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Expert Reviews 1 of 10
By Jim Flammang
April 7, 2004
Vehicle Overview A brand-new sixth-generation Corvette will debut late in 2004 as a 2005 model. Introduced at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, the next Chevrolet Corvette is more powerful than its predecessor due to upgrades in handling, acceleration and braking. Because the 2005 model is 5.1 inches shorter overall and an inch narrower than the 2004 model, Chevrolet claims it “cuts a tighter, tauter profile — with virtually no loss of usable space.”
The 2005 coupe has a 0.28 coefficient of drag, and Chevrolet’s press material says it “is the most aerodynamically efficient Corvette ever. . . .” Chief engineer Dave Hill said it’s also “more competition-influenced” and takes advantage of the model’s “championship experience.” The most powerful standard engine ever installed in a Corvette is used in the new model; it cranks out 400 horsepower.
A hatchback coupe goes on sale in the fall of 2004, and a convertible will follow a few months later. All Corvettes are built in Bowling Green, Ky.
Exterior A quick glance is all that’s needed to identify the 2005 Corvette. Many familiar styling cues are used on the redesigned version, but this is the first Corvette since 1962 to be equipped with fixed headlights. Corvettes had pop-up lights for more than four decades.
Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are standard. Round taillights and integrated exhaust tips appear at the rear. A center hood bulge radiates out toward the front fenders.
Composite body panels sit atop a hydroformed steel frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components. The Corvette’s independent suspension consists of short-long arms and transverse leaf springs. An optional F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension features magneto-rheological dampers that detect road surfaces and adjusts damping rates almost instantly. Goodyear Eagle F1 extended-mobility tires are used: P245/40ZR18 up front and P285/35ZR19 at the rear.
Built on a 105.7-inch wheelbase, which is 1.1 inches longer than the fifth-generation model, the 2005 Corvette is 174.6 inches long overall and stands 49.1 inches tall. Still forward-hinged, the hood is 15 percent smaller than before and 40 percent stiffer. The rear hatch has a powered latch, and the removable-roof panel is 15 percent larger than the one on the prior-generation model.
Conventional door handles are not used. Instead, the Corvette features GM’s Keyless Access with Push-Button Start technology. When the system detects the proximity of the key fob, it unlocks the doors and allows the engine to be started.
Interior Every Corvette since 1953 has been a two-seater, and the sixth-generation version is no exception. An aluminum base supports the two-layer composite seat frames. The driver gets six-way power adjustment with manual recline in models equipped with the standard seats; side-impact airbags are not available. Power lower-lumbar adjustment and head and torso side-impact airbags are offered in Corvettes featuring the optional sport seats. Heated seats are available for the first time in a Corvette.
The dashboard carries on the Corvette’s dual-cockpit theme with its two-tone split between the upper and lower instrument panels. The gauges have white-on-black numerals and use new white LED technology, which makes them backlit during the day and at night. Both the speedometer and tachometer are slightly larger than before and feature satin-finished aluminum bezels. The driver information center uses organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology for full-color flat-panel operation.
The standard stereo includes a CD player and MP3 capability, but the optional Bose system comes with an in-dash six-CD changer. XM Satellite Radio is also available. Twin cupholders are designed to withstand high lateral acceleration. Cargo volume beneath the hatchback lid is 22.4 cubic feet.
An optional dual-mode head-up display with vehicle speed and other information projected onto the windshield is offered. A navigation system that features voice recognition is optional for the first time. General Motors’ OnStar communication system is also optional.
Under the Hood The new 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 generates 400 hp at 6,000 rpm and 400 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm — that’s an additional 50 hp and 40 pounds-feet more than the previous LS1 engine. It’s the most powerful standard engine ever installed in a Corvette. The cylinder heads were derived from the ones used in the Z06 engine.
A Tremec T56 six-speed-manual gearbox is standard, and a Hydra-Matic 4L65-E four-speed-automatic transmission is optional. The six-speed offered with the optional Z51 Performance Package gets revised gearing for quicker acceleration. The gearshift lever is an inch shorter than before and has shorter “throws.” Computer Aided Gear Selection is still used as a means of boosting fuel economy with the manual shift.
Safety All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are installed with the sport seat option.
Driving Impressions Corvette owners expect energizing performance from their sports car, and that’s what they get in the new 400-hp model. The manual transmission is somewhat notchy but produces positive gear changes. Automatic-transmission gear changes can be abrupt but not especially bothersome.
Handling and steering vary according to the suspension. One Corvette with the standard setup actually had a rather heavy steering feel. Another model with the F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension felt lighter on its feet and more secure and sporty. Ride comfort isn’t bad on good pavement.
Corvettes with the Z51 Performance Package are noticeably stiff-legged, but these versions produce the greatest level of confidence on the road. Occupants feel bumps more distinctly, but the difference from regular models isn’t great.
Corvettes with various suspensions cope surprisingly well on wet pavement, as long as caution is observed. Visibility isn’t a major problem in the coupe, but it’s more restricted in the convertible. While idling, engine noise and vibration on some models can actually hurt sensitive ears, though it quiets down while cruising.