2011 Chevrolet Corvette Review

2011 Chevrolet Corvette - Corvette a great bang for the buck.


American muscle never looked or felt so good.  Besides turning heads, Chevrolet's long-running,  Corvette is an awesome value when more expensive, European rivals get mentioned in the same breath. A Porsche 911 coupe ($81,300 starting price) offers a similar exhilarating experience, but Corvette does so without needing to raise the debt limit ceiling.

It remains a two-seater, so choose friends carefully.  Don't have friends? Well, investing in a Corvette just might change your luck.

Corvette continues as a halo vehicle, selling approximately 12,600 units last year, a strong number for an aspirational masterpiece driving gawkers of all ages to Chicagoland Bow-Tie dealers. Corvette easily rates as the most recognizable, longest serving halo car at slimmed down General Motors.

The current C-6 (sixth generation) Corvette was introduced in 2005 and has aged gracefully. No official word from GM when the next-generation C-7 debuts, but 2013 is a smart bet since Corvette's 60th anniversary coincides with that numerical timeframe.

Three engine selections define Corvette. Base and Gran Sport trims opt for a 6.2-liter, V-8 with a smile-enhancing 430 horses while the Z06 enjoys a 7.0-liter V-8 and 505 horsepower. For ultimate thrill seeking, the ZR1's supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 churns out 638 horses.

While one could fork out north of $100,000 for ZR1's 638 horsepower, Base and Grand Sport's 430-some-odd ponies certainly provided ample thrills along the Eisenhower extension after dark when no constables on patrol were visually evident.  Can't remember the exact generated speed (possibly  four score and seven) but the tachometer while in fifth gear registered a calm 2400 rpms...with one forward gear on deck.  Plenty of punch left; just running out of public road options. Rear-wheel drive helps achieve a near-perfect 51/49 weight distribution in this relatively lightweight, 3,289-pound beauty. Bodies stay in tact with minimal sway even during daring expressway entrances.  The 6.2-liter V-8's tail-pipe tune is gruff without overly throaty.

 Our tester featured an optional, two-mode exhaust, technically bumping horsepower up slightly to 436. While the clutch felt stiff, utilizing manual shifting to optimize performance is highly recommended for those still drawn to the craft.

The Grand Sport trim, introduced in 2010, quickly became a fan favorite, offering more than Base Corvettes while borrowing some design elements from Z06 and ZR1. Expect wider fenders, wheels and tires; functional fender brake ducts and revised shock and spring specifications with GS. Optional Magnetic Ride Control allows drivers to select between sport or softer touring rides with the turn of a knob between the front buckets.

Aside from two new exterior colors bringing total hues to 10, the notable 2011 update is a USB port for portable electronics available with the optional, in-dash 6.5-inch touch screen DVD-based navigation system.

Our test GS with power convertible top listed at $58,600. With options including premium group (heated seats, leather-wrapped dash, perforated leather sport bucket seats)- $9,700; navigation package- $1,795; magnetic ride control- $1,695; dual mode exhaust- $1,195 and $300 blue metallic exterior- $300, the bottom line ended at $73,285 with $950 destination charge; still a bargain for the experience.  The lowest-priced 2011 Corvette, a Base coupe checks in at $49,045 while a Base convertible lists at $54,525.

Our six-speed manual transmissioned GS with 6.2-liter V-8 represents the fuel-champ of the Corvette family at 16 miles per gallon city and 26 mpg highway.  With six-speed automatic (optional in base and Grand Sport), subtract one mile in each category.  The fuel tank holds 18 gallons of premium recommended fuel.

Driver's need not exit the vehicle to assist the power canvas roof, and happily, rectangular trunk volume remains useful no matter the top's status. To start the process, grab the easy-twist ceiling ring between the sun visors to manually unlatch the top from the frame. Some rag tops incorporate two prongs, so Corvette's single lock is welcome.  Next, continually hold the dashboard toggle switch to raise a hard casing behind the bucket seats. The canvas top (glass rear window and defroster standard) then folds neatly into the vacated region before the tonnau casing powers down to its original setting. The process takes less than 17 seconds.

A manual-operating canvas top is offered if one searches, but opt for the more readily available power folding rag top.  Fixed coupe roofs are built into Z06 and ZR1 bodies while GS utilizes removable hard-top panels in coupe body style.

For small items, the trunk includes two 14-inch wide by 8.5-inch long by 8.5-inch deep under-floor, covered bins. Conveniently, strut-like hinges nicely reside outside the cargo area. The thin, panel-like lid and long, flat backend create a trunk that's anything but low liftover, but still functional.  With the top up, blind sports are apparent, but not quite as nerve racking as other soft-tops.

Headlights are fixed, not the pop-up variety found in earlier generations.  Rounded, tri-angular-shaped headlight housing with dual projector Xenon headlamps resides at the down slop  of the high-flaring side fenders. The hood, narrowing and hinged at the grille, lifts up from the windshield end. Composite fiberglass-like materials continue gracing Corvette's exterior. Four round tail lights parade along the flat-sided rear. While aerodynamic, oval-shaped side-view mirrors need a supersizing to keep a better eye on traffic.

Keyless access reinforces the need for speed by reducing  entry and exit time as long as the square fob is on person. Cloaked electronic touch pads unlatch both doors.  The same electronic thinking helps when exiting the Corvette. Small push buttons near the arm rest electronically unlatch doors.  

Another push button on the dash right of the steering column brings Corvette's V-8 to life (as long as the brake pedal is pushed) rather than an ignition cylinder.

With limited ground clearance, Corvette is not off-road transport. Maneuver slowly down driveways. Corvette embraces true roadster thinking with low-to-the-ground seating for both passengers but surprisingly, the ride is gentle on the kidneys. A  septogenarian riding shot gun while reliving youthful memories had little trouble with ingress or egress. The Grand Sport's six-way power driver's seat could offer more overall comfort.

Once inside, the tight cockpit provides amenities within easy reach.  The flat instrument panel features six assorted sized gauges. Small door lock, power window and power mirror controls are found on the driver's door. The glove box offers minimal room as does the arm rest/storage bin between the seats.   The leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel with redundant sound system controls  manually tilts up and down (a telescoping feature is optional). Fuel and trunk release levers are under dash left of the steering column. Standard cruise control is on the turn signal stalk. Seats and dash include white stitching. Total beverage holder count:  two.

 While front and side-impact airbags come standard, knee-bolster air bags would be a nice addition during the next tweaking.  Anti-lock brakes and traction control come standard.  A nice, low-tech, favorite is the digital, directional letter (N,S, E, W) in the corner of the rear-view mirror. As with just about every GM vehicle sold in America, OnStar, GM's in-vehicle communication system comes standard. This easy-to-use technology connects occupants with a 24-hour a day manned center with the push of a blue icon on the rear-view mirror frame.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

Overall Length: 175.6 inches

Overall Height:  48.7 inches

Wheelbase:  105.7 inches

Engine:  6.2-liter V-8

Horsepower: 436

Price as tested: $74,235

Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 26 mpg hwy.

Powertrain limited warranty: five years or 100,000 miles

Assembly:  Bowling Green, Kentucky

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.