Chevy’s centennial celebration keeps the Corvette in the fast lane.
By Bill Heald
The latest Advanced Dolby Audio systems can make attending a state-of the-art movie theater a stirring experience. But as good as it is, it still pales in comparison to the genuine surround-sound eargasm you get when you fire up the big American V-8 that powers the Chevy Corvette. Hit the starter button (it’s actually a rocker switch these days) and you hear a deeply moving rumble out back, with a rockin’ intake howl up front under that long, shapely hood. Even among the latest exotic supercars out there, there’s something very unique about the ’Vette, and the engineers and designers have managed to instill each generation of the car with a special kind of soul you can’t get anywhere else, at any price.
While the Chevrolet folks have been celebrating 100 years in the business, it’s important to remember that the Corvette has been around for more than half that time. The current iteration of this sports icon is the sixth generation of the breed, and still goes its own way in delivering high performance and seductive styling. There are also traditionally distinct Corvette engineering solutions, such as the composite transverse leaf springs on the Grand Sport Coupe that help us conquer many challenging roads (with the cockpit’s detachable roof panel removed, of course). This car is a marvel of compliance and control, and the handling prowess is bolstered by the standard Z16 Performance Package (including stiffer springs and stabilizer bars, specific shock absorbers, larger brakes with six-piston front and four-piston rear cross-drilled rotors, and some seriously sticky tires). These components work in concert with optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control, an ultrasophisticated electronic system that tunes suspension damping and control on the fly, and features two settings, Tour and Sport, to suit your mood.
How does this unique system work? Well, while you’re enjoying the wicked-quick steering (that makes the ’Vette go where it’s pointed with impressive ease), the black box operates “magneto-rheological dampers able to detect road surfaces, that adjust the damping rates to those surfaces almost instantly for optimal ride control.” In plain English, the car is constantly tweaking response in real time, and these adjustments do a great job of keeping the composite-bodied sportster on track, especially in bump-ridden corners. Of course, the delicious rumble and roar of the LS3 V-8 and its associated torque-and-pony show work in balanced harmony with a six-speed manual transmission that is ergonomically ideal. Oh, you can get an automatic, but the manual makes the driving experience almost spiritually telepathic. Even the adjustable Active Handling stability control intervenes only when things get hairy, and it lets you enjoy a bit of tail-sliding under power. Those craving even more thrust can get the optional performance exhaust (we did), or go for the Z06 or Z1 variants with even more muscle. That said, those versions are aimed more toward the track, whereas the Grand Sport is ideal for real-world street comfort, while sacrificing little in the way of pure performance. The sculpted seats with adjustable lumbar and side-bolster support make comfort a priority, and the intimacy of a true two-seater is a perfect way to get a romantic evening off to a quick start.
To top off the joy of driving that the Corvette delivers so well, Chevy’s 100th anniversary can be celebrated with the 2012 Centennial Edition in stunning Carbon Flash Metallic, along with numerous special touches inside and out. The 2013 427 Convertible (available later this summer) recognizes the Corvette’s 60th year on the racetrack and road with a monster V-8 and a racing-stripe paint scheme that’s as classy as it is sporty. Beneath these beautifully detailed special edi tions is still one of the finest sports machines in the world, still proudly crafted in the good old U.S.A. That alone is reason enough to celebrate.
|Body style||Two-door coupe / convertible|
|Torque||424 foot-pounds; 428 with optional exhaust|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual, Six-speed automatic|
|Front tires||275/35 ZR18|
|Rear tires||325/30 ZR19|
|Curb weight||Coupe: 3,311 pounds; convertible: 3,289 pounds|
|Top speed||190 mph|
|Fuel capacity||18 gallons|
|EPA mpg||16 city / 26 highway|
|Base price||Coupe: $56,000; as tested: $71,980; convertible: $59,600|