The 1992 LT1 is probably the best all-around Corvette Chevrolet has ever made.
But is it good enough?
In this world of 4.9 second 0-to-60 mph Japanese sports cars, Chevy’s Corvette is no longer the unchallenged performance leader in sports cars that don’t cost more than your house.
Mazda’s new twin-turbocharged RX-7, Nissan’s 300 ZX, Mitsubishi’s 3000GT and its brother, the Dodge Stealth RT, are a few of the cars muscling in on Corvette’s hallowed ground.
I have driven those cars, plus put nearly 1,500 miles on this week’s test car, a bright blue LT1.
This much is clear: While other automakers can duplicate – and in some cases exceed the Corvette’s performance for the same or less money – nothing yet has come along that conveys the respect, prestige, admiration and sheer lusty appeal of a Corvette.
This is one of the few American cars with a true heritage.
Going into its 40th year in 1993, the Corvette is an institution.
No other American car has a more loyal following.
If you think American engineers have lost it, look at what Chevy’s mechanics did to the Corvette’s small-block 350 V-8.
For 1992 they increased horsepower, performance and fuel mileage – an incredible feat. Chevy redesigned the engine’s cylinder heads, cooling and exhaust systems and fuel injection.
The Corvette comes with a 300-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8, up from the 250 horses available in last year’s Corvette.
Chevy claims the LT1 with the six-speed manual transmission can hit 60 mph in 4.92 seconds.
I believe it.
From a standstill, the Corvette’s performance is neck-snapping.
As the engine winds up the roar of the exhaust is almost deafening. In sixth at 65 mph the engine is turning over slowly and quietly at about 1,600 rpm.
On a trip to New Orleans and back, the Corvette turned in a stunning 28.5 mpg. In city driving, the Corvette returned 19.5 mpg.
I don’t know of any other 300-horsepower car that sips gas like an economy car, but performs like a jet fighter. The LT1 gets one mile more per gallon than last year’s Corvette.
The clutch pedal is heavy, and the shifter is stiff and notchy as it clicks through the gears, giving you the feeling that the car can take a pretty good pounding.
Fast shifts take a bit of work, but they aren’t really necessary because the Corvette’s powerful engine negates the need for shifting fast.
This year, computerized traction control – a system that prevents the tires from losing grip – helps tame the Corvette’s increased power.
When the system senses that the rear tires are slipping, it forces the driver to apply less pressure to the accelerator.
It’s a strange feeling; the system engages and you feel your right foot being pushed upward.
A button on the dash can disengage the system. The traction control worked well in preventing the wheels from spinning, but was, I felt, a little too sensitive. Sometimes the traction control engaged when I was cornering at low speed.
The test car had the optional ($1,695) Selective Ride Control that allows the driver to fine-tune the firmness of the suspension system through a switch on the center console. The difference between the settings – Touring, Sport and Performance – is barely discernible. I would not buy this option.
In any case, the Corvette is a marvelous driving and handling machine.
The power-assisted rack and pinion has been given a near perfect feel. It’s weighted, but the response is instantaneous. There is a drawback here, though: the huge Goodyear Eagle GS-C tires make sharp, low speed turns impossible.
Brakes are another area where the Corvette excels. The four-wheel power disc brakes can get you out of trouble just as fast as the engine can get you into it.
FIT AND FINISH
Some Corvette fans have grumbled loudly about the car’s digital readout for the spee ometer and fuel, but I like Corvette’s gauges.
The speedometer displays large easy-to-read numbers in the middle of the instrument cluster. The fuel readout is located next to the speedometer.
The rest of the gauges for oil, temperature and volts are analog and are located to the right of the speedometer.
Because you sit so low in the Corvette, the gauges are almost at eye level.
My trip to New Orleans took about 10 hours each way and covered nearly 1,500 miles.
After arriving in the Crescent City, I drove around the French Quarter for two hours in stop-and-go traffic. Some cars would get a little cranky after such a trip. The Corvette ran smooth, cool and without fuss.
The leather seat for the driver featured six-way power adjustments and was firm, comfortable and supportive in the lower back and side areas.
All the switches were easy to reach, well-lighted and stylishly designed.
Some cars just keep getting better with age. The Corvette is one of the them.