Chevrolet Corvette’s transformation from America’s favorite sports car to a true world-class supercar takes another leap forward for 2008 with a boost in power and refinement.
The biggest advance for the fiberglass two-seater as it enters its 55th year is an enlarged version of Corvette’s aluminum V-8, called LS3, which was bumped up to 6.2 liters and cranks out a muscular 430 horsepower (or 436 with a special two-mode exhaust option).
That’s enough to propel this shapely missile to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, according to Chevy, and hit a top speed of 190 mph. Hopefully, not on Loop 101.
Although the top-dog ZO6 gets all the attention with its 505 horsepower and race suspension, the standard-issue Corvette kicks out plenty of gusto for real-world driving fun. The LS3 coupe also costs about $25,000 less than the ZO6.
The Corvette convertible that I enjoyed was a striking value at a base price just over $54,000, although that hit $70,000 as the options were piled on. Still, compare that with any European sports car of similar capabilities and you’ll swear it’s quite a bargain.
Corvette’s already-awesome handling performance gets tweaked with the optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension that adapts to road surfaces and allows the driver to dial in the preferred setting. The system works with metal-impregnated shock-absorber fluid that reacts to electromagnetic input.
Even on the stiffest setting, the ride is compliant and comfortable. The soft setting verges on mushy.
I clocked plenty of fun miles in this gorgeous ragtop. Top down, you can feel either like a superstar in a supercar or some raging midlife crisis. Your choice.
Chevrolet Corvette convertible
Vehicle type: Two-passenger, two-door convertible, rear-wheel drive.
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 430 horsepower at 5,900 rpm, 424 pound-feet torque at 4,600 rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Wheelbase: 105.7 inches.
Overall length: 174.6 inches.
Curb weight: 3,199 pounds.
EPA rating: 15 city, 25 highway.
HIGHS: Powerful engine, agile handling, sleek styling.
LOWS: Transmission woes, road noise, some interior trim cheap-looking.
PERFORMANCE: The new LS3 V-8 roars, launching Corvette with a satisfying blast of power. It’s also a gentle beast that rumbles along easily in traffic. The enhanced automatic transmission was a disappointment, sometimes stumbling and unresponsive, sometimes downshifting with a harsh clunk. I’d go for the six-speed manual; this is a sports car, after all. Fuel mileage was not bad, considering.
DRIVABILITY: The steering is quick and precise, and the braking powermatches the engine power.Besides the active suspension, Corvette is enhanced with Active Handling, tractioncontrol and antilock braking, which work with little intrusion on the driver.
Corvette feels surprisingly relaxed and comfortable over the road, despite its aggressive handling capability. The suspension is never harsh or punishing, although there is still toomuch road noise from the huge performance tires.
STYLING: The latest generation of Corvette, introduced for 2005, really hit the mark with a trimmer formand styling that became more chiseled and expressive.
INTERIOR: The dashboard and trim have been upgraded, looking and feeling richer and more substantial than before, but still with some chintzy pieces. The cabin is fairly spacious, even for this extra-tall driver, although stowage is lacking for small items.
BOTTOMLINE: In the collector-car world, vintage Corvettes are the closest thing to blue-chip stocks, always valued and always desired. The latest version upholds the breeding, and then some.
Base price: $53,510.
Price as tested: $70,370.
– Premium Equipment Group, including seven-speaker Bose audio, head-up display, universal home remote, steering wheel controls, leather interior, $8,600.Premium Equipment Group, including seven-speaker Bose audio, head-up display,
– Magnetic Selective Ride Control, $1,995.
– Navigation system, performance tires, $1,750.
– Polished alloy wheels, $1,295.
– Six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, $1,250.