Chevrolet Corvette GS

Itís a do-everything coupe with enough performance to embarrass some venerable European supercars

by BRIAN MAKSE

Naturally aspirated V8 coupe continues a GM tradition

ENGINE 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v / POWER 343kW @ 6000rpm / TORQUE 630Nm @ 4600rpm / WEIGHT 1555kg / 0-100KM/H 4.0sec (estimated) / PRICE US$56,445 HE GRAND Sport name has long played a prominent role in Corvette history, but if youíre in the know, youíll recognise that this C7 Grand Sport is something proper. As formidable as its Z06 big brother truly is, to call this Corvette a ĎZ06 liteí is perhaps accurate.

While the Grand Sport is nearly a literal interpretation of a Z06 less its supercharger, it may be the best Corvette in the range. More focused than the Stingray and less hardcore than the track scorching Z06, the Grand Sport possesses a balance the other Corvettes lack.

Much of the Grand Sportís core technology is lifted directly from the Z06, which got its inspiration from the C7.R Le Mans-winning racer, like the lightweight construction of the chassis. Nowhere is it more obvious than in the aerodynamic package, as thereís not a single inlet, wing, or vent that does not serve a purpose.

The heart of the Grand Sport is Chevyís ubiquitous, naturally aspirated 6.2-litre LT1, producing a relatively modest 343kW at 6000rpm, and itís particularly rewarding when you wind out the gears to uncover all of that power. Thereís nothing quite like the T glorious wail of a small block.

Peak torque of 630Nm occurs at a surprisingly high 4800rpm, but the LT1 is never short of twist. With the seven-speed manual, the US government-mandated first-to-fourth gear skip shift mechanism serves to demonstrate that you can crawl this Corvette at low speeds in tall gears.

The quicker setup is specifying the optional GM-built eight-speed auto, which it is keen to tell everyone it shifts nearly as fast as a dual-clutch íbox. Truth is, it feels almost as quick as Porscheís PDKs and it will pull revmatched downshifts to boot.

As superb as the auto íbox is, the manual is the transmission of choice.

With its mechanical feel, heft of the shifter, and well-defined gates, itís the one for drivers looking for maximum engagement. Combined with the freerevving V8, running through the gears is bliss, while heel-and-toe downshifts quickly become second nature.

The Grand Sportís secret to putting down power is the electronicallycontrolled limited-slip differential. Itís fully open under braking for stability and, under power, uses inputs from the Corvetteís systems to determine the optimal amount of lock up at any given moment. It operates seamlessly and without any compromises.

Similarly, the Magnetic Selective Ride Control dampers adjust 1000 times per second and entirely imperceptibly. Not all of the important parts are lifted from the Z06, mind you. For example, the Grand Sport uses bespoke spring rates and anti roll bars.

And, yes, the Grand Sport still uses the traditional Corvette leaf springs.

The C7ís cockpit is largely unchanged from its introduction a few short years ago, and the Alcantaratrimmed steering wheel and shifter lends a functional feel to the driverís interface. However, the overall interior design is already dated and hard, unfriendly plastics abound.

Like all Corvettes, the Grand Sport has an ideal seating position and excellent sight lines, but more impressive are the well-matched control weights between the steering, clutch, brake pedal, and shifter.

Optional Competition Sports Seats are recommended for their lateral support and are surprisingly comfortable for longer drives, but their large seatbacks intrude into the already cramped cabin. Cargo space is an enormous 425 litres.

Our tester was nearly fully equipped, or shall we say, optimally equipped, with all performance options save the automatic, which meant it was fitted with the excellent Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres and massive Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. Braking is simply top notch for control and feedback with zero brake fade.

The Michelin tyres are near slicks and have no rain-evacuating tread to speak of, but Chevrolet says this package is worth 1.2Gs of lateral grip on the skidpad. That sort of limit is what weíre accustomed to finding on purebred race cars, not street legal supercars like this.

Steering feel and feedback has never been a strength of the Corvette, but the C7 is light years ahead of its predecessors. Still, relative to even a bog standard 911, the Grand Sport steering gives the driver little information, but its saving graces are its precision and responsiveness.

The Corvette Grand Sport is one of those cars thatís far greater than the sum of its parts. Itís very approachable and inspires confidence for drivers of all skill levels. Experienced drivers will enjoy its accessible performance envelope and for those less skilled, thereís no need to worry that itíll surprise you.

While it leans toward the hardcore end of the sports car range, the Grand Sport is one of those special do-everything coupes with enough performance to embarrass some venerable European supercars. M

STAR RATING 4.5

Like

A well-rounded package; Euro-hunting performance

Dislike

Twentieth century interior design; cabin finishes