't prevent Chevy from offering several models, trims and engines. New for 2010 is a GS edition, joining the already super potent 430-horsepower base model, racing-inspired Z06 cranking out 505 horses and the ultra-fast ZR-1 with a supercharged LS9, 6.2-liter V-8 with a hard-to-fathom 638 horses. Besides the addition of the GS edition, Corvette 2010 changes are minimal save for side bags standard in all editions and new console trim.
Our 2010 Grand Sport (GS) tester this week replaces the Z51 package from the previous year. The GS includes 18-inch front and 19-inch rear tires, tall rear spoiler and side brake ducts. Premium fuel is recommended, but not required. Grand Sport offers both coupe and convertible body styles.
A manual fabric top comes standard in Corvette Grand Sport with the 1LT option package, but spring for the smooth running power top in 2LT, 3LT and 4LT packages. Driver's need not exit the vehicle to assist the power canvas top, and happily, rectangular trunk volume remains useful with the top up or down. To start the process, manually twist a center ceiling ring to unhook the top from the frame. Next, a push of a dashboard toggle switch left of the steering column lowers the side windows before raising the hard casing behind the bucket seats. The canvas top (glass rear window standard) then seamlessly folds neatly into the vacated region before the casing powers back to its original home. The process takes less than 17 seconds.
The tight cockpit provides amenities within easy reach. The flat instrument panel features six assorted sized gauges. Power mirror and lock controls reside on the driver's door. Dual inline cup holders are to the right of the floor-mounted transmission. Directly behind is a shallow storage bin/arm rest hinged on the right. Beneath the optional square in-dash navigation window (which slides flat revealing the compact disc input) are a digital rectangular temperature display and functions. Small dials rotate to change temperature settings while push buttons monitor speed. In upcoming 2011 models, USB ports and input jacks join models with the optional Navigation/stereo. Satellite radio is standard with 90-days of free subscription. The compact disc player and AM/FM radio plays 24 hours a day with no subscription plan.
To exit the vehicle, don't grab for traditional door handles. No sir. Both doors includes a circular, electronic button releasing the latch. No exterior handles either as fingers slide into an electronic touch pad when entering. In order to fire up the 500 plus horses, just press the push-start button on the dash right of the steering column (brake pedal must be pushed). Cruise control functions are integrated into the left-side turn signal stalk. Secondary audio controls are available on the steering wheel.
Corvette's flat rear deck looks almost as long as the front hood. No truncated back end here. The flat truck top opens via the key fob or an inside dash button, next to the fuel tank release. This is not the typical low-lift over trunk design, but Corvette is anything but typical. Struts mounted outside the bay maximizes space inside while two squarish sub-floor storage areas with tops add more flexibility. The flat, flush butt includes a pair of circular red tail lights at each end. No room for a spare, so don't bother looking as Eagle F1 extended mobility tires come standard.
Flared front fenders flank the hood which narrows towards the front. Hinged at the nose, the hood easily props up on its own thanks to shock-absorber-type hinges. The smartly engineered compartment features well-marked fluid reservoirs and a visible, accessible battery. Small, tri-angular-like headlight housing stores Xenon, high-intensity lamps. Huge six-piston front calipers and four-piston rear calipers help bring this 3,289-pound vehicle to a screeching halt, thanks in part to a sensitive brake pedal, and are visible through the five spoke wheel design.
The new-for-2010 Corvette hardtop GS starting price is $54,770. Our bright yellow test convertible started at $58,580 and featured the base LS3 6.2-liter V-8 engine cranking out 436 horsepower with an extra assist from dual mode exhaust. With conventional exhaust system, expect 430 horses. If gas mileage tops your priority list, look elsewhere. Considering the V-8 horsepower and automatic transmission, the 6.2-liter engine delivered a livable 15 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg highway.
The generous list of options included a 4LT package (heads-up window speedometer display, heated seats, power top, etc.) -$9,700, $1,750 for in-dash navigation, $1,250 for six-speed automatic with paddle shift, $1,195 for upgraded exhaust, $850 for yellow coat, $270 for pedal covers and $1,195 for the GS Heritage package (two-tone leather seats, fender stripes) for a bottom line of $75,740 including $950 destination charge. While pricing may seem steep, keep in mind a 2010 Maserati GranTurismo convertible with a 4.7-liter V8 and 433 horsepower starts at $135,000. The lowest priced 2010 Ferrari starts north of $190,000 Compare those numbers to a base Corvette hardtop starting at $48,930. With 2010 most likely the last model year of the V-10 powered, 600 horsepower, rough-riding Dodge Viper SRT-10 (about $90,000 for either coupe or convertible), Corvette stands atop the American SuperCar Apex.
Standard in our convertible GS test model was a rear-glass defogger, leather wrapped steering wheel, dual auto zone air conditioning, comfortable and supportive leather bucket seats and power doors, locks and mirrors.
Front and side-impact air bags come standard as does traction control (with push-button de-activation when burning some serious rubber ), antilock brakes and theft-deterrent system. One year of OnStar, GM's in-vehicle, satellite-linked communication system linking occupants with a 24-hour-manned center, comes standard.
With near-perfect 51/49 front/back weight distribution and rear drive, Corvette is tuned for performance maneuvers. The turning radius is long and wide, so plan accordingly in tight corners. Considering it's a convertible, blinds spots are not as obtrusive as in other rag tops thanks in part to the sizeable rear glass. The sport-tuned GS suspension absorbed road harshness while effectively keeping driver's in tune with the pavement. Floor the gas pedal, and enjoy a well-toned exhaust note letting those around that Corvette is in the house....or at least on their tail.
Corvette's limited powertrain coverage for five years or 100,000 miles falls into the new industry average. Don't expect a gas-electric hybrid version of the Corvette anytime soon. The upcoming less powery Chevrolet Volt will have to suffice. Pound for pound, horsepower for horsepower, Corvette is an American icon and a value.