I didn’t come close to exploring the limits of the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport that I had for the weekend. For that, I’m quite sure I’d need to visit a racetrack. As it was, our bright red Corvette coupe with shiny chrome wheels attracted plenty of attention on its own, without me breaking any of Ann Arbor’s notoriously enforced speed laws. I did drive it to a Big Fat Greek Wedding, though, which seemed appropriate, since the Corvette is, to me, the epitome of a big, fat sports car. I can never get over how wide the rear end of the Corvette is. I continue to maintain that the Corvette should be about 4 inches narrower and between 6 and 10 inches shorter in overall length. But I quibble.
There’s lots to like here besides the historic Grand Sport name. Even though the Grand Sport is the mid-level Corvette model, garnering a $6000 premium over the base car but costing significantly less than the purist Z06, it’s still an absolute performance bargain, with power, braking, steering, and grip that need make no excuses to any six-figure import. Since our test car had a manual transmission, it also had a rear-mounted battery, a dry-sump oil system, and a differential cooler, items the Grand Sport with an automatic transmission doesn’t get. All Grand Sport models have wider tires, thanks to the same wider fenders as the Corvette Z06; narrow spoiler; bigger brakes and a stiffer suspension; and a hood scoop. Exterior changes also include front fender badging and some additional fender slits. People definitely seemed to notice. Luckily, the police didn’t.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Let’s talk about those tires. This is repaving time in Michigan. Interstate I-94 is being redone west of Ann Arbor for miles and miles, which means miles and miles of driving on mixed types of pavement from one side of the car to the other. This is very, very upsetting to the Corvette. You have to hang on for dear life as it tugs right to follow the shoulder, then left to jump the lumpy pavement patches to get to the concrete. Whoa, Nellie!
But when the road is calm, that’s the time to nail the throttle in a nice low gear like third, producing a sonic experience that will shatter your bladder with its ferocity. All children live for this experience. Thank you, Chevy, for still providing it.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
The Corvette’s longstanding bang-for-buck virtuosity is well documented. The new-for-2010 Grand Sport edition-essentially a remix of existing parts-is an effective pick-me-up for the sixth-generation design entering its sixth model year. Clearly, C6 won’t last forever, but it has the legs to run another couple of model years without sacrificing its perch atop the value throne.
However, the Corvette does have one flaw especially evident in the higher-performance editions: The seats are trash. Their lack of lateral support is the most egregious shortcoming. Complicating the matter is a back angle adjustment handled by a flimsy plastic release lever and a too-soft spring that allows the backrest to move forward when the occupant’s weight is removed. That is no way to meet owner expectations in a car costing over $50,000.
The situation was made apparent by another car taken to the track the day this Corvette was tested. The Camaro SS, which resides a good $20,000 down the Chevy totem pole, is fitted with very comfortable, highly supportive, and conveniently adjustable bucket seats.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
Earlier this year, an Audi owner asked me what I thought of the Corvette. He had just ordered an S5 to replace his aging A6, and his wife needed a new car in a few months. He wasn’t sure if he should go with a new TT or take a chance with a Corvette. I told him the Corvette would be a great car if he could live with the lackluster seats and cheaper interior. A few months later, he had a brand-new black on black Vette in the garage for his wife. And he reported a better experience with the Chevy dealer than the Audi dealer where he had purchased several cars before. He hasn’t had a complaint about the Corvette yet.
Last night I was really hoping that the Grand Sport would confirm my recommendation, and it certainly did. If you’ve never experienced the roar of a Corvette engine equipped with the two-mode exhaust in the upper RPM reaches, you haven’t really lived. The exhaust note alone is enough to quicken any enthusiast’s pulse. And there’s a phenomenal amount of torque available-I used every gear from first up to the ultra-tall sixth while maintaining 30 mph around town, and the car was happy with whatever ratio I chose, even when chugging along well below 1000 rpm in sixth. In today’s world of ultra-close ratios and engines that sometimes give up torque in pursuit of horsepower and crazy redline speeds, it’s nice to know you can still find cars that pull hard in every available gear at speeds just above idle.
It’s a shame that the Corvette’s interior turns off so many potential buyers. The seats don’t offer enough support and the switchgear looks really cheap, so it loses many visual comparisons with much more expensive cars. Those who can look past the interior won’t have any real complaints with the car though. Cars that are faster, handle better, or offer more refinement cost so much more than a Corvette that you really start to wonder how much interior refinement is worth.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Shortly after the Corvette Grand Sport arrived at our office, an unnamed staffer performed the quick and necessary modification that every ‘Vette with a dual-mode exhaust requires. By pulling the fuse that controls the exhaust’s bypass function that normally opens at 3500 rpm, we now had the unfiltered roar all the time. That exhaust note is wonderfully raw on throttle and sweetly lumpy at idle. Opening the exhaust so it’s always blasting is the first thing any Corvette owner should do.
The second thing an owner should do is purchase one of the cheap modifications on the Internet that disables GM’s pesky skip-shift that improves the fuel economy of the small-block engines by forcing drivers to shift from first to fourth gear under certain conditions. Compared to the Camaro SS I recently drove, I found the skip-shift to be much more active and invasive in this car. Despite the frequency with which it locked me out of second gear, I never could quite predict when it was going to happen and several times it pushed me into fourth at a seriously low speed.
On the flip side, if you’re doing things right, you shouldn’t be driving the Corvette at a level that allows skip-shift to kick in. The performance-value story of the Corvette is really 90 percent performance. It’s awesome that the wider rubber does little to keep the tires from lighting up in second gear. Handling is stellar. The stiffer suspension parts and wider wheels of the Grand Sport do make for a rougher ride that does a fine job of transmitting road imperfections, but this car is much more livable than a Nissan GT-R. And while it costs $6000 more than a base Corvette, the Grand Sport is every bit the value that the lesser ‘Vette is.
I also have to agree with Phil’s assertion that the Corvette’s exceptional value easily makes up for a mediocre interior. I have never given the Corvette’s interior a second thought. There’s no need to. The steering wheel, shifter, and clutch pedals are all right where they need to be, and those are the tools you need for controlling the ‘Vette’s awesome performance.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Performance per dollar is incredibly important in the car enthusiasts’ world, and the Chevy Corvette is a perennial front-runner, along with some of Automobile Magazine’s favorites like the Volkswagen GTI, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and the Lotus Elise. The Corvette is a true icon with few relatively minor flaws, some of which my co-workers have mentioned (the flat seats are grossly subpar, the interior is weak for a $50K vehicle, and the front wheels love to follow pavement grooves) and at least one they haven’t (the fact that the Vette’s excessive popularity scares away some individualistic buyers and has also created an unflattering stereotypical image of the Corvette owner).
But the C6 Vette is generally awesome, and the new Grand Sport package makes it even more so, with its fairly subtle but cool styling touches and modest performance upgrades, and is definitely worth the price premium. In addition, the interior upgrades that Chevrolet instituted for the 2008 model year nicely improved the look of the dashboard and the door panels.
But it’s in motion where the Vette really impresses. I had a chance to pilot the Grand Sport around the road course at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds and it was a blast. I loved the car’s mountains of torque, slick gearbox, and excellent balance. Steering feel is a bit on the numb side, but the system is accurate. The Chevy’s ride got a bit rough between 100 and 125 mph on the course’s choppy backstretch, but the car was easy to control, and the brakes had no problem keeping us out of the guardrail.
Indeed, the Z06 and the ZR1 are incredible Corvettes, but the regular-old C6 is certainly no slouch. Factor in the truly impressive fuel mileage (16/26 in EPA tests in this trim) and the cavernous cargo area, and you have a real car that’s easy to own and fantastic on a racetrack.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
There’s no denying the power that lies beneath the fiberglass skin, but to me, this new Grand Sport model is a little too much “show” coupled to all that “go.” Sure, the cosmetic tweaks make the car look like a Z06, but the outgoing Z51 model offered a lot of the same performance, but it was a great sleeper, seeing as it looked virtually identical to a base Corvette.
And yes, I know the ‘Vette is a performance bargain, but after you tack nearly $12,000 worth of options onto a $55,000 car-including the so-called “custom leather-wrapped interior package”-you can’t helped but be slightly disappointed with the appointments. Honestly, if you want the ultimate bang-for-the-buck, pick up a base Grand Sport, opting only for the amazing $1195 exhaust system. You’ll shave about $10,000 off the price of this test car, and I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy it just as much-if not more-than we did.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Base Price (with destination): $55,720
Price as Tested: $68,365
6-speed manual transmission
Dry sump oil system
Options on this vehicle:
4LT Premium Equipment Group – $7,705
-Custom leather upholstered interior
-Bose 7-speaker system
-Power telescoping steering wheel
Chrome Aluminum Wheels – $1,995
Navigation System with AM/FM CD player – $1,750
Dual-Mode Performance Exhaust – $1,195
Key options not on vehicle:
6-speed automatic transmission
16 / 26 / 19 mpg
Size: 6.2L LS3 V-8
Horsepower: 436 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 424 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Curb Weight: 3311
18 x 9.5 front; 19 x 12 rear Grand Sport chrome aluminum wheels.
275/35ZR18 front; 325/30ZR19 rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar EMT performance tires.