For the 2008 model year, Chevy's base model Corvette coupe and convertible get a few notches closer to reaching the performance bar set by their outrageously fast Z06 brother. Last year's LS2 6.0-liter V-8 has been spit out of the fiberglass engine compartment in favor of an all-new, all-aluminum, structurally enhanced, 6.2-liter unit.
The LS3, as the new engine is called, is SAE certified at 430 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque with the standard exhaust system, or 436 hp and 428 lb-ft with an optional dual-mode exhaust. Its redline is a lofty (for a pushrod engine) 6600 rpm, just 400 rpm shy of the Z06's 7000-rpm maximum speed.
It doesn't just rev like the Z06's V-8, in fact the LS3 borrows some technology from the Z06's LS7 7.0-liter, including its cylinder head design and fuel injectors. With the same stroke as the previous 6.0-liter, the new engine's increased displacement comes from an increase in bore - 103.3 mm instead of 101.6 mm. Its intake valves are nine percent larger than the old engine's, and are lifted five percent higher by a new camshaft.
The LS3 should sound better and more refined than the old engine due to an acoustically tuned intake manifold and engine cover. The sounds coming from the 376 cu. in. V-8 are then piped through 2.5-inch exhaust tubing, a half-inch smaller than the Z06's.
With a coefficient of drag of just 0.286, the base Corvette is now good for 190 mph, but it's not just the numbers that improve - the '08 Corvette comes with tactile improvements as well. Shift feel improves on both six-speed transmissions. The automatic (which is available with a lower axle ratio on Z51 package cars) can bang off shifts more quickly than before, resulting in a 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds, the fastest ever for a two-pedal Corvette.
Steering feel should be improved, too, due to the use of an improved machining process, and 2008 models come with new split-spoke cast aluminum wheels (measuring eighteen inches in diameter up front, nineteen in the rear).
Look for improvements in the interior too, including brushed aluminum accents, new sill plates, and available custom leather upholstery. On-Star and XM radio are now standard equipment, as are auto-dimming mirrors, compass, and an iPod jack for cars without navigation.
Two new colors are offered for 2008 - Jetstream Blue Metallic Tincoat and Crystal Red Metallic Tintcoat. And last but not least, the Keyless Access remote key fob is redesigned.
With every passing year, changes to the Corvette make it an even more compelling alternative to supercars costing two and three times as much. We expect a supercharged version of the LS3 to debut in the 2009 model year Corvette SS, the long-rumored 650-hp Blue Devil. Drivers' licenses everywhere will quiver in fear when that beast hits the road!