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2011 Corvette Grand Sport – What’s not to love?

Written by

By Eric Peters

If you don’t like the Corvette, you probably don’t like cars.
How can you not love a $49k (to start) sports car that can match moves with $100k exotics? And which for a bit more money — not all that much money, really — can take them to school and give them a lesson they’ll not soon forget?
What it is
The Corvette is famous for being America’s sports car — in continuous production longer than any other model of car on the road, including other long-lived notables such as the Ford Mustang — which appeared 11 years after the first Corvette was launched back in 1954. It has competitors, but its combination of exotic power/performance and accessible price puts the Corvette in a class by itself.
Base price for a coupe with 430 hp 6.2 liter V-8 and six-speed manual transmission is $49,045. A higher-performing Grand Sport with freer-flowing “dual mode” exhaust and other upgrades starts at $55,045 for the coupe; $59,045 for a convertible.
For even more performance, you can select the Z06 option, which replaces the 6.2 liter V-8 with a larger 7 liter V-8 that produces 505 hp — in addition to numerous other upgrades. Base price for the Z06 coupe is $74,375. This model is not available as a convertible.
For the Ultimate Corvette — literally one of the quickest/fastest cars ever built — there’s the ZR1. Its 6.2 liter supercharged V-8 delivers 638 hp (38 hp more than the Dodge Viper’s V-10), 10-second quarter mile times and 200 MPH top speeds. Base price for this one — also sold only as a hardtop coupe — is $110,300.
What’s New for 2011
Chevy has added a new Z07 performance handling package to the roster of optional equipment you can order with the Z06 (505 hp) version of the Corvette. It consists of the ZR’’s even more aggressive wheel/tire combo, plus its Adaptive suspension system and some of the ZR1’s lighter-weight body panels. The Gran Sport, meanwhile, can be ordered with the wheel/tire package used with the Z06, plus carbon fiber interior accents. One unusual option that Chevy offers Z06 and ZR1 buyers is the Corvette Engine Build Experience. You get to visit the Wixom, Mich., plant and help assemble your Corvette’s engine.
What’s Good
$200k performance at a Chevrolet price. Everyday drivable — even in heavy traffic. Best-looking body since the ’68 Sting Ray. Own a legend.
What’s No So Good
Legend has a rep — good and bad. Lower cost pony cars such as the Ford Mustang (and the Corvette’s Chevy cousin, the Camaro) are nipping at the ‘Vette’s heels, power and performance-wise. Interior layout doesn’t rise to the high coolness of early Corvette interiors — or the price tag of the Z06 and ZR1.
Under the Hood
Base Corvettes come with a 6.2 liter V-8 rated at 430 hp. You can choose either a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic. All Corvettes are — of course — rear wheel drive. It is a measure of how high the horsepower waters have risen that such a spectacular number is almost ho-hum, in part because 300 hp family cars are now common. That’s why Chevy offers upgrades. The first step up is the Grand Sport, which can be ordered with a dual-mode exhaust that’s quiet around town but when you punch it, opens up to let the 6.2 liter V-8 breathe easier – and produce an additional 6 hp.
Not enough? Then opt for the Z06. Engine size increases to 7 liters and horsepower climbs to an uncommon 505. THe car’s 0-60 time also drops from a merely asphalt searing 4.5 seconds to an ashpalt-ripping 3.9 seconds. The Z06 is an 11 second quarter-mile car, with a Ludicrous Speed top end in the 180s. For $74k — the base price of the Z06 — this is untouchable performance, unless you include high-performance motorcycles.
And if you want to beat them? Chevy’s ultimate Corvette — the ZR1 — stands ready. It has a hand-built and supercharged version of the 6.2 liter V-8 which produces 638 hp and delivers unto you 10 second quarter-mile capability.
On the Road
What can 430 hp do? This car — the standard Corvette — will do 120-plus in third gear, easily. You have three more gears to go. Fourth will get you close to 150 at redline. Now imagine what 505 hp can do. Or 633 hp. All 2011 Corvettes are quicker and faster than most six-figure exotics of the past 40 years — and have twice (or even three times) the power of the Corvettes of the ’70s and ’80s. The 2011’s Corvette’s only real problem is that the extremely high level of power/performance it offers is also now being offered by even lower-cost cars, among them the Ford Mustang GT and of course, the Corvette’s in-house cousin, the Camaro SS.
Aside from the panoply of power, perhaps the most impressive thing about the Corvette — all versions — is how everyday drivable they are. Most true exotics are not. The Dodge Viper is hell on wheels but it’s also hell to drive it for more than 30 minutes at a time — if yo’’re not doing a track day.
At the Curb
The current generation Corvette is already six years old, but like most Corvettes ever built, won’t ever really look old. That’s one of the many perks of owning a pedigreed car such as this. The same is true of almost any Porsche or Ferrari. 20 years old? So what. It’s still cooler than most brand-new cars. That’s staying power.
The Rest
I’ve test-driven dozens of Corvettes over the years and love them for the big lovable lugs that they are. The only downside is that some other people don’t like them much — including most women and pretty much all cops; both view the Corvette — and its owner — with suspicion. It is unpleasant to be the constant focus of traffic enforcement attention. But on the upside, the huge sums you saved by purchasing a Corvette rather than a 911 GTS, Viper or Ferrari will pay for a lot of speeding tickets  and insurance surcharges.

Eric Peters is the author of “Automotive Atrocities” and “Road Hogs” (spring 2011) and a former editorial writer/columnist for The Washington Times, a contributor to Cars.Com, The CarConnection.com and AOL Autos, among others.

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