First Drive: 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

The Corvette is steeped in heritage. The car's iconic status is so pervasive in Americana, racing, and automotive culture that the Corvette almost seems to have more history than Chevrolet itself. For 2010, Chevrolet is reaching into the Corvette's rich past to introduce a new trim level under the Grand Sport moniker. The Grand Sport name traces back to 1962 when chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov began developing a Corvette to beat Carroll Shelby's Cobras on the racetrack. That program was halted after just a handful of cars were built, but in 1996, Chevrolet turned out 1000 Grand Sport Corvettes. The limited-edition coupes and convertibles were built to commemorate the end of fourth-generation Corvette production with 330-horsepower V-8 engines, black ZR-1 wheels, and a unique paint scheme.

The new 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is a much different idea than either of those two previous cars. This time, Chevrolet expects the Grand Sport to be a big-volume seller, accounting for up to half of all Corvette sales. Mechanically, the Grand Sport replaces the Z51 package from last year. Over the base Corvette, the Grand Sport adds stiffer springs and dampers, larger anti-roll bars, and bigger brakes. The parts are a mix of Z06 and Grand Sport-specific items, creating a bridge model between the base and Z06 Corvettes. Power comes from the base 430-hp LS3 V-8 and can be routed through either an automatic or manual six-speed transmission. An optional dual-mode exhaust system raises the output to 436-hp and sounds phenomenal during quick acceleration. Chevrolet will offer the Grand Sport in both coupe and convertible body styles.

True performance enthusiasts will be most interested in the manual-transmission coupe. Obviously, that car features greater rigidity than the convertible and a gearbox that leaves full control to the driver, but it also includes a few notable powertrain enhancements. A dry-sump oil system borrowed from the Z06 and ZR1 ensures the engine is lubricated in high-G turns. The battery is also moved to the rear of the car, and a differential cooler allows the Corvette to run harder and longer on the track.

Visually, the Grand Sport receives the subtle tweaks of the Corvette Z06. That means wider fenders, a small air intake on the hood, rear brake cooling ducts, and a taller rear spoiler. The Grand Sport also receives unique wheels, badges, and three (rather than one) vertical cooling slits behind the front wheels. Buyers can also opt for the Heritage package that adds hash mark decals on the front fenders and a two-tone interior treatment.

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