I honestly haven't received this much attention in a while. And I wish I could say it was because of something I did with my hair or that really cute dress I was wearing.
But alas, it was all about the car.
I met neighbors I never knew. Had random strangers come up to the car and ask questions--while I was driving. Got more tweet traffic in a week than I usually get in a month. And had several photos taken, um, without me in the car.
The rear-wheel drive Chevrolet Corvette is always a favorite for ride, handling and sheer comfort. But you add "Grand Sport," and you take it to a whole new level of cool. Especially when you add options such as the Grand Sport Heritage Package ($1,195), chrome aluminum wheels ($1,995) and dual mode performance exhaust ($1,195).
And the Torch Red exterior paint didn't hurt.
The Corvette Coupe starts at $48,950. But the Grand Sport model is wedged between the base Corvette and the Z06 model with a starting price of $54,790. Key differences between the regular Corvette and the Grand Sport model include 3 inches in width, a 0.4-inch lower height, Z52 Performance Package, Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, 1 extra inch in length and about 100 pounds in weight.
Subtle differences to be sure, but you will definitely notice the wider body and performance tires in long, fast straightaways and aggressive highway maneuvers ... and, unfortunately, over speed bumps and potholes.
I live in Chicago, which is glutted with the latter pitfalls. General Motors assures me the Grand Sport is only .2 inches lower than the regular model, but it was just enough to make the Chicago "pitfalls" a nightmare to navigate. This beautiful car could approach neither without a scrrrrrraaaaaaape. And it drove me absolutely nutty.
So, with that in mind, I would not recommend this car for city dwellers. This is strictly a suburban sports car with lots of highway mileage ahead of it.
Fuel economy backs up that recommendation. While EPA city/highway fuel estimates ring in with a decent 16/26 mpg with a manual transmission, I averaged (cough) 12 mpg. So, sue me. I loved the exhaust note that rang out when the rpms hit 4,000. And I couldn't help passing those sluggish stragglers who camp in the passing lane. Plus, highway on ramps were just made for fast acceleration. And taking off from a stop after a red light ... Well, you get the picture.
I'm sure if I owned this car, all that would get old and my fuel economy would get better.
The two things that have always amazed me about the Corvette are the phenomenal adjustability of the driver's seat and the utter affordability for what you're getting. I know $55K doesn't seem that affordable, but when you compare it to the price of key competitors such as the Porsche 911 Carrera ($77,800), BMW Z4 sDrive35is ($61,550) and Aston Martin V8 Vantage ($124,750), the value proposition becomes more clear.
Not to mention the fact that the Corvette is an American icon.
Without any options, the Corvette Grand Sport comes standard with up-level features like leather seating surfaces, 6-way power adjustable driver's seat, OnStar, keyless access, push-button start, Xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps and magnetic ride control (new for 2011).
The test vehicle added the top-of-the-line 4LT package ($7,705), which included pretty much every bell and whistle you could ask for. A few of my favorites were the head up display, heated seats, Bose premium 7-speaker audio system, adjustable side bolsters and the luggage shade.
The latter was a particular favorite since I habitually carry a first aid kit, sports cones and gym bag. This meant that I didn't have to take them out every time I drove the car as the luggage shade perfectly concealed what was in the trunk.
Speaking of the trunk, another great thing about the Corvette is that it actually has usable cargo space that rings in at 22.4 cubic-feet. You can absolutely fit a couple of roller boards and a cooler with space to spare. Perfect for a road trip. Which you're going to want to take in this car.
Because the test vehicle added the optional exhaust, the 6.2-liter V-8 engine delivered 436 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. This is only up 6 horsepower and 4 pound-feet over a model with the standard exhaust. Compare that to 430 horsepower in the regular Corvette and 505 horsepower in the Z06.
The manual transmission in the Corvette is a thing of beauty. The clutch is a bit stiff, but the short-throw shifter glides through the gears like butter. Both add to the fun-to-drive factor and make me wish I had some track time during the test week.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to take a convertible version out on the track at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., earlier this year during the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally. The Corvette Grand Sport virtually floated around the curves of this twisty track, and I scored my highest speed of the day, topping 125 mph on the first long straight away.
From track driving to highway cruising, I love this car, and I honestly can't think of another sports car I'd rather own. So, Dad, if you're reading, I think you should strongly consider this as your retirement car. Red paint, white fender stripes and all. I'm just saying.
The only real downer I encountered in the Corvette Grand Sport tester was the navigation system ($1,795). Thank goodness it's an option. Don't get it. I loved this system when it was new. And at the time, It was radical with a large touch screen and easy menu. But with the huge strides made in technology in the last year alone, this system now seems clunky and outdated. The streets are poorly labeled, the map is small (even when you blow it all the way up) and the menu doesn't seem as intuitive as it once did. Not what you want to see on a shiny 2011 model.
I'd stick with OnStar's Turn-by-Turn navigation, which is free for a year, and then has a nominal monthly fee after that. Or buy a Garmin. Seriously, it's that bad.
Thankfully being able to take the nav system out of the equation, the Corvette Grand Sport is an eye-catching thing of beauty. And, hopefully, I'll have one in the family someday (cough, Dad). Failing that, if I ever leave the city and move to a warmer clime, I might just have to buy one myself.