2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible Road Test Review

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Chevrolet's Corvette is practically a marque of its own; this sports car's long history makes it as much of a household name as that of its parent company.  Even when people say that the entire General Motors lineup is completely devoid of desirable product, this comment is frequently followed by, "except for the Corvette." The latest 'Vette is an American sports car done right.

The Corvette Grand Sport, introduced in 2010, aims to garner even more respect for the venerable 'Vette. With suspension modifications and styling tweaks, the Corvette Grand Sport borrows some of the better performance attributes of the high-dollar models and blends them into a unique midrange package.

If there's one thing Chevy's big-dog sports car doesn't lack for, it's performance. Even in base form, the svelte Corvette features a healthy 6.2-litre V8 that produces 430 horsepower. An optional dual-mode exhaust boosts power to 436 horses. A choice of six-speed manual or six-speed paddle-shifted automatic transmissions is available, and of course the Corvette is rear-wheel drive. Better still, the transmission's gearing returns a fuel economy rating of just 7.7 L/100km on the freeway.  Give the 'Vette a hard boot and you'll get a roar that sounds like it's tearing apart the fabric of reality and a shove from behind that suggests it's surfing on the shreds. Top-speed 0-100 km/h runs come up in a scant four seconds. Launch Control is standard on manual transmission-equipped Corvettes; this system allows the driver to floorboard the pedal and dump the clutch while keeping the engine to a set rev limit and limits wheel spin for maximum acceleration.

The Corvette is large and low slung, and the chassis is radically different from the average road car. It's built around a hydroformed steel rail backbone with a rear-mounted transmission, and the cockpit is formed from aluminum. The Corvette Grand Sport gets revised spring, shock and stabilizer bar rates for racetrack-ready handling, and the track has been widened. As a result, the Grand Sport is ridiculously planted when the road gets twisty. That said, it's also somewhat twitchy thanks to an ultra-fast steering rack, and this particular convertible has a lot of cowl shake (that's when the dash and upper section of the windshield seem to shimmy at different rates when the car hits a bump). It remains planted, however, and for 2011 Chevrolet will offer Magnetic Ride Control, an active suspension system that will improve the already impressive handling.  Standard brake cooling ducts are functional, and the Grand Sport also gets the Z06's larger six-piston brake calipers.  

The exterior styling's distinctive wedge shape is a result of the body panels being wrapped tightly around the unique frame. Chevrolet's trademark quad round taillights mark the rear, and the Corvette is available as a coupe or convertible. The sergeant's stripes on the front fenders denote the Grand Sport model. Not so obvious are the widened front and rear fenders and fatter wheels and tires that set the Grand Sport apart.

The cockpit is pleasantly predictable and will be familiar to anyone who's ever spent time with a Corvette, with a purposeful six-gauge instrument panel and carbon-fibre trim. The Corvette's interior reflects the twin-cockpit layout that has characterized this vehicle since the start, with a large console and space for two people, their bags, and not much more. The doors open with solenoid pushbuttons, and the interior is snug for two yet comfortable enough for an all-day drive. It's equipped for grand touring, with OnStar, XM Satellite Radio and an available navigation system.

When a car is well-executed enough that even the skeptics respect it, you know it's an impressive product. The Chevrolet Corvette has earned the (sometimes grudging) respect of the automotive community. Pricing for the Corvette Grand Sport starts somewhat north of the standard 'Vette's $67,135; the additional performance goodies raise the bottom line to $74,960. The convertible is pricier still at a base price of $83,740. Even at that price point, though, the Corvette is still less expensive than the Porsches and Vipers it will be running with.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Roadster, Chevrolet, 2011, Corvette Grand Sport Convertible, $75,000 - $99,999,

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