Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport: The Daddy of Affordable Dream Rides

Highlight: The 8-cylinder sports car with its small block engine is available as either a coupe or convertible. For those not wanting a drop-top street rod, the super powerful two- seater is also available with a removable roof. And for those wanting to form a closer bond with their ride, the Corvette Engine Build Experience is available for $5,800. This option allows those who step-up to the Z06 or ZR1 models to help assemble the car's engine at the GM facility in Wixom, Michigan.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $69,920 (Base price starts at $49,995)

Major Standard Features in GS: GM’s Onstar Roadside Assistance/Concierge Service; a 6-month in-screen turn-by-turn directional system; a 6-speed manual transmission; run-flat tires with tire monitor; 18-in front (19-in rear) wheels; a push-button keyless ignition starter; front and side airbags; Xenon HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlights; dual zone a/c; leather 6-way power driver’s seat; a Z16 Performance Package (extra cooling, stiffer springs and stabilizer bars, specific shock absorbers, larger brakes with 6 piston front and 4 piston rear cross-drilled rotors)

Standard Audio System: 7-speaker AM/FM stereo with CD player and MP3 playback, digital clock, auto-tone control, Radio Data System (RDS) and a 3-month subscription to Satellite radio

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 6.2-liter, 436-hp

How Fast: We hear that the Corvette can zoom from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.

Standard Fuel Mileage: 16-city/26-hwy

Competitor: Nissan GT-R, Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayman and Porsche 911

What’s New: For the 2011 model year, Chevy’s ultimate sports car adds a new wheel design and two new paint colors: Inferno Orange and Supersonic Blue. The vehicle interior also shoots for a more upscale look with its interior custom colored stitching.

The folks at Chevy have also made the vehicle compatible with iPods and the like, adding both a USB port and input jack, which is included with the navigation radio.

Pros: For close to sixty years, the wide-body Corvette has continued to reign supreme as it relates to being an affordable, high-performance, mass-produced American sports car. It’s not only geared for the mean city streets, but for conquering the open roads too … no matter if it’s being driven on the highway or a test track.

Just being behind the wheel of the Corvette oozes the word cool. There’s no other mass-produced American sports car like this one.

Last year, Chevy reintroduced the Grand Sport, which we reviewed, to close the gap between the base Corvette and the pricier Z06 trim. So for those who are Corvette enthusiasts, the Grand Sport serves as the replacement for the defunct Z51 option.

Besides reviving the Grand Sport name, Chevy also enhanced the fun factor for the 2011 model year -- equipping vehicles outfitted with a manual transmission with a standard launch control. By having this feature, it helps to optimize the performance for full throttle when the Corvette is about to zoom around a race track.

In fact, when the vehicle is being driven in a competitive mode, the launch control system will hold a predetermined engine speed while the throttle is being pushed to the limits. And by doing this, the Corvette allows the driver to quickly release the clutch while modulating the engine torque 100 times per second to maximize the available traction.

Also the 2011 Corvette provides an optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension, adjusting to road surfaces to create the optimal ride for occupants. Unlike most sports cars, this one is not only roomy, but it’s great for cruising around town or taking a trip across country. Yes, there’s even room in the trunk to carry cargo too.

And to further emphasize the muscle power under the hood, Chevy outfitted our vehicle with an optional dual-mode performance oriented exhaust system. This feature definitely gave the vehicle the extra oomph we were looking for as it ate up the open roads while wearing its stylish chrome wheels.

Cons: We were disappointed with the optional upgraded Bose premium sound system in the Grand Sport we reviewed. While we’re a fan of Bose, which can also be found in both Nissan and Infiniti, the audio system in the Corvette just doesn’t provide the same crystal clear concert sound we’ve experienced in less expensive vehicles.

Also our vehicle was wrapped in two-tone seats. Unfortunately, the interior trim just didn’t match our sparking red exterior. Over the years the Corvette has been bashed for its drab interiors. The folks at GM need to turn to its interior designers responsible for the CTS-V, the high-performance Caddy, to spruce up the vehicle, making sure that the seat colors and the like match the exterior paint color.

The Verdict: Despite its aging body style, the sixth-generation Corvette, which received its last major update in 2005, continues to win over the hearts and souls of car enthusiasts. Yes, it even won us over. There’s just nothing like being behind the wheel of a Corvette. It brings out the kid in all of us.

From our inside industry sources, we've heard that Chevy was hoping to introduce a new Corvette this year, helping to celebrate the brand’s upcoming 100-year anniversary. However, the vehicle has been delayed … possibly to meet CAFE standards mandated by the government. With any luck, the next-generation Corvette could arrive next year.

Well, regardless if the vehicle arrives in the next year or two, the current-generation Corvette still continues to be an affordable head-turner.


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