Driven: 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible
For the sixth-generation Corvette's swan song, Chevrolet has finally fixed the car's biggest flaw. No, not the seats or the interior controls. Those are still terrible. We're talking about the need for more power. Although the car has engine options aplenty, the convertible -- arguably the essence of the Corvette -- has until now featured only the 430-hp, 6.2-liter LS3 V-8. Apparently that's not enough for some buyers.
"Ever since we brought out the Z06, we've had customers wanting to have that engine with an open-air experience," says Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter.
Consider the problem well and truly fixed with the 427 convertible, which features the 505-hp, 7.0-liter LS7. The "427" designation harkens back to one of the most desirable -- and now collectible -- Corvettes of the 1960s. It also makes clear that the car is not a Z06 convertible, something Juechter stresses the new model will not -- in fact, cannot -- be. The Z06's aluminum frame, for instance, would not be rigid enough without a roof, so the convertible sticks with stouter steel. That said, plenty of Z06 hardware makes the journey over with the big engine. Beyond the driveline components needed to handle the extra power, the convertible retains the Z06's dry-sump oil pump, which required moving the battery to the trunk, as well as magnetorheological dampers and staggered Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. It also wears the Z06's carbon-fiber fenders, hood, and floor panel, which keeps curb weight to 3355 pounds, about sixty pounds heavier than the regular convertible. Those carbon-fiber bits also serve as the 427's primary visual cues -- the fenders are flared, the hood is raised, and the nose has that telltale scoop. Black wheels with machined-aluminum faces and a few badges complete the package. Exposed carbon-fiber trim and ZR1 wheels are optional.
But wait, there's more! Since 2013 marks sixty years of building Corvettes, buyers of the 427 (or any other variant) can opt for the special anniversary package you see in these photos. In keeping with Corvette anniversary tradition, it's not subtle. Our test car wears blue stripes that even make it onto the convertible top (they're sown on), as well as an optional leather-wrapped interior that is, regretfully, also blue.
We forget all about the stripes -- and the flimsy seats, and the cheap controls -- when we floor the 427 getting on the highway and experience that amazing sensation of a big pushrod V-8 roaring toward 7000 rpm. Although it has long since yielded king-of-the-hill status to the ZR1's supercharged LS9, the normally aspirated LS7 is still in our minds the best Vette engine. Make that one of the best engines, period. And now there's no annoying roof between your ears and the vicious crackle that comes through the bimodal exhaust when you hustle the beefy six-speed shifter from first to second gear (no automatic will be offered).
The convertible's dampers are tuned more in the spirit of a grand tourer than a track car, so it rides well over awful asphalt patchwork that would have jostled the Z06. It still stays flat through S-curves, and its beefy tires -- nineteen-inchers in front and twenties at the back -- break traction only when we apply generous amounts of throttle coming out of turns.
The 427 starts at $76,900, which is something of a bargain considering that it basically matches the performance of a $149,000 Porsche 911 Turbo cabriolet. Of course, the base Corvette convertible, which costs some $20,000 less, is no slouch either. And maybe that's the key point here. As we return the keys, ears ringing from the wonderful noise, we're reminded that the Corvette, sixty years since its inception and six years into its current generation, is still pretty damn good.
Chevrolet Corvette 427 convertible
On sale: Now
Engine: 7.0L V-8, 505 hp, 470 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel mileage: 15/24 mpg (est. )
0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
Top speed: 190+ mph