A sluggish economy is not the best environment for a sports car, but Chevrolet's iconic Corvette will always have a small core of enthusiasts.
Naysayers will complain that the fiberglass Corvette is not as refined or smooth as some of its competitors, and there is a smidgen of truth there, but there is no doubt that the Corvette is capable of serving up acceleration and handling that is hard to beat for the money.
Last year marked the introduction of the 430-horsepower V-8 that puts a smile on your face and tingle in your tummy when you punch the gas. This engine is a model of V-8 power: brutal when you want it to be and docile when that is your wish.
Base prices start at $48,565 for the coupe and $51,700 for the convertible. I drove a well-equipped convertible that had a sticker price of $65,230.
With each iteration, Chevrolet's sports car gets faster without sacrificing usability. The current car accelerates to 60 miles per hour in a couple of ticks more than four seconds, and its top track speed is, well, considerably above 150 mph. On top of that, the highway fuel mileage is rated at 25 miles per gallon. Not many performance cars can boast figures like that for the price.
The LS3 engine is a 6.2-liter version of the Corvette's aluminum V-8. The bore was enlarged to increase the engine's displacement from last year's 6.0 liters. High-flow cylinder heads, larger valves, a new camshaft and a new intake manifold are part of the equation as well.
Stomp on the throttle and this rascal roars, especially if it is equipped with the two-mode performance exhaust system that has valves that open for less resistance and more power. With this exhaust, power goes up to 436. The $1,195 exhaust seems pretty expensive for six horsepower.
The optional six-speed automatic transmission now has shift paddles on the steering wheel.
The ride, while not as soft as a luxury sedan's, is pleasantly smooth, thanks to the optional magnetic selective ride control that enables the driver to choose Tour or Sport settings. This option, at $1,995, is expensive, but it also includes larger, cross-drilled brake rotors. In Tour mode the ride was quite comfortable for everyday commuting. Sport was a bit choppy, but it made the car take corners as if guided by a magic hand. The 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels with high-performance tires also played a major role.
A host of electronic controls, such as vehicle stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes, go a long way toward keeping the Corvette under control.
A head-up display projects the speedometer and tachometer readings on the windshield so the driver can see vital information without taking his eyes off the road.
The test car's base price was $51,700. Options included a Bose stereo, head-up display, heated leather sport seats, side airbags, magnetic selective ride control, forged wheels, automatic transmission and the dual-mode exhaust. The sticker price was $65,230.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2009 Chevrolet Corvette 3LT
Engine: 6.2-liter, 436-hp V-8
Wheelbase: 105.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,217 lbs.
Base price: $51,700
As driven: $65,230
Mpg rating: 15 city, 25 hwy.
To get in touch with Tom Strongman, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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