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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Mike Hanley
May 21, 2010
The Chevrolet Corvette offers incredible performance at an attainable price, and the 2010 Corvette Grand Sport continues that tradition. For $54,770 for a Grand Sport coupe, you get a car that accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds and pulls 1.0 g on the skid pad, according to Chevrolet.
It's easy, however, to get carried away and end up with a Grand Sport that costs considerably more. Our test car is a good example. We had the more expensive $58,580 convertible with $16,210 in options, which helped lift the as-tested price to $75,740. That's a shocking sum, but we could easily do without some of those optional features, like the dated navigation system.
With the V-8 engine from the base Corvette, but the suspension setup, brakes and styling cues of the higher-performance Z06, the Grand Sport is effectively another trim level of the Corvette — and more than your run-of-the-mill special edition. To see a side-by-side comparison of all trim levels of the 2010 Corvette, from the base version to the 638-horsepower ZR1, click here.
Taken as a whole, I like the Grand Sport upgrades because they give the Corvette more of a chip on its shoulder (fender?) while it remains a livable daily driver — especially when equipped with the optional automatic transmission that ours had. Styling This generation of the Corvette has been around since the 2005 model year, but it still turns heads. On just one drive home from the office, a couple of fellow motorists commented on the Grand Sport while waiting at stoplights. It could have been the paint color, though; our convertible was finished in an eye-searing color called Velocity Yellow, an $850 option. It very easily could have been called Ticket Me Yellow because of how prominent it made the Grand Sport on the road.
Corvette fans will instantly recognize the styling differences between the Grand Sport and the regular Corvette, but they'll likely go unnoticed by casual observers. Some of the elements, like the badges and available hash marks on the front fenders, are purely cosmetic, while others, like the Z06 front end and brake ducts, are performance-oriented.
The Corvette is one of those cars that looks great as a convertible. The car's muscular front fenders flow cleanly into doors that angle upward toward the large tail. It's a powerful design that hints at the power under the hood. With most cars, I'd probably take a coupe over a convertible when there's a choice, but I'd seriously consider the drop-top if I were shopping for a Corvette because it looks so good and its structure is rigid.
The convertible has an optional power soft-top roof that lowers in 16 seconds and takes 18 seconds to go back up. That's pretty quick for a power top, but it's worth noting that it's not fully automatic; you have to release a handle above the rearview mirror before the top can drop, and you have to lock the roof in place after it's up. The top stows in a compartment behind the seats and minimally decreases trunk space, to 7.5 cubic feet from 11 when it's down. When lowered, the top is hidden by a hard shell that helps complete the top-down look — and means you don't have to wrangle a tonneau cover like you do in some convertibles. Going & Stopping The Corvette has been the definition of the American V-8 sports car for years, and that concept hasn't been diluted in its current form. The Grand Sport is powered by a 430-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 that rumbles loudly to life when you press the start button, before settling into a lumpy idle that sends an occasional shudder through the chassis. It's a bit unrefined, but it reminds you there's a powerful engine under the hood. The optional dual-mode exhaust system, which added $1,195 to the price of our test car, bumps the V-8's output to 436 hp and unleashes a glorious bellow when engine speed reaches about 4,000 rpm. It's the kind of sound that could scare small children and startle adults. Definitely order it.
The Corvette and manual-transmission Chevrolet Camaro SS share the LS3 V-8, but the Vette's engine is saddled with a lot less weight — around 500 pounds in the Grand Sport — and it makes a big difference. The Corvette feels quick and powerful; when driving the Camaro SS, you wonder why it doesn't feel stronger. Punch the Corvette's gas pedal, and the car surges forward. The engine makes its peak torque of 424 pounds-feet — 428 with the optional exhaust system — at 4,600 rpm, but there's plenty torque available at lower rpm to push you back in your seat.
The Grand Sport, which tips the scales around 3,300 pounds, also sees a gas mileage benefit from its relatively light curb weight. Manual transmission models get an EPA-estimated 16/26 mpg city/highway; the automatic is rated 15/25 mpg. Neither incurs a gas-guzzler tax and both can run on regular gas, though premium is recommended for maximum performance.
The six-speed automatic transmission makes it harder to utilize the full potential of the Grand Sport's V-8, but it's also a blessing in stop-and-go traffic. I'm a manual-transmission proponent — especially in a sports car like the Corvette — but I can understand how a manual would quickly become tiresome if a good chunk of your driving is in heavy traffic. The automatic makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.
It's a decent automatic, too. It shifts smoothly, though it does have a tendency to upshift aggressively to keep engine rpm low and save fuel. The transmission's Sport mode remains fully automatic unless you press one of the shift paddles on the steering wheel, which gives you control of gear changes. Driver-initiated shifts, however, aren't particularly quick.
The Grand Sport's brakes are particularly well executed. They're shared with the high-performance Corvette Z06 and feature 14-inch front and 13.4-inch rear cross-drilled rotors gripped by six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers. The result is a firm brake pedal that offers good feel, which makes it easy to fine-tune stopping power. Ride & Handling The Grand Sport uses a suspension setup similar to the Z06's, as well as wider wheels and tires — 9.5 inches in front and 12 inches in back. Considering the high level of grip this setup offers, the ride is relatively compliant. However, Cars.com editor Joe Bruzek noted that the Grand Sport's wide tires had a tendency to wander from side to side on rougher grooved pavement.
Compliant shouldn't be mistaken for comfortable, however, because even though the suspension does a decent job of damping bigger bumps, you'll feel the road in the Grand Sport — sometimes more than you'd like when traversing particularly rutted sections. It's something that, for the most part, comes with the territory when you buy a sports car, and the Grand Sport's damping isn't worse than the norm.
The Grand Sport stays flat when cornering, and the precise steering provides pinpoint accuracy, which is especially appreciated in a wide car like the Corvette. There's a fair amount of power assistance, which makes the wheel easy to turn.
Chevrolet deserves credit for the convertible's stiff structure, which staunchly resists flexing, even on broken pavement. Chassis flex is one of the least appealing qualities in a convertible, but it's not a problem in the Corvette. Cabin Quality & Comfort In terms of high-powered performance, the Corvette is a bright spot for GM. The same, however, can't be said for interior quality; the cabin brings to mind GM's lackluster interiors of old. This generation of the Corvette debuted before GM's push for better interiors, and while that helps explain its current state, it doesn't forgive it in a car that starts at nearly $50,000.
GM has refined the Corvette's cabin in the intervening years by updating some of the materials and offering a leather-wrapped interior with real stitching. It helps create a premium atmosphere, but it's part of the $9,700 4LT Premium Equipment Group that ballooned the car's as-tested price. The Chevrolet Equinox crossover and Cadillac CTS sedan, however, still have nicer cabins. With GM's renewed emphasis on interior quality, expect the next-generation Corvette to get substantial improvements.
Here's hoping that the next-gen Corvette gets some better bucket seats, too, because the current ones aren't good enough for this car. They're among the lumpiest seats I've experienced in a new car, and just as troubling is how flimsy they feel. Plenty of sports cars have much better seats, and there's no reason the Corvette's should be this far behind.
The optional navigation system is a good example of why you should think twice before ordering fancy technology in a car. The system is a $1,750 option in the Corvette, but its graphics aren't as nice as what you'll find in a portable Garmin system that costs a few hundred dollars. If the onboard navigation system already looks dated when it's brand new, just think how it will look in five years. Safety Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and an electronic stability system. For a full list of safety features, check out the Standard Equipment & Specs page. Corvette Grand Sport in the Market The Grand Sport goodies raise the price of the base Corvette convertible $5,000, and the difference for the coupe is closer to $6,000. Considering the Z06 styling cues; suspension changes; bigger brakes; and special wheels and tires, that's a lot of substance for the extra cash. It sure beats those special editions defined by a paint scheme and badges.