The Chevrolet Corvette is the exception that proves the rule. It’s the one GM car that has never, ever been boring. Sure, there’ve been times when the ‘Vette lost the plot– when comparing its dynamic capabilities to a similarly priced foreign sports car was like pitting Cheese Whiz against Normandie brie. But the ‘Vette was never po-faced about it. Besides, those days are gone. As I sampled a 2008 convertible automatic with a few new upgrades, I wondered: what could GM learn from the Chevrolet Corvette?
The latest Corvette’s "sheetmetal" remains exuberantly faithful to the model’s phallic traditions– despite Pokemon-eyes set within a vaguely feminine, Viper-esque nose. (Not to mention poorly integrated quad exhausts that seem to hoik the car’s derriere into the air in the great Gallic tradition.) Top down, the ‘Vette’s profile is breathtaking; the strakes and intakes are as flawlessly sculpted as the sinews in the arms of Michelangelo’s David.
The ‘Vette’s cabin is strictly as case of ‘nothing to see here folks; move along.” While the new Malibu gets sexy snickery and touch-friendly materials, the ‘Vette’s plastic controls would be right at home in an ‘80’s Subaru, and the materials are about as luxurious as a Day’s Inn suite. The new Custom Leather-Wrapped Interior Package only makes matters worse, drawing MORE attention to the Corvette’s piss-poor polymers. Oh, and the Chevy Cobalt called; it wants its steering wheel back.
Fuhgeddaboutit. Fire-up the Corvette’s LS3 small block V8, and you will. Even (or especially) at idle, you can sense those 430 horses kicking the starting gate. Give the fillies their head, and, well, the Vette ‘vert weighs-in at 3246 lbs. What do YOU think happens GMNext? Whatever your opinion, think fast; the Corvette chop top teleports its occupants from zero to sixty in 4.3 seconds. The only thing more dramatic than the Corvette’s ability to get its driver to scream a religious blessing on excrement: the NASCAR roar drowning out any and all expletives.
Once you’re out of quarter-mile challenge mode– which will take some time and may never occur– the LS3’s bottom end is surprisingly weak for a 6.2-liter engine. But the mid-range swell makes up for it. Oh yes it does. Got revs? Got power. Enough power to humiliate all but the most exotic of supercars in terms of hyperspace button in-gear oomph. God bless the V8 engine! Oh wait; He already has.
Unfortunately, our tester was equipped with an automatic gearbox– rather than the new short-throw self-shifter. The Corvette’s six speed slushbox is a bit dim-witted. Prod it hard and the mighty motor pauses slightly as the requisite greasy bits slip down a gear (or two) to find the requisite shove. On the positive side, under what some call “normal conditions,” the Corvette’s cog swapper swaps cogs so seamlessly you’ll find yourself going a lot faster than you thought (honest officer).
The steering is similarly effortless; which may or may not be a good thing depending on your testosterone levels. If you’ve got the balls, the Corvette’s balance, low center of gravity and wide gumballs (18’s up front, 19’s in the back, and no all-season mishegos) will see you through the most tortuous of twisties, at the most hair-raising of speeds. But you’ll need your wits as well; the drop top’s scuttle shake adds unwelcome lateral complexity.
Thankfully, the Corvette’s hugely powerful and tireless brakes (at least off-track) solve the most vexing Vette side effects. And you get an amazingly compliant ride for no extra charge. Less sporting drivers (a.k.a. most convertible owners) should leave the $1995 Magnetic Ride Control box unticked, wait for the straights to let slip the dogs of war and waft in peace. Although most Corvette convertibles are destined to wear a garage queen’s ermine robes (i.e. a soft car cover), this Corvette rivals Stuttgart’s finest in the “everyday” part of the everyday supercar olympics.
Speaking of which, perhaps the single most remarkable thing about Chevy’s uber-drop top is its $60k asking price. If you’re measuring sheer bang for the buck, you can’t beat it with a stick; although, again, the manual transmission is highly recommended. And it must be said that's one Hell of a lot of money for a Chevy.
So what have we learned from the Corvette Convertible? That constant, incremental evolution keeps a car competitive between significant re-thinks? We knew that. That sex sells? Duh. That a clear unique selling point (horsepower) is the key to sales success? Double duh. That GM should have upped the model’s price and fixed the interior, eliminating the last reason NOT to buy the Corvette Convertible. True dat.
The most important lesson that the ‘Vette can teach GM: whatever the Corvette product development and management team is doing is EXACTLY what ALL their product teams should be doing. Inside GM, common sense is not so common.