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Sonicly Forum » Hobby & Entertainment » Automotive » Vetting the Newest 'Vette
Vetting the Newest 'Vette
777Date: Saturday, 30 Oct 2010, 17.15 | Message # 1
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When the Corvette and its buyers start getting bored, Chevrolet has the answer: Let’s do a special-edition Corvette! This has been going on for a half-century, with varying degrees of success. Some models or option packages are modern classics, like the original Z06 from 1963: This was a race-ready Corvette with a massive 36.5-gallon fuel tank, created by 'Vette godfather Zora Arkus-Duntov to sneak around GM’s self-imposed ban on factory racing. Only racers and other in-the-know buyers knew to check off the Z06 option box, which added a hefty $1,818 to the Sting Ray’s $4,252 base price -- and since only 199 were ever built, a primo Z06 can fetch a cool $1 million today.

The downside has been a welter of self-serving commemorative or “anniversary” Corvettes, including several Indy Pace Car models. These tend to add little or nothing to stock 'Vette performance while slapping on lurid paint schemes and decals so tacky that the cars appear to have been conceived by a 14-year-old NASCAR fan who may have found his way into daddy’s Wild Turkey.

So it’s always reason to cheer when Chevy gets it right, as it has with the reborn Z06 and ZR1 models. Yet those cars -- especially the 638-horsepower ZR1, which runs $110,000 -- are out of reach for many of the Corvette faithful. Well, allow me to tout the new Grand Sport coupe and convertible, themselves named for the Corvette prototype racers of a bygone age, along with limited-edition models from ’63 and ’96.

For $55,720 to start -- about $5,800 above a base Corvette coupe -- the Grand Sport coupe genuinely boosts Corvette style and performance, but without kicking the price to Z06 levels. There’s also a convertible version for just under 60 grand that offers open-air thrills you can’t get in the coupe-only Z06.

The Grand Sport keeps the base 'Vette’s 430-horsepower V8 engine, but adds critical Z06 goodies including a hand-assembled engine, wide-bodied track, enormous tires (including gummy 325/30/19s in back) and cross-drilled brake rotors, plus visual upgrades such as beefy flared fenders and a front air inlet. (Thankfully, the cheesy polished aluminum wheels, for an extra $1,950, and the Grand Sport-style fender stripes are optional). You also get the Z06 and ZR1’s racer-style dry-sump lubrication with a massive 10.5-quart oil capacity.

The result is a car with more head-turning ability than your garden-variety 'Vette. It’s also a track-worthy model that can reach the magic 1 G mark in lateral acceleration, yet still delivers a livable ride, price and fuel economy: a 16 mpg city/26 mpg highway EPA rating, remarkable for a car that can slingshot from zero to 60 mph in about four seconds flat.

The Grand Sport also offers convertible and automatic-transmission versions, something you can’t get on the coupe and manual-only Z06. Buyers are urged to chip in $1,105 for the dual-mode exhaust, which opens up baffles under hard acceleration to let that glorious V8 be heard for blocks around. And for all manual Corvettes for 2010, a new launch control lets you set it up, dump the clutch and let 'er rip.

While the Corvette's thin, butt-numbing seats and mediocre interior plastics are still the weak points -- a leather-wrapped interior option does help matters -- the Corvette remains the runaway bargain of the premium sports car class. I've been driving a flaming-red Grand Sport all week in New York, and it's received a surprising amount of stares, longing looks and compliments -- at least when people manage to catch up. The Grand Sport is also easier to drive fast than the more volatile, 505-horse Z06, with the Grand Sport's enormous tires, brakes and improved suspension all upping the confidence level.

While the car adopts the special-edition Grand Sport moniker, Chevy is suggesting that the car will become part of the Corvette lineup, and should account for a good chunk of sales going forward. With Corvette sales slipping badly, along with those of most other sports cars, the Grand Sport is just what Corvette needs to revive interest until an all-new generation comes along.

Sonicly Forum » Hobby & Entertainment » Automotive » Vetting the Newest 'Vette
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