Not many car models have lasted anywhere near as long on the market as Chevrolet's Corvette. The first few examples of this fiberglass-bodied two-seater appeared way back in 1953. Within a few years, the Corvette had established itself as a true automotive icon, recognizable even by folks who know little about automobiles.
Last redesigned for the 2005 season, Chevrolet's sports car added a new model for 2010: the Grand Sport, offered in coupe and convertible form. Not every Corvette admirer realizes it, but Grand Sport is an integral part of the Corvette's racing history. Way back in 1963, five prototypes were built, under the direction of Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov. Based on the trendsetting 1963 Corvette, the hand-assembled prototypes wound up on various racetracks during the 1960s - though never officially sanctioned by General Motors.
In 1996, Chevrolet offered a limited-production Grand Sport. A thousand were built, all painted Admiral Blue with a white center stripe and rear "hash mark" graphics - borrowing the look of the original race cars.
Now, the Grand Sport name has returned. Based upon a regular Corvette with the LS3 powertrain, the 2010 Grand Sport features wide-body styling, a wider-than-usual track (distance between left and right wheels), and what Chevrolet calls a "racing-bred" suspension. The 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 engine develops 430 horsepower and 424 pound-feet of torque. With the optional two-mode exhaust system, output rises to 436 horsepower and 428 pound-feet. Either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission may be installed.
The Grand Sport model actually replaces the previous Z51 option group. Each GS coupe or convertible gets wider wheels and tires; revised shock absorbers, springs, and stabilizer bars; and specific gearing. Front and rear fenders are wider than usual, with integrated Grand Sport badges up front. A Z06-style front splitter is installed, along with a tall rear spoiler. Functional brake ducts provide additional cooling of the Z06-size brakes. Unique wheels hold 18-inch tires in front and 19-inch at the rear. Chevrolet claims 0-60 mph acceleration in 4 seconds, and an EPA fuel-economy estimate 26 mpg on the highway with manual shift. With automatic, the EPA estimate is 15 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.
Like other Corvettes, the Grand Sport now contains standard side-mounted airbags. All manual-gearbox Corvettes now include launch control. With automatic, the paddle-shift control has been modified to permit easier return to fully automatic mode.
Unlike cars that you suddenly discover are moving a lot faster than you thought, the Corvette is actually traveling slower than it seems. This is one car that nearly always feels like it's barreling along at intense velocities.
Still, the Corvette cruise quietly and tamely enough, but its gurgly exhaust rumble when accelerating - and at idle/startup, accompanied by a constant low vibration - will either thrill or annoy. Naturally, those likely to be annoyed aren't Corvette prospects, anyway.
Close-quarters maneuverability, where the steering wheel is turned toward it limit, yields troubling tire scrub. In fact, the car feel as if it's taking that slow corner in the parking lot in tiny jolts, almost leaping to the side bit by bit. That's part of the price one pays for the superior handling talents of Chevrolet's long-lived two-seater, out on the road. A bit of steering effort is needed much of the time, to take advantage of those handling skills. That effort, too, is either welcome or tiresome. Brakes are top-notch: confident and certain.
Ride comfort doesn't quite reach the stiff portion of the spectrum, but it does stretch beyond firm. Seldom does the ride get troublesome, however, except on some railroad tracks and really bad bumps. Drivers must expect lots of body motion in fairly ordinary driving.
Although the Grand Sport isn't the most potent Corvette, its 436-horsepower V-8 delivers load of power, as expect. However, the automatic transmission can take a moment or two to downshift, to take advantage of all that energy.
Getting inside takes some twisting, but it's easier than in some two-seaters. Once there, both occupants enjoy plenty of space and considerable comfort.
Gauges are excellent: big and easy to read. The navigation screen is too small and low-mounted to help much. Visibility, using the mirrors, isn't bad; but otherwise, top-up views are seriously constricted. Operation of the power top (if installed) seems effortless, if complicated.
When painted in bright yellow like our test model, the Grand Sport draws plenty of attention from knowledgeable passersby. Occasional hints of slightly loose construction may appear, but on the whole the Corvette is well built.
Corvette Grand Sport convertible prices start at $58,850 (plus $950 destination charge. Plenty of options are offered. The Grand Sport "Heritage" option package, with two-tone leather seats that contain embroidered logos, adds $1,195 to the basic price. Our test Corvette had more than $16,000 worth of extras, raising the total to an eye-opening $75,740 (including the destination charge).
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