It’s pretty amazing how far the Corvette has come in the past fifty years. The current, sixth-generation ‘Vette now gives you 430 horsepower, endless torque, better steering feel, and a better chassis than any Corvette in history, and enough rock-solid durability to drive to Africa and back. It’s a pretty far cry from the days of ladder frames and three-speed automatics.
Oddly, though, the performance isn’t what has me geeked. The current crop of ‘Vettes actually live up to their advertising hype – they can run with, and often embarrass, most world-class sports cars – but more important, they’re satisfying and engaging to drive quickly. You could say that about a C5 Z06, perhaps, but certainly not the earlier cars. It’s proof that GM realizes that a modern Corvette needs to do more than just perform – it needs to be involving, and it needs to be able to deliver the intangibles.
Things I dig: The dual-mode exhaust that switches into crazy primal scream mode above half throttle about halfway up the tach. The revised-for-2008 steering rack and gearbox; they both offer better feedback and a feel. (The Tremec six-speed is much better than it once was; shifts are no longer truckish and high-effort.) And while the chassis lacks the bombing-back-roads, knife-edged limit composure you find in the current Z06, the Z51 package still pairs a surprising amount of grip and balance with livable comfort.
p.s. Unplugging the vacuum lines from the little pot-shaped things on the exhaust tips sends the rear mufflers into Permanent Loud mode. It also unleashes a fiery hellstorm of bodaciously righteous noise and sets off every car alarm within a hundred miles.
Not that I did it or anything. Just sayin’.
Sam Smith, Associate Editor
Hurricane Ike sat like a sumo on Michigan all weekend and dumped five inches of rain. Unfortunately, this was my weekend for the very cheerful, very cherry Corvette Z51 (a $1695 option). There isn’t much to say about the Z51’s grip at high speed on the freeway ramps, because I was tip-toeing through floodwater when I wasn’t driving through an almost impenetrable curtain of rain. I can tell you, however, that the plastic removable top ($750) didn’t leak. I can also second Sam Smith on the sound of 6.2-liter V-8 with dual-mode exhaust ($1195) at every kind of speed. You don’t need to drive at go-directly-to-jail speeds to feel the rumble in your chest or hear its throaty roar. And I really wanted to hear that “crazy primal scream” Sam was talking about…
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
There’s something so right about tearing around in a bright red Corvette with the removable roof panel out and the windows down: the engine pulls strongly at any speed, the exhaust sounds like every V-8 should, and the base price is low enough that you don’t need a trust fund to own one. Knowing you can lap most tracks faster than a Porsche 911 just adds to the satisfaction. This is the quintessential American sports car.
I do, however, wish the $8000 interior upgrade was worth the money. I like the dashboard being wrapped in leather, but the rest of the interior still looks and feels cheap. I didn’t particularly like the seats, which don’t offer a lot of lateral support for a car this fast and aggressive. Chevy either needs to make this interior standard or substantially upgrade the materials to keep the $8000 price. As it sits, I can’t call this a real upgrade.
If you just want a fast car and don’t want to spend a ton of money, the Corvette makes a lot of sense. The Corvette may match more expensive vehicles in terms of performance, but the level of refinement and luxury in the more expensive cars is totally worth it if you have the extra coin.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
2008 Corvette Coupe
Base Price (with destination): $46,100Price as tested: $60,445
– 4LT Premium Equipment group ($8,005)
– Z51 Performance Package ($1,695)
– Dual Mode Exhaust ($1,195)
– Removable Transparent Roof Panel ($750)
– Wheel Aluminum, Forged Chrome ($1,850)
Size: 6.2-liter V8
HP: 430 @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 424 @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed Manual