By on December 29, 2008

“Screw you, Steve McQueen and your fancy Mustang! I wanna ‘Vette!” I shouted (to no one) while tearing a rift in the space-time continuum through the peaceful pastoral Texas countryside. Clearly, I was imbibing heartily from a bottle of Chateau Corvette, vintage 2008. But I forgot myself. And my objectivity. I was there to perform a head-to-head comparison between said ’08 Chevy hardtop and an ’08 BMW 335i. Unlikely rivals, to be sure. But both are answers to the same question spoken in the quintessential voice of their respective source countries, America and Germany. Both are powerful sports cars designed to appeal to aging upper middle class drivers that can afford to treat themselves to something sporty and nice, just not too expensive. In this case, both cars were available at CarMax for just under $40K.

The 2008 model refresh does little to distinguish my tester from the original C6 introduced in 2005. In fact, discerning ‘Vetteophiles would need to speak Chevy five-spoke to correctly distinguish the ‘08 from its predecessors. Otherwise, it’s the same clear-headlight, large-radius wheel well, sleek built-for-speed affair.

I hesitate to accuse the Corvette of being outrageously styled; it is appropriate to its purpose. However, it does have a certain officer-come-hither quality that a driver should never forget. Additionally, every wannabe Jeff Gordon wants to challenge you in his homebrew racer. Drive the ‘Vette as intended, and you’d soon pack your glove box with pink slips and speeding tickets.

The two-seat coupe’s black leather clad interior is a comfortable place to spend time. The seats offer terrific lateral support and the enormous transmission tunnel never encroached on my knee or leg room. Just don’t expect the milled aluminum gauges and binnacles you find in [opulently priced] Aston Martins or Jaguar-quality English leather. The placement of the radio buttons was the only real ergonomic disaster; they’re lined above the radio display so that your hand covers the channel readout while you are changing stations.

The noteworthy change for 2008: the replacement of the admirable 6.0-liter LS2 engine with the barbaric 6.2-liter LS3 powerplant. The LS3 utilizes higher flowing intake manifold and cylinder heads, a revised camshaft, offset intake rocker arms and 47 lb/hr fuel injectors– to create a naturally aspirated 436 hp and 428 ft-lb of torque (with optional dual-mode exhaust package).

The result is massive right here, right now raw power. Mash the go pedal and you’ll wish there was a button for Matrix-like slow mo. Flip the traction control off, and you’ll be sideways in a heartbeat [of America] over the protestation of a pair of Eagle F1 P285/35ZR19 run-flat tires. The Corvette and I performed before an audience of curious cattle on abandoned rural farm roads: launch, rage up to speed, hurl through corners, slam of the brakes, rinse, lather, and repeat. Never did I feel that I approached the edges of the car’s performance envelope.

For ’08, Chevy also cinched the slack out of the Vette’s steering to improve feel and accuracy. Although the Vette has greater total lateral grip than the 300 lbs heavier 335i, the BMW remains eminently more flickable and precise. Nonetheless, the Vette makes for an easy daily driver with a surprisingly smooth ride.

While few doubt Corvette’s commitment to performance, the model has suffered a less than sophisticated reputation as a midlife crisis mobile for men with bloated bellies and expanding prostates. To gauge the new Vette’s level of social refinement, I drove the car through Southlake Town Square, an upscale north Texas shopping and dining district.

As I idled past the Apple Store, I wondered what Steve Jobs would think of this machine with its glorious engine. Not much, I suppose. Despite improvements in virtually every regard, the ‘Vette is still a ‘Vette. Every bump in the road is heralded by pronounced popping, like the snapping of a Styrofoam board behind my head. Surely Steve Jobs would wrinkle his nose at any device constructed like a cheap ice chest.

Overall, the ’08 Corvette walks comfortably through the playgrounds of the mass affluent. I perceived only one jaundiced look– and that from a fellow driving a BMW 335i.

When exiting Southlake. a Maserati Quattroporte rolled up behind me. “I own you, sukka,” I thought. “Anywhere you can go I can go faster! And for that matter,” my fevered torque-intoxicated mind continued, surveying the surrounding plethora of BMWs and Mercedes, Audi’s and Porsche’s, Lexus’ and Infiniti’s, “I own you, and you, and you, and you…”

Don’t forget that Chevy’s flagship costs a small fraction of the Maser in my mirror. With a scant 1855 miles on the odometer, my tester rang in at $38,450. Talk about bang for the buck! If it weren’t for the infernal popping noise emanating from the lift back hatch, it might have won this comparison.

[CarMax provided both vehicles reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]

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81 Comments on “America v Germany: Second Place – 2008 Chevrolet Corvette...”


  • avatar
    mtypex

    I’ll take that Maserati behind door number one.

  • avatar
    carguy622

    Why does GM give the Cobalt and the ‘Vette the same steering wheel?

    Actually that steering wheel is in pretty much all GM cars, just replace the sticker in the middle.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    I don’t understand how the two cars are similar enough to make a credible comparison in the first place.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Why does GM give the Cobalt and the ‘Vette the same steering wheel?

    Because it’s a good steering wheel?

    No, seriously. Unlike the overstyled monstrosities (Honda, Mistu) in many modern cars, the classic, fat-rimmed three-spoke is a good interface. And now that the Corvette has decent steering feel, it’s actually useful.

    It’s not quite as nice as the one in the old Vibe GT (nee Matrix XRS, nee Toyota Celica), but it’s pretty good nonetheless.

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    I don’t know how exactly to convey what I am about to say (I am not the best writer), but I see comparisons like this as fat highlight of everything wrong with GM.

    The ’08 335i stickered for $40k while the base ’08 Corvette stickered for $46k. The reason I find this interesting is because I view the 335i as a significantly better value. Step away from the raw horsepower and 0-60 numbers between the two vehicles, and think about what more you get by spending $6k less for the Bimmer:

    - A significantly more refined suspension that handles better AND offers better ride quality.
    - An engine that is a generation or two beyond what is in the ‘Vette (VaNoS, magnesium overmolded block, variable vane turbos and 100bHP/Liter versus 68bHP/Liter).
    - Far higher quality fit, finish, materials and overall quality.

    The thing that just kills me is the difference in the level of refinement between the two vehicles. Why can’t GM make a Corvette with an interior on par with a BMW? Why can’t they fit a modern suspension into that car that would handle and ride better? Why can’t GM workers screw the ‘Vette together as well as their counterparts screw together BMWs just a few hundred miles away in Spartenburg?

    We all want to (rightly) praise the Corvette for going like stink for not so much money, but that isn’t enough in this market. I want a car that can go like stink while offering a level of refinement and build/fit/materials quality as a base model BMW.

    Or more damningly, go on iTunes and download the National Geographic show “Ultimate Factories.” They have hour long documentaries on BMW’s Spartenburg plant (spotless, modern, robotic, open) and the Corvette factory (dirty, dingy, cluttered and generally sort of awful).

  • avatar
    sean362880

    ca36gtp –

    I don’t understand how the two cars are similar enough to make a credible comparison in the first place.

    I think it’s a perfectly legitimate comparison. Both $40k, both coupes, both very fast, both purchased by balding fat men in the midst of a midlife crisis.

    It makes a lot more sense than comparing a Passat 2.0T to a 535xi wagon.

  • avatar

    My suspicion is that it’s simply not possible to make a car with bolted-on composite panels feel as tight as one with all-metal construction. Also, the Corvette is commendably light in this age of overweight cars, and there’s a tradeoff in NVH.

    My biggest problem with the car: extreme tire roar from the rear tires on some roads. This might be less of a problem with the convertible, where the cargo area is separated from the cockpit.

    TrueDelta has no reliability information on the Corvette yet–but we’re nearly to the minimium sample size for a few model years. If you know an owner, please send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

    Participants in the survey get free access to the results.

  • avatar
    John R

    Because it’s a good steering wheel?

    I’m going to have to disagree. If its the same tiller in the Pontiac G5, It. Is. Aaawww-ful. It’s too big. It feels hallow and like its made out of the same grade of plastics found in my daughter’s Play-Skool kitchen set.

    The steering wheel in the Sentra and the Altima (the same I assume) is lightyears ahead of this thing. The idea that same monstrosity in the Cobalt/G5 is in a car GM wants to charge $46-120k (the ZR-1 gets it too) is laughable. I don’t think it would add too much weight or cost for this car have a better wheel.

    The steering wheel in a Nissan Sentra is better than the steering wheel in a Corvette. Fail.

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    Listen, in what world is a 335i a sports car? Sports cars, with the exception of the 911 and Audi’s TT (it’s the closest thing to a sports car in Audi’s range), have two seats. Besides, why not spend the money you saved by buying a ‘Vette versus any other comparable car by buying the optional full leather interior.

  • avatar

    @gakoenig-

    BMW M3 V8 engine: 420hp; 400 Nm; 14/20 mpg; 445 lb of weight

    LS3 engine: 430hp; 586 Nm ; 15/25 mpg; 415 lb of weight

    The BMW engine is more technologically advanced in acronyms, but frankly the LS engine is probably the one I would prefer in any car. More torque, slightly less weight.

    I’d rather have the LS3 over the M3′s V8, so I somehow doubt the I6 would compete well. I sort of wish I could stick it in better made cars since apparently it is about the only thing that GM has gotten right.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Looks like you tested an automatic car with no HUD and the base suspension setup. That’s not the best Corvette to drive. The Z51 or F55 (Magnetic Ride Control) version seem to be vastly preferred. How did you like the automatic though?

    If the 335i was a manual with no iDrive and friendlier tires, then I’m not surprised it won here against this particular Corvette- BMWs are great when they are kept basic (which is rare these days).

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    The great shame, when GM inevitably toddles down the road to C7 bankruptcy, is that the iconic American Corvette will simply never be the same.

    Sure, some Chinese manufacturer will inevitably purchase the marque and design, and produce cars that may look like the ‘Vette for a brief time. But the brand will erode, and the ‘Vette will become a shell of itself in a very short time. These cars will be rebuilt and restored and resold more times than a Cuban ’57 BelAir, because NO ONE will want a Chinese Corvette…..which is about as much an oxymoron as Chinese Democracy (apologies to Axl).

    That is why, I believe, the ’08 and ’09 cars will be highly desirable collector cars for a long period of time…..hooners who want true American performance will have no where else to go but the Used Vette Store to satisfy their jones….

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Dunno why your car had a popping noise from the rear, but that’s a used car, so you should chalk it up as that and not penalize it. As for the suspension, as ajla mentioned above, the optional F55 Magnetic ride (standard on the ZR1, the Ferrari 599, and the Audi R8)totally transforms the car, and it is every bit as smooth as the 335i, esp if you ditch the run flat tires in favor of decent conventional rubber.

    As for the HP/liter issue, I hope Mr. gakoenig can appreciate the fact that the LS3 is lighter, more compact, more fuel efficient, simpler to build. repair and maintain, and far more powerful than the 335′s turbo wundermotor. HP/liter is a useless metric, except in countries where taxes are based on displacement.

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    I’d rather have the LS3 over the M3’s V8, so I somehow doubt the I6 would compete well. I sort of wish I could stick it in better made cars since apparently it is about the only thing that GM has gotten right.

    I agree that the LS3 is a fantastic engine. However, I am curious as to what GM engineers think of it. Does the ‘Vette have a pushrod engine and leaf spring suspension because GM’s engineers sincerely believe these to be the best technologies available, or are the beancounters at GM just unwilling to invest in more contemporary setups (either because of the initial cap costs or COGS it would add to each vehicle?).

    The base Bimmer engine features a lot of pretty advanced technology (not just the acronym type), I wonder if Corvette engineers are sitting around wishing they could combine that tech with their (clearly) superlative engineering skills and cook up something truly magnificent. I am sure they could!

    The thing that insults me so tremendously about the Big 3 is that, every so often, you get to see glimpses of tremendous engineering talent. Corvette is an example, as is the Jeep JK or Ford F150. There is some fantastic potential locked up between the Chinese walls, being managed by some seriously incompetent bean counters. Whatever happens with the bailouts, I sincerely wish to see what those guys could turn out.

  • avatar
    coatejo

    The 335 is a very nice car, but it is no sports car. It is a sport coupe/sedan. A better comparison would be a Z4 versus the Corvette. In that match up the Corvette embarrases the BMW. Acceleration, handling, braking, comfort, even fuel economy. Of course, there is that rakish styling of the Z4…..

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    I am curious as to what GM engineers think of it. Does the ‘Vette have a pushrod engine and leaf spring suspension because GM’s engineers sincerely believe these to be the best technologies available, or are the beancounters at GM just unwilling to invest in more contemporary setups

    They are the best technologies available at the Corvette’s price point. GM knows they could spend millions more on DOHC motors and active suspensions…much of the R&D was done on this stuff even back in the 80s (try Googling Corvette Lotus active suspension) but they did not offer a meaningful benefit to justify the expenditure. The transverse leaf spring setup is compact, lightweight and really has no drawback vs a coilover for a street driven car, and the Magnetorheological shock is state of the art…better than anything from Bavaria!

    The base Bimmer engine features a lot of pretty advanced technology But the DOHC/Vanos small displacement layout can never match the pushrod V8 in terms of torquebandwidth and therefore cruising fuel economy. Do you realize how much more expensive it is to build a 300 hp BMW I6 vs a 430 hp LS3?

    The only tech lacking in this day and age in the Vette is direct injection….and I hope GM can scrounge up enough $$ to implement this soon….as the LS3 could become a 12:1 CR, 500 HP, 30 mpg engine in a heartbeat!

  • avatar
    eh_political

    The Vette is awesome, no doubt, but I am going to add my voice to those questioning the legitimacy of this comparison. The frivolous $40k purchase idea might have flown last year, but most people would have very different priorities now.

    If I absolutely had to choose between these two vehicles (for some bizarre reason), the BMW wins, period. Four doors, wagon bodystyle if you please! However, spending my own money, the G8 gets my dough. V6 or V8, I can’t think of a better way to spend money on performance. And $14k left for speeding tickets.

  • avatar

    I think the Corvette is a pretty admirable piece of engineering. The pushrod engine may not be sexy in specification, and the fact that the Corvette team has done so much with such an unpromising layout is kind of silk purse/sow’s ear situation, but it’s hard to argue with the results. As for the cheapjack interior, it’s regrettable, but it’s clear somebody at GM has run some numbers on the effects the higher costs of better interior materials would have on sales, and decided it wasn’t worth it. They might even be right.

    I admire the Corvette, but I would still take a 335i coupe. The Corvette is too brazen for my tastes; I put a low priority on tire-smoking, and it still has that whiff of Brut.

  • avatar
    George B

    I live in North Texas just east of Southlake and the BMW beats the Vette by a huge margin due to refinement and upscale image. If you’re a guy chasing after young women, driving the Corvette is a huge handicap relative to the BMW 335i. Wish Detroit could understand just how important a refined interior with materials that look and feel expensive is to whole guys competing for hot women game. It’s a shame to see the good work of GM’s drivetrain engineers sabotaged by in-your-face cost cutting in the interior materials.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Well at least this comparison isn’t as silly as the infotainment comparison on top Gear earlier this year where they drove a Corvette ZR1, Cadillac CTS-v, and a Dodge Challenger (with the Hemi of course) to the Bonneville salt flats from San Francisco. The only thing I can figure is Jeremy said I want a Corvette ZR1 and stamped his feet until he got one. The price points and target markets on these three cars are completely disparate. At least a base Corvette and BMW 335i are in the same ball park price wise, but I guess the same argument could be made for a Lincoln Mark LT. Maybe that could be the next comparison, a Lincoln Truck versus a Mercedes C class.

    By the way, I’ve wanted a Corvette since I was a kid, well before I became a middle-aged man with a bloated bellie.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Price is not a suitable basis for comparing dissimilar cars by identical evaluation criteria. Who cares that both cars are available in the $40K range, +/-. And what’s the point of evaluating a used car in what pricing suggests should be a new car comparison?

    Multiple C6 Corvettes I’ve driven have been tight, and absent any “poppng” sounds from the rear hatch area, though I accept the sample you drove may have. But the test car was used, sourced from CarMax. Any such car by any maker can carry foibles not related to the true nature of the car. But this is the least of it.

    The BMW 335i is a unibody fixed roof coupe. The Corvette is not. Corvette is a two seat, targa roofed sports car. The BMW is a coupe capable of sporting demeanor, but a sports car it isn’t, nor can it induce the sensations of a sports car. Its form factor, driving position, experiential dynamics all prevent that. “Coupe” is loosely bandied about by many marques, but it is generally accepted to mean a two-door closed body car in four-place or 2+2 configuration. Is a Miata with a folding metal roof a “coupe?” I think not. Is a T-bird with a hard cap over the cabin a “coupe?” No. Is any targa a coupe? Not quite.

    Any true targa topped car will have some extraneous noises, even in this age of stiff convertibles. The Corvette’s structure is quite stiff, but it is still a uniframe car with a removable roof panel and attached non-structural body panels, being compared to a mass production steel unibody car of no particular distinguishing production technique. The Corvette’s architecture delivers high strength with low mass at the expense of a few other known and worthwhile compromises. Apple, orange.

    The 335i is biased to GT-like refinement, whereas the Corvette is biased to performance. The two cars are not remotely the same. If a driver of both prefers the 335i, so be it, but such a conclusion is completely irrelevant to the buyer of a Corvette and vice-versa. If you like the 335, you are saying you like a four-place mainstrea performance coupe with GT intent. If you like the Corvette, you are saying you prefer the visceral nature of a two-seat high performance sports car and you’ll accept a little NVH to get it. By the criteria implied (and not really outlined here specifically) a Porsche 911 would come in 2nd, too. No one would care or be influenced by such a conclusion.

    As others mentioned, the Z51 and F55 suspension options commonly chosen by Corvette buyers significantly upgrade the ride and control refinement of the car. Run-flats are a compromise, so quiet things further and get higher lateral Gs with performance summer rubber. The all-leather interior on the Corvette luxes out the cabin considerably, but who cares? The BMW drives on the road. The Corvette feels like it’s *in* the road. No Corvette driver would trade in for on, regardless of what they see in a BMW interior (which is vastly overrated).

    One can only roll their eyes at the hp/L canard. How about hp/external total engine displacement volume? hp/engine mass? That the Corvette’s 2v pushrod architecture is simpler than smaller displacement multi-valve mills does not make it any less modern. The Corvette outpowers much of its competition, remains admirably lightweight in an age of relentless automotive bloat, and delivers the best real-world fuel economy among powerful cars of similar performance. The 6.2L is a compact, lightweight, powerful, efficient, reliable engine of modern precision manufacture. It’s an asset that it has fewer parts than most of its various (and more expensive) rivals.

    Now, if you compared the 335i to a Ford Shelby GT500, you might have a point with this comparison. But you didn’t; hence pointless.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Who cares that both cars are available in the $40K range, +/-.

    Please. Someone who is car shopping would certainly consider the price of the vehicle. In the real world, price range does matter.

    Both of these are fast cars in a similar price range that will be cross shopped by at least some buyers. It is fair to make a price dependent comparison of these two, as well as other sporty cars in this price range, particularly if the comparison being made is price dependent.

    I have little doubt that you would feel differently had the Vette won the comparison.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    God that popping noise is simply maddening! I’ve put about 1,000 miles on a friend’s ’08 C6 (loaded up though, and with MRC) and that noise ruins the whole car.

    I’ve been trying to find an accurate description of the obnoxious din and have been unable until this review. Snapping styrofoam is dead-accurate.

    The C6 boards are loaded with people having this problem, which actually lies in the header latches for the targa top, not in the hatch. Vetteophiles have concocted all manner of fixes for this problem, the most colorful of which involves miscellaneous hardware from Home Depot and a squirt of Astroglide (not kidding).

    A call to the dealer reveals “they all do that” and that after having the car for several days “we might be able to make it a little quieter.” Ahem, the sticker on this thing was over $60,000 and they can’t keep it from sounding like it’s breaking in half over every road undulation? This noise is nearly *constant*.

    The car is a metric fuckload of fun to drive of course, but I’d never buy one for myself until I could be confident that obnoxious snapping had been rectified. Such a shame in an otherwise fine car.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    I have little doubt that you would feel differently had the Vette won the comparison.

    Quite on the contrary, my reaction would be same. My prior comment is directed at a TTAC editorial decision. More to the point, if, say, the comparison had been between a 911 and a 335i, my reaction would be the same. If on the other hand, the 335i Coupe and a price-appropriate Mustang were compared, I coould agree with either winning, depending on the evaluation criteria.

    BMW makes some interesting cars. They appear well-made, but are not paragons of reliability. They also make some dogs that are equally well made but fail also to be paragons of reliability. While there was a time when BMWs were special, that time has largely passed. I have no special reverence for BMW, but fully recognize the products which are still exceptional. The 335i Coupe is a tight, fun car. But next to no one is interested in it *and* a Corvette, because the two cars are designed for entirely different experiences.

    M3 and 335i are, essentially nothing but German Mustangs, with all the expected Germanness implied. So line up a 335i with a Shelby Mustang of price parity and you have an apples-to-apples comparison under the headline, “America vs. Germany.” Then the comparison would reflect the cultural differences between the two countries as reflected in their home-grown automobiles.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    The car is a metric fuckload of fun to drive of course, but I’d never buy one for myself until I could be confident that obnoxious snapping had been rectified. Such a shame in an otherwise fine car.

    There is an easy fix for this: buy the convertible instead. All targa designs are compromises and sources of extraneous noise from time to time. Especially when you combine run-flat tires and road infrastructure allowed to deteriorate. Or get a Z06.

    Phil

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    I am curious as to what GM engineers think of it. Does the ‘Vette have a pushrod engine and leaf spring suspension because GM’s engineers sincerely believe these to be the best technologies available, or are the beancounters at GM just unwilling to invest in more contemporary setups.

    I think this is a pretty good comparison. Sure the Bimmer isn’t an all-out sports car like the ‘Vette, but you really see the differing power-plant philosophies at work in the comparison, with both approaches driving the rear-wheels via motors in the front.

    I really think the big-displacement push-rod motor is a good layout for a front-engined performance car. Power-to-weight of the engine is very competitive with DOHC setups at relatively the same power, and they package so much better vertically. If this Corvette had a OHC motor of the same power, the hood would need to be higher. Matter of fact, I would suspect the ‘Vette just might have the best forward visibility of any front-engined sports car out there today (though that’s just a guess, any 599 GTB drivers out there?).

    Its those advantages that make the current ZR-1 perplexing to me. Where push-rods lose (badly) to OHC motors its breathing. Forced induction on a push-rod motor is pretty useless in my opinion. Such hardware’s contribution to power is so diluted by the inherently challenged breathing on a push-rod setup. Plus the parasitic power-drain of running the compressor makes the motor work 40% harder just to get 20% more power to the wheels.

    The ZR-1 would have been better served with some silly 8-liter (LS8?) naturally aspirated motor instead of that thing, or maybe not build the ZR-1 at all, revel in what they have with the current ‘Vettes, and save some TARP money for later.

    Bimmer gets a lot of power out of the six in the 325i through the various trickery mentioned in the other posts. I’ve always appreciated BMW’s relative bravery in sticking with a perfectly-balanced motor turning the rear wheels, even through all the FWD craze of the past decades. Its funny that the two 3-series imitators from Japan shamelessly ape the Bangled-styling and yuppie-chic aura of the Bimmer-3 (all the things I don’t like about the current 3), but don’t rip-off the sublime power-train layout that sets the Bimmer apart from them (and is why I still like the 3).

    If I had to pick one right now (that hardship would sure perk up my Monday) I would probably pick the Corvette. If I had to pick one in a world where I can only own one car, it would obviously be the Bimmer.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    There is an easy fix for this: buy the convertible instead. All targa designs are compromises and sources of extraneous noise from time to time. Especially when you combine run-flat tires and road infrastructure allowed to deteriorate. Or get a Z06.

    Phil

    So the solution is to spend another $10,000-$25,000 more on the car so that it doesn’t sound like it’s snapping in half? C6s with this issue do it ALL THE TIME. You don’t have to hit a bump or a pothole or a driveway, just regular road variations cause a cacophony in the cabin. In fact it’s on the smoothest, quietest roads that it’s most obnoxious because there’s less background noise to drown out the SNAP! It’s prominent enough to interrupt conversation with a passenger.

    I’ve driven Supra targas, 911 targas, Miata PRHTs, C5 targas, and none of them did anything like this. The C6 is one of the stiffest cars ever built, and the most expensive car GM sells, and a bunch of guys on the interwebs are fixing their cars with a $0.15 clip and some ass lube. This should have been a TSB in 2005.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Yep. Chevrolet still makes a great lorry.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What, no G37 Coupe or 370Z?

    Seriously, if we’re going to include the 335i, it’s most logical competition from Japan would be apropos. I’m guessing it just wasn’t an option at the time?

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    The BMW 335i is a unibody fixed roof coupe. The Corvette is not. Corvette is a two seat, targa roofed sports car. The BMW is a coupe capable of sporting demeanor, but a sports car it isn’t, nor can it induce the sensations of a sports car.

    You know, at some point, this business of defining cars (sports cars, saloons, coupes, GTs) becomes nothing more than an academic circle jerk. Sitting in the command chair, I don’t exactly spend a lot of time, looking behind and pondering the number of doors and seats I have around me. This isn’t exactly the old days – modern suspensions and tires have long ago blurred the significant handling differences between “GT” cars and “Sports” cars.

    The point I was trying to make is that these two cars highlight some of the vast differences between BMW (a highly successful automaker) and GM (a pensions and health care concern that tries to stem it’s losses by making motor vehicles). Even with the economy of scale differences between the volume of 3 series cars built and the volume of Corvettes, I find it hard to fathom how GM can churn out a car of such little comparative value.

    Does anyone disagree that (and we are talking pure costs here), the BMW features more advanced and costly components? That it is fitted together to a higher standard? That thousands of little detail design/engineering decisions add up to make it the more serious and refined (overall) automobile?

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    So the solution is to spend another $10,000-$25,000 more on the car so that it doesn’t sound like it’s snapping in half? C6s with this issue do it ALL THE TIME.

    Well, I was half serious, half facetious. I’ve read about this problem, but in driving 10 or so different C6s, I haven’t actually heard it yet, nor has anyone I know who owns a C6. I don’t doubt the problem exists. True, removable panel, Targas — whether Pontiac, Porsche or Corvette — develop snaps and pops. Always have, always will. You have less chance of this happening if you *never* remove the top. I’d prefer there were only fixed roof and convertible options for Corvette, but this Targa configuration seems to have become an institution.

    …and a bunch of guys on the interwebs are fixing their cars with a $0.15 clip and some ass lube. This should have been a TSB in 2005.

    Yup, no doubt. But run-flats are a big part of the problem. Change to conventional rubber and everything gets better.

    Phil

  • avatar
    ajla

    I did some Google research and it seems that GM did issue a TSB in August 2008 to fix the roof “pop” on some Corvettes. The dealer is supposed to replace the targa’s latches, and the bulletin covers the 2005-2009 model years.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    Nice review William. I second others that have suggested the Z51 suspension package or Magnetic Selective Ride Control. I had an 06 C6 manual with the Z51 package until earlier this year. I’ve also had a 99 Vette and an 03 Z06 and an 01 BMW 330i manual with the sport package for reference. I’ve test-driven the 335i sedan about a year or so back.

    One interesting thing about the two choices here is that they both carry their own brand of baggage – the yuppie, Eurosnob of the BMW, and the gold chain, hair-chested mid-life crisis of the Vette. I’ve found neither to really be very accurate. I appreciate both vehicles for what they are – some of the best performing and driver-oriented sleds out there for the price.

    The auto is not my favorite in the Vette, although the paddle shifters do lend a bit more fun to the experience if you must go that route. The Vette is a definitely the more blunt instrument here in terms of power, steering feel and refinement. The 3-series specialty is, of course, driving feel. It does it better than anything I’ve driven. I actually think that the 3-series with a manual transmission and sport suspension is as close to driving nirvana as I can afford. It’s certainly down on power, but there is such a connected feel to the road in the 3-series – an ability to place the front tires within inches of the line and to feel exactly what the road is doing is what makes it special. The inline six is exceptional, particularly when given the twin-turbo.

    The current 3-series is a bit down on interior quality versus the E46 (99-06). Not a big difference, but noticeable nonetheless. The 3-series is the obvious choice if you need a backseat. I have gone back and forth over the years between BMW and the Corvette, although I’ll admit that I’m probably not the norm in terms of considering both of these vehicles. Most BMW owners wouldn’t be seen dead in a Vette.

    I question your use of the word barbaric in describing the LS3 versus the “admirable” LS2. 36 HP isn’t anything to sneeze about, but it doesn’t change the sound or running characteristics in and of itself. Both powerplants are so similar that it’s a non-issue. Really more of an ongoing refinement and development process with the venerable Chevy pushrod V8. gakoenig said that it is a generation or two behind the BMW. I disagree completely. It is a choice that GM makes to have an engine with the torque that Vette drivers love, while actually fitting within the confines of the low-slung hoodline. Did I mention torque? And don’t forget about easy 29 MPG HWY. All courtesy of that torquey V8 and tall sixth gear.

    That popping noise that you mention is not something that most experience. There was an issue with the targa roof panel delaminating. There are, without a doubt, more noises from the inside of the Vette than a 3-series, but that one can be fixed. Most of the noise is due to the ongoing quest to save weight in the Vette. And the massive tires and such. I could have done with a bit more sound deadening myself. And a decent stereo. But that is really nitpicking when you’re talking about the fun that is only a couple of inches away under your right foot. You’re lucky to get an example with the new dual-mode exhaust option. It really brings some decent sound to the Vette that is lacking otherwise.

    Oh yeah, I’m surprised that you found the Vette seats to have terrific lateral support. Man, they are universally reviled in that regard. They are composite flimsy affairs that have no business in the Vette. There are replacement options, as anyone who is the least bit serious about performance driving will tell you.

    A couple of things you learn from the Vette over a few thousand miles are that 1) Goodyear runflat tires are pure shit in terms of noise, wear and wet weather performance. 2) BOSE is a poor excuse for a stereo – at least in its application in the Vette. I guess they figure that it doesn’t matter with the level of road noise.

    In a similar vein, the 3-series taught me 1) It is possible to feel more connected with the road than even a high-G monster like the Vette 2) German engineering and component quality are amazing. I spent many moments examining everything from the battery safety disconnect to the seat frame to the fluid reservoir caps. Call me crazy, but I appreciate that precision and attention to detail (Audi/VW providing more of the same in that regard).

    Overall, the 330i was my favorite car. The one I miss the most. That would carry through to the current 335i if I was fortunate enough to have one right now as well. On the other hand, I also miss my C5 Z06 for its raw, track-ready feel. That feeling never quite carried over to the C6, even with its more refined interior and features. Go figure.

    I must mention that I had numerous failures on the Vettes I’ve owned – everything from an oil pump to a window regulator to a gas pedal falling off. It is simply not a reliable vehicle in my experience. The 330i was a flawless example in the year or so that I owned it. Neither statement means much from one person, but I’ve heard and read about many others with problems in the Vette over the years. I always had a gripe with the “The Legend Lives” sticker they put on the Vette door. Crooked in all three of my vehicles. Tells you something about the attention to detail during assembly at what is arguably GM’s flagship plant.

    I think that a more appropriate choice of review candidates would have been the M3 and a highly-optioned manual C6 with the magnetic shocks and upgraded leather.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    A few comments I want to address:

    > A significantly more refined suspension that handles better AND offers better ride quality.

    No, no, and no. Descriptions of the Corvette always implicitly compare sports coupes with similar purpose and packaging (e.g., 599 GTB), no matter how stratospheric the make. The BMW’s implicit competitors are more plebian ‘sports’ sedans by everyone from Saab to Mercedes. Just because an author uses the same adjectives to describe both cars doesn’t mean the two perform equally.

    The Corvette may lack some steering feedback, but the grip, speed of transitions, and ultimate capability are on a plane the 335i never approaches. When BMW tries to raise their game to this level (e.g., CSL, or even certain “Sport Package” models), the much lauded ride-handling compromise goes right out the window. A comparison with the CTS DI would be far more appropriate.

    > An engine that is a generation or two beyond what is in the ‘Vette (VaNoS, magnesium overmolded block, variable vane turbos and 100bHP/Liter versus 68bHP/Liter).

    And yet, that engine would be inferior for the purpose of building lightweight, fast, and inexpensive sports coupe. BMW’s production engines show greater refinement than the LS series, but with commensurate increases in cost and weight, and while sacrificing the tremendous OHV torque curve. The McLaren F1′s limited-production 6.1L mill proves that BMW is capable of building an engine superior in most metrics to the LS series, but they’ve yet to show that they can do the same on a budget.

    Contrast GM’s LS9. The total dressed engine weight is 530 lbs. That’s exactly the weight of the existing BMW S85 V-10 in the M5. The difference is, the LS9 requires minimal maintenance, occupies less space, has a lower center of gravity, and makes 140 more HP and 240 more ft.-lbs. of torque. A comparison to the previous M3′s I6, the current M3′s V8, and the TT I6 in the 335i is even less flattering. Even the F1 engine weighed 60 lbs more with less power.

    > Forced induction on a push-rod motor is pretty useless in my opinion.

    The success of the implementation defies your theory. The LS9 may be one of the most impressive engines available today from any make. GM has made significant improvements in the breathing of the LS heads. Combined with the efficiency of Eaton’s new supercharger, the resulting engine will loaf at low RPM and pull like a banshee to redline. Whatever OHV you think you know, this is not it. An 8.0L LS engine wouldn’t provide similar power, but would require a larger and heavier block.

    > Why can’t they fit a modern suspension into that car that would handle and ride better?

    Feel free to explain why the existing suspension isn’t modern. Consider reading the Wiki entry on the Corvette’s suspension design to save the trouble of recanting later.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    You know, at some point, this business of defining cars (sports cars, saloons, coupes, GTs) becomes nothing more than an academic circle jerk. Sitting in the command chair, I don’t exactly spend a lot of time, looking behind and pondering the number of doors and seats I have around me. This isn’t exactly the old days – modern suspensions and tires have long ago blurred the significant handling differences between “GT” cars and “Sports” cars.

    Sure, tires alone have put many sedans in the performance envelope of sports cars from 15 years ago. Modern engineering, materials, computer modeling and understanding of vehicle dynamics let us build 4000 lbs sedans that have sports car performance. BUT THEY DON”T FEEL like sports cars. In a sedan, a two door four-place coupe and a two seat sports car, the driver is in different positions relative to rotational center, the points of power delivery, hip-point, etc. This is why people do in fact think about the number of doors and seats behind them when considering whether a car in question delivers the experience they’re seeking.

    I find it hard to fathom how GM can churn out a car of such little comparative value.

    Perhaps. But a Corvette buyer typically wonders how BMW delivers so little comparative value in a 335i.

    Does anyone disagree that (and we are talking pure costs here), the BMW features more advanced and costly components? That it is fitted together to a higher standard? That thousands of little detail design/engineering decisions add up to make it the more serious and refined (overall) automobile?

    If you were comparing a $40K Shelby Mustang vs. the 335i, I’d agree with you. But we’re not. Vis-a-vis Corvette, I disagree. The cars are too different in intent, design, construction. The Corvette outpowers the 335i with a compact, efficient engine. It is built on a high-strength steel uniframe with precision hydro-formed frame rails. The composite transverse leaf springs are consistent and lightweight, reducing unsprung mass at the corners. The SMC non-structural body panels are lighweight and sacrificial. Corvette’s on-board computing resources are advanced, it has excellent brakes. The magneto-rheodyne dampers that are an affordable option are the best of their type. The engine is legendary, very well made and the design is deeply proven. You are never going to see a uniframe car covered in SMC body panels have the same gap tolerances as a steel unibody car, so don’t bother looking for it. If you really give credit where it’s due throughout the car, then one’s perceptual disappointment frequently comes down to the interior, and some of the small consequences of SMC body panels. Corvette drivers have long chosen to have the rest of the car now and wait for the interior to incrementally improve — as it indeed has.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Some of The Big 2.75′s best and most memorable products seem to come when they’re teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and the latest C6 does not seem to be an exception.

    I don’t see what all the “unfair comparison” debates are. The image of each car is certainly different, but they do have overlap. Though I’m an import person, I still hold great reverence towards the Corvette. It manages to avoid bloat and carry a bang for the buck.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Excellent posts by Phil and KnightRT.

    @Carnotcycle

    If you actually examine the flow #s of the LS7 or LS9 heads, you might rethink your statement about pushrod motor breathing. The LS7 heads flow a whopping 340 cfm on the intake which compares favorably with many OHC setups, while maintaining the space efficiency of the OHV layout. LS7′s with more aggressive cams can easily achieve over 600 flywheel hp with no cylinder head modifications.

    Also, please feel free to actually drive a Vette with forced induction before condemning it. Even a lowly LS1 motor from 97-04 with nothing more than a bolt on supercharger kit and exhaust will make well over 500 HP, often over 600, and still deliver 30+ mpg on the highway. The factory supercharged LS9 does this while retaining 100,000 mile durability and full warranty coverage.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I think that many of the questions and comments made regarding this article will be cleared up when the 335i review is published. However, there are a couple of apparent misconceptions being repeated that I want to clarify.

    I believe this is a fair comparison because price is the single greatest limiting factor in the purchase of any vehicle. Were it not so, everyone would be driving Lamborghini’s and Rolls Royce’s. Is the 335i a sports car? Ask your insurance agent. Or just about anybody walking down the street, 9/10s of whom will say that it is (even if it does have a barely measurable back seat). Two doors? Powerful engine? Low to the ground? Built for extralegal speeds? Manual transmission? Yup, it’s a sports car.

    Next, the Corvette did not lose this competition due to ride quality. As stated in the review, “the Vette makes for an easy daily driver with a surprisingly smooth ride.” Similarly, several comments seem to intimate that I found the interior detestable. Not true. As stated, I found it quite comfortable and, as will be clear in the upcoming 335i review, I had more complaints with the BMW’s interior.

    As for the discussion regarding the engine, I find it difficult to think of a production engine that can match the Corvette’s for power, economy, reliability, weight and low-cost. Until someone is able to do so, how can anyone say that the pushrod V8s aren’t superior? Certainly, DOHC engines inherently breathe better but they add complexity, internal mechanical resistance, weight, and size. Simplicity is a tenant of good design, so give GM credit where it is due. Right now Corvette engines are world beaters.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Mr Ressler is now exhibiting the very same attitude that brought NA car business to its knees; when a customer complaints that something is wrong with the car the answer is ‘No, that’s normal they all do that’. If the customer persists they tell him/her “Have we got a deal for you; for just 10, 15, 25 (depending on the dealer’s honesty) grand more you can upgrade to a convertible and you get rid of the problem!”

    He went form a mild American pseudo-economic nationalism to a full blown apologists for the ills of the domestic car producers.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    > Yup, it’s a sports car.

    There’s a difference between a sports car and a sporty car. If you don’t need the extra performance of the Corvette, the 335i is a superior car. If you do, BMW isn’t even in the running. I’m with the person above who suggested comparing a Lincoln pickup truck. It is a ‘luxury’ vehicle after all, and is the BMW not one as well?

    An unrelated thought:

    Despite my defense of the Corvette, it seems to me a situation where the total vehicle is less than the sum of the parts. The engine? Marvelous. The MR dampers? World-class. Weight? As low as it can be while meeting federal regulations and cost constraints. But the total package? Astonishing performance, combined with a dated interior, poor finish, occasionally brutal handling, and with too much NVH for the price.

    In other words, it’s a racing car.

    We may have reached the point where such a specialized vehicle has no place in the mass production world. Automotive scribes often lament a lack of focus when reviewing new vehicles, but the opposite can be just as damaging. Witness the evolution of the M3. The original was as high-strung as a Triple Crown contender. It’s become progressively fatter and more refined because that’s what buyers want. Even so balanced a car as the E46 M3 would be too harsh if released today.

    In this context, the Corvette’s mission may be too narrow. We’ve proclaimed it a budget supercar for years, but GM’s attempts to live up to that billing introduce so many compromises that they may be detrimental to the long-term success of the car. It may be that the market demands only “enough” performance, not the Ferrari heights to which the Corvette aspires.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Mr Ressler is now exhibiting the very same attitude that brought NA car business to its knees; when a customer complaints that something is wrong with the car the answer is ‘No, that’s normal they all do that’. If the customer persists they tell him/her “Have we got a deal for you; for just 10, 15, 25 (depending on the dealer’s honesty) grand more you can upgrade to a convertible and you get rid of the problem!”

    Not true. If GM has a latch problem, they should fix it, and apparently they have given some notice to dealers of the problem. Elsewhere, the Corvette community is crowdsourcing solutions, as is usual in the automotive interest groups.

    However, even if the latch is replaced, I’d caution any owner to not be surprised if the problem returns, for there are foibles intrinsic to Targas, regardless who makes them. I’d rather see GM simply make the standard Corvette a fixed roof design, with a convertible option.

    He went form a mild American pseudo-economic nationalism to a full blown apologists for the ills of the domestic car producers.

    Well, notwithstanding your misrepresentation of my prior stated positions in the first part of your sentence, this is not true either. I’ve given the same advice to Targa Porsche-owning friends who hd similar complaints as their cars accumulated miles. There is no permanent fix for creaks and pops in a true Targa automobile. If you want silence, get a true coupe version of the car you’re interested it regardless what country it comes from.

    Phil

  • avatar
    eh_political

    I may have mumbled something about this before, but why doesn’t GM offer a 4cyl based on half the V8 block? While there would be many development costs, the resulting engine would whip the fours in competing midsize sedans, have thought provoking tuning potential, fuel economy, torque and so forth. I guess the costs would involve a revised lower block, balance shafts and possibly a sturdier/upgraded transmission.

    Now to sit back, and receive multiple answers in three, two, one….

  • avatar
    davis

    ohc vs pushrod? as far as flow on bench/real worldand hp numbers weights etc.there is no difference.Air/fuel do not care where the camshaft resides in an engine.The only determining factors are size and amount of valves valve lift,duration,overlap and most of all intake design.superchage/turbo ohc/ohv same result if similar flowing heads and cam profiles used.The real difference between these engines is mechanical efficiency with ohc not having all those pushrods/rockerarms/fulcrums/lifters rubbing eachother.gm has done a fine job with pushrod engines.Imagine what they could with dohc v8′s

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Not all squeaks are created equal. If a reviewer says” Every bump in the road is heralded by pronounced popping, like the snapping of a Styrofoam board behind my head” I think we are talking about a whole magnitude greater a problem than your typical squeaks and rattles exhibited by many cars.

    So to dismiss this by saying that they all do that which happens to be the same rhetorical device employed by the unfortunate dealers that have to service these cars I don’t think I mis characterized your position at all.

    This reminds me of the wheel-hoping issue the first gen CTS-V had. Excellent car by all accounts but the wheel-hopping issue was never properly solved and it drove away many potential customers, myself included. Guess how the dealers treated the problem for a long time “There is nothing wrong, they all do it. Just don’t drive the car too hard and never in the rain”. Thank you very much for the great advice.

    If you have a better description

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    If a reviewer says” Every bump in the road is heralded by pronounced popping, like the snapping of a Styrofoam board behind my head” I think we are talking about a whole magnitude greater a problem than your typical squeaks and rattles exhibited by many cars.

    I can’t say, since no C6 Corvette I’ve been in exhibited the problem described. I have seen enough discrepancies between the reviewer’s perception of specific cars and my own to not give this citation any special weight.

    So to dismiss this by saying that they all do that which happens to be the same rhetorical device employed by the unfortunate dealers that have to service these cars I don’t think I mis characterized your position at all.

    In fact you have. I earlier wrote that if there is a defect, GM should fix it. But I also did not make the dealer’s excuse of, essentially, “…all Corvettes do that so live with it….” Instead I cited a basic problem with all Targa designs, regardless who makes them. I’ve been in Targa Porsches of various vintages that made similar sounds equally loudly. If people don’t have the common sense to understand that a TARGA top will develop problems over the life of the car, they really should buy something else.

    This reminds me of the wheel-hoping issue the first gen CTS-V had. Excellent car by all accounts but the wheel-hopping issue was never properly solved and it drove away many potential customers, myself included.

    I have a 2006 CTS-V in my garage. It’s a powerful IRS car and it’s gonna wheel-hop if you mash the throttle and drive it like a front-engine, stick axle muscle car. So will an M3 or M5. But in the kind of hard driving a powerful front-engine IRS sedan is designed for, the wheel hop is merely incidental at most, and it’s been further refined out of the new version. And still….I promise you can get the new one to wheel-hop, as is true for its IRS contemporaries. Perhaps you should consider a Crown Vic if you want no wheel hop under extreme transient power load.

    Phil

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Mr Ressler is now exhibiting the very same attitude that brought NA car business to its knees; when a customer complaints that something is wrong with the car the answer is ‘No, that’s normal they all do that’. If the customer persists they tell him/her “Have we got a deal for you; for just 10, 15, 25 (depending on the dealer’s honesty) grand more you can upgrade to a convertible and you get rid of the problem!”

    But quite a few upscale (and not so upscale) manufacturers have been guilty of that. Enzo was notorious for it.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    First off, I think a lot of us here just have very different perceptions and preconceptions.

    When I think of BMW’s, I think of an overrated pricey vehicle that rarely if ever translates it’s best qualities into American roads.

    The costs of maintaining these vehicles can be absolutely, mind numbingly ridiculous. I’ve heard of everything from transmissions that ended up in limp mode for months because an aftermarket radio was installed. To maintenance regimens given by the factory that are actually designed to shorten and neglect the overall life of the vehicle. While saving them a few bucks on the maintenance costs for their leases.

    From a financial perspective, a 3-series is seen by many on my side of the fence as an overrated low quality POS that fools and junior executives pay a premium for.

    The Corvette is probably the most generational vehicle out there. The mid life crisis may be the stereotype for the average Corvette buyer. But I’ve discovered that most folks who are between 45 to 65 are the primary buyers of this vehicle. It’s the complete opposite of the Bimmer clientele. These folks understand, and probably experienced, a muscle car to some degree and simply want the ultimate version of that.

    I think the real story in this isn’t comparing one to the other. It’s how two vehicles that are seemingly similar in sporty intent can appeal to two completely different customers so consistently over the decades.

    The greatest limiting factor in shopping for a car isn’t price. It’s taste.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Davis I think the pushrod engine would have less friction, those 3 extra camshafts in the DOHC engine all spining in 4-5 bearings each has got to be a big drag.

  • avatar
    AnalogKid

    I gotta say I’m a bit baffled by this comparo myself, since the only thing these cars have in common is the price. As the proud owner of an ’08 335i Coupe with a manual trans and no iDrive, I can tell you that I did not spend even a nanosecond cross-shopping the Corvette. I did though, check out the Pontiac G8 and if it came with a manual I might have given it a closer look.

    Or maybe not. Call it Euro-snobism or whatever but to me, American sports cars in general and the Vette in particular look dated and tired, with their bogus hood bulges and flared wheel wells. (But then, I think the new M3 looks pretty ridiculous as well.)

    What’s not snobism is the fact that when it comes to build quality, road feel and overall driveability the 335i is the far superior car. When you factor in resale value and dealer experience I think it’s obvious where your $40K is better spent.

    Regarding the argument that a 335i is not a sports car all I can say is, to paraphrase Mama Gump, “sports car is as sports car does.”

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I don’t get it.

    Muscle car and a sport sedan?

    It’s like selling lollipop to my grandfather and selling beer to a minor.

  • avatar
    davey49

    An old cliche is apt here;
    six of one is half dozen of another
    I’ll take both
    Bully to you for trying the plain Corvette instead of the Zxx models.
    davis- GM has already tried DOHC V8s and didn’t get anything out of it. There’s no test bed for new components for DOHC engines. GM uses Nascar, drag racing, sprint car racing, etc to prove components for the pushrod engines.
    The Corvette isn’t a muscle car, muscle cars are sedans, either 2 or 4 door

  • avatar
    Morea

    The only downside to the push rod engines is that you cannot go to high engine speeds. The slack in the value train will let the values get out of timing at high rpm and thus limit maximum power. In particluar the push rods themselves will elastically deform, especially at certain harmonics in the value train. (I believe GM reduced the length of the push rods (by raising the cam shaft) in it recent LS engines for just this reason.) Of course, with big displacement you don’t need high engine speed to create big power.

    For the Corvette the big benefit of push rods is that the engine is very low profile and fits nicely under the hood of the car. Compare the thickness of the heads of the Corvette engine to any OHC V8.

    This may be a rare case of the engineers winning out over the marketers: a less flashy but perfectly usable technology winning out over the latest “eveyone else has it so we must have it too” technology. (Now back to the debates on the Mustang rear suspension!)

  • avatar
    PG

    What kind of sick person gets a Corvette with an automatic?

  • avatar
    netrun

    I like this comparison. In the “real world” where people go into dealerships and come out poorer, happier people, these cars do get cross-shopped. Like it or not the 335i fits the middle-aged male crisis solver, just as the Corvette does. If you don’t believe me, watch how the people that own them drive them.

    And yes, the Corvette lacks a lot of details that you’ll find on the German cars and is lesser for it. For some people the numbers that the Corvette generate makes up for this and for some it doesn’t.

    @Phil Ressler: You sir, like to argue. If a carmaker sells an expensive vehicle with an obvious and irritating flaw, that’s a stupid thing to do. I don’t recall anyone ever saying that a first-gen Miata had an annoying snap while going over bumps and they all had soft tops!

    Oh, and guess what, real people buy cars from CarMax. A car with less than 2k on the clock should be damn-near-perfect, regardless. No excuses. Journalists have deadlines to meet so that they can put food on the table, too. Plus, I don’t want a journalist to try 4 or 5 dealers to find a “perfect” comparo car. I’d much prefer finding out that it’s possible to get a low mileage version with issues because they were all built that way. That sir, is called the truth.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    netrun:

    1) I too have owned and driven numerous Corvettes, and have never experienced the popping issue noted by the author. Neither have any of my Vette owning friends.

    2)The Corvette may lack some of the BMW’s details, but that goes both ways. The Vette has had items like a very useful heads up display and tire pressure sensors since 1999 and 1997 respectively, magnetorheological shocks since 2003, and keyless entry/start since 2005, all technology that BMW has only recently partially addressed. And the 2008 model year saw the introduction of a full leather stitched dash which actually isn’t available in any 3 series, including the M3. So which I’m a huge BMW fan (my E39 M5 is still my favorite all around car), let’s give credit where it is due to the technologically advanced Corvette.

    3) People who buy cars from CarMax are either uninformed or simply don’t care that their prices are inflated. It’s a great place to comparison shop, but rarely are there any good deals to be had.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Morea,

    The 2006+ Corvette Z06 revs freely to 7000 rpm, thanks to lightweight valvetrain and reciprocating components, including titanium inlet valves and connecting rods. 7k revs may not be class leading anymore, but that was the domain of only a few small DOHC buzzbombs not long ago. It revs as high as the Lotus designed 32V LT5 in the C4 ZR-1 Corvettefrom 15 years ago, pushrods and all…

    There is no production engine displacing 7+ liters with anywhere near the torque bandwith, from idle to redline, of the Corvette, aside from a few mega exotics.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    I don’t recall anyone ever saying that a first-gen Miata had an annoying snap while going over bumps and they all had soft tops!

    The Miata isn’t a Targa design. The Corvette convertible doesn’t have the popping sound referred to either. Soft tops accommodate flex, hard Targa tops don’t.

    A car with less than 2k on the clock should be damn-near-perfect, regardless. No excuses. Journalists have deadlines to meet so that they can put food on the table, too. Plus, I don’t want a journalist to try 4 or 5 dealers to find a “perfect” comparo car. I’d much prefer finding out that it’s possible to get a low mileage version with issues because they were all built that way. That sir, is called the truth.

    Reviews of new cars using used cars as the review subject have a certain merit, but as anyone who has driven even a low-mileage rental car knows, the used car is a reflection of both the car (and by extension the manufacturer) *and* the driver(s) who came before you. The latter is a huge variable. Some people can get a Maybach rattling in under 200 miles.

    Now, again, if the C6 Corvette has a Targa latch problem, GM should fix it. But my point is that even if they do, an owner can count on a Targa top developing extraneous noises, regardless who makes it. The 10 or so C6s I’ve been in haven’t produced this noise, so I can’t say whether it’s bothersome or not, nor whether it sounds like styrofoam breaking. But Targas, whether made by Porsche, GM or anyone else, develop chatter and if you want a guarantee you won’t ever hear that, don’t buy this body style. A soft top allows other NVH, but its lack of rigidity keeps this particular problem from occuring.

    A used sample review of a new car can be helpful but it’s not objective in a comparison, unless both cars are equally used and had the same prior ownership and driver history, *if* you’re going to extrapolate vehicle quality for both from the foibles observable in each.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Morea

    doctorv8, yes I was aware of this but since it is not the standard Corvette V8 I didn’t post it. (BTW nice reference to the Lotus engine!) I didn’t want the discussion to divert to finding the highest push-rod-engine redline of all time!

    It is interesting to note that the LS7 engine to which you are referring makes peak power at 6300 rpm but redlines at 7000 rpm, a HP max some 700 rpm (10%) below red line. That is a long way suggesting that there may still be valve train lag (or pumping) issues, but I am no expert on Chevy LS engines.

    Broadly speaking, since there is generally a lot of development money in the auto industry today (yes, there is) things that were once considered inherent design limitations can now be engineered away: high-rpm push rod engines, rear-engined sports cars without chronic oversteer, solid rear axle pony cars that can handle bumpy corners, 300+ HP front-wheel drive cars without monster torque steer, etc.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Morea, I couldn’t agree with you more. As for the Lotus reference….I’m a bit of a C4 ZR-1 junkie. You may have seen my car reviewed here recently:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/1990-corvette-lpe-zr-1-review/

  • avatar
    Morea

    I always wanted a ZR-1! You don’t mention the fact that the LT-5 is all aluminum. I think this is the next step for (production not special performance) GM push-rod V8 engines.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Davey49. Are you using your old school thoughts again?

    Muscle cars has 4 doors?
    Americans are lazy drivers and a lot of the Corvettes out there are Automatics. sad to hear that.

    Muscle car is a term used to refer to a variety of high performance automobiles.[The term principally refers to American, Australian and to a lesser extent South African models. It generally describes a 2-door rear wheel drive mid-size car with a large, powerful V8 engine, and at an affordable price. Although opinions vary, it is generally accepted that classic muscle cars were produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Muscle cars were built for street use and in some cases racing. They are distinct from sports cars and also from GTs, which are two-seat or 2+2 cars intended for high-speed touring/road racing. These are not generally considered muscle cars owing to their small size, relatively high cost and specialty nature.

    (The two-seater AMC AMX may or may not be an exception: one source queries whether it qualifies as a true muscle car or pony car,but also lists it among vehicles that fit the general interpretation of both categories.AMC was “never shy” about describing the car as “a genuine sports car” as it was relatively inexpensive).

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Morea,

    All Corvette motors since 1997 (LS1, LS6, LS2, LS7, LS3, and LS9) have aluminum blocks and heads. These LS motors share much in the basic block desogn with the LT5. Even some of the truck applications are using Al now, including IIRC, the Escalade, which has high flow heads not unlike the LS3.

    The Z06 and ZR1 also have a hydroformed Al chassis.

    Team Corvette has intelligently applied the use of Ti, Mg, and carbon fiber in key areas to fight the bloat that has afflicted other sporting machines, while not breaking the bank.

  • avatar
    davis

    mfgreen40
    camshafts running in split oilfed bearings actually have extremely low drag due to the fact that the shafts donot contact the bearings but rotate in the oil film.pushros on the other hand are in direct contact with the lifter as well as the rocker arm and this is friction which robs power.ohc engines also have friction but in effect are much more efficient.they also do not cost more to produce than older style centrally located cam blocks.the main reason gm is still building pusrod engines is to satisfy people who remember the “old 283/327/350″engines that were so good to them back in the day.gm wants people to believe that the “new small block” is much the same as the simple “old small block” but this just isnt the case the new engines have to have some very sophisticated and expensive technologies applied to them to make them pass emissions. like I said gm does a very good job with pushrods but personally I would have given up and gone modern years ago.It seems to work very well for ford with thier modular ohc v8s

  • avatar
    bumpy

    “why doesn’t GM offer a 4cyl based on half the V8 block?”

    The tried that on the original rope-drive Pontiac Tempest. It ran like shit because the crankshaft wasn’t even close to being correct for a 4-cylinder setup. The engine that became the 3800 V6 started out as 3/4 of the small Buick V8 in the same era, and ran like crap for the same reason.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    The current Corvette is so outstanding in so many ways that its shortcomings really get highlighted disproportionately.

    The car is stupid fast. Floor it and your eyes just squash back into their sockets. Passengers scream. That sort of thing.

    The autobox is very good, both in sport mode with firm, quick shifts and in “D” where it slurs through ratios like a Lexus. The paddle shifters work well, but they feel backwards to me. Still, the paddles themselves are made of surprisingly nice materials and have a clean, definitive thunk in their actions.

    The instrumentation is simply flawless, with beautiful backlighting and clean markings. It looks expensive and precise.

    The car gets remarkable fuel economy, regardless of how you drive it. Hoonage gets you an honest 15-17 MPG, relaxed cruising pushes 30 MPG. Amazing for so much power and flexibility.

    With the dual-mode exhaust, people on the street turn to hear the exhaust note. Paddle down to second and the car rev-matches with a lovely brrrrrrRRUPP. It’s intoxicating.

    But there’s flaws. The aforementioned snapping noises, of course. The trigger on the shift lever pinches your finger because it’s not long enough. All of the shiny silver shit in the cabin is just painted on and rubs off very quickly. The parking brake feels chintzy. The dash materials are Camry-grade, at best, without the expensive leather wrap. The Cobalt steering wheel feels like…a Cobalt wheel, and just looks awful. The door skin texture comes off easily. The HUD looks fuzzy on GM’s (PPG’s?) notoriously warped windshield glass. The sun visors are just garbage, with exposed seams and creaking mirror doors. The seats are horrific, with no support anywhere and thin, lumpy padding. The leather wears quickly. The navigation system is a nightmare to use compared to Honda/Toyota systems (although it’s probably got a leg up on the godawful iDrive).

    What’s maddening about these flaws is that they’re cheap to fix. For probably an extra $500 in materials, the car could be really top-notch. Second-to-none. The fact that most of the car is so amazing makes the driver ponder what the hell’s going on within GM to allow stuff like this to slip through. Doesn’t anyone care?

    The C6 I’m so very grateful to be able to drive on regular occasion (wheeeee!) shares a garage with an ES350. The ES driver’s first words upon driving the Chevy were “why is the Vette so cheap inside?” She gets that most of the money went under the hood, “but c’mon.”

    Of course, you don’t feel like a rock star driving an ES. The Corvette has curb appeal like few others, regardless of price. Still, fix the little shit, GM, and shoot for the moon.

  • avatar
    davey49

    A muscle car can have 4 doors these days. Think 300C SRT8 or Charger. Pontiac G8. Also the various German “tuner” sedans AMG/M/S. All cars handle these days so don’t tell me that muscle cars can’t handle now.
    Driving position is the reason why the Corvette isn’t a muscle car. It’s always been too low and laid back. GT is a fair description of the Corvette.
    davis- the OHC engine doesn’t work that well for Ford.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    > Yup, it’s a sports car.

    There’s a difference between a sports car and a sporty car. If you don’t need the extra performance of the Corvette, the 335i is a superior car. If you do, BMW isn’t even in the running.

    Who does tho? A few hardcore track enthusiasts (and even then the BMW does fine)? Do you realize what kind of speeds are required to really differentiate the absolute performance of a corvette?

    The BMW is a better automobile in well over 95% of driving conditions (and that includes driving feel), which makes it a better car and better value.

    Let’s face it, the only real reason to get the Corvette in this comparo is image.

  • avatar
    DeanMTL

    Gaekonig, did you actually say: “glimpses of tremendous engineering talent. Corvette is an example, as is the Jeep JK or Ford F150.”

    Um, the Jeep JK is an example of extraordinary engineering talent? You clearly haven’t driven one to see what a hobbled-together piece of crap it actually is.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    > Do you realize what kind of speeds are required to really differentiate the absolute performance of a corvette?

    CTRL-F this line without the quotes:

    “An unrelated thought”

  • avatar
    agenthex

    A “racing” car is an impossibly small niche. A minuscule minority of corvette owners use them in a capacity where they are significantly better than a bmw, which is the point of my post.

    In fact, I rarely see examples of either specimen at speeds befitting their design.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    > A minuscule minority of corvette owners use them in a capacity where they are significantly better than a bmw

    We’re arguing two sides of the same coin. As you say, few people use the performance. The Corvette would become more palatable to a broader audience if it had softer suspension, more sound deadening, and a revised layout that didn’t have the driver sitting on the ground.

    The counterargument is that these nods to practicality could defeat the Corvette’s appeal. If it’s an “image” car, people may be buying it precisely because it is compromised. The mere existence of the capability may be a draw, even if a driver lacks the desire or skill to exploit it.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    The counterargument is that these nods to practicality could defeat the Corvette’s appeal. If it’s an “image” car, people may be buying it precisely because it is compromised. The mere existence of the capability may be a draw, even if a driver lacks the desire or skill to exploit it.

    That’s possible, but in any case you have to wonder about a quite expensive purchasing choice based on theoretical capabilities.

    No worse than buying an SUV, I suppose.

  • avatar
    Rusnak_322

    As strange as it seems to compare these two cars, they are both on my short list of replacements for my Miata next spring.
    But I will be looking at previous generations – the E46 M3 and the C5 Vette both in convertible. The only other car that I am considering is the S2000.

  • avatar
    tslats

    In my mind I DO cross shop these cars all the time only to come to the same point .. when will GM/Chevy (no, not Cadillac) make a Vette for adults.

    Ok, I mean adults who drive to and park in DC garages every day. The place is loaded with BMWs, Porsches, Mercedes .. so the market (ie money) is there. For some reason GM refuses, with great luster, to go get it.

    The answer is not a tricked out Austrailian sedan or redone Pontiac, it’s the lore of the Vette in something else. I don’t know what that something else is but I hope some day GM finds it.

  • avatar

    Image problem aside I think the Vette is a great car. Usually I avoid praising American iron (particularly when it uses antiquated tech) but somehow the Vette uses the basics to great effect. For pure fun, I’d much rather have the Vette than a 335i – mainly because after having driven several BMWs, I’m not sold on the whole BMW mythos (or the inflated prices and so-so reliability records).

    Recently I looked up Canadian fuel economy estimates for various cars. The C6 with a manual transmission was rated at a staggering 37mpg highway, mid 20s city. That is ridiculous, in the best possible way. Consider that any VQ engined Nissan will struggle to break 30 on the highway with a lot less power and considerably fewer cubic inches and you realize how amazing that feat is. Even the Chrysler Hemi lineup can’t compete for economy – even with less power, less displacement, and cylinder deactivation (that’s the 5.7, the 6.1 will certainly suck fuel like nobody’s business).

  • avatar
    deadofknight

    I believe the simple answer is that the American Auto Workers Union drives what is said to be an additional $4,000 out of every car, compared with their foreign counterparts.

    Imagine a ‘Vette with an additional upgraded interior with $4,000. This is money on top of what has already been spent…it would go directly to the refinement of plastic, stitching and style that makes it so raw currently.

    That will not change. With the bailouts, the problems will persist until they go bankrupt and somebody says enough is enough. The question is not, why can’t they–it is when will they get torn to pieces so badly that the only choice is to compete.

    Only then, will you get what should be on the line right now. ALL the power plus the refinement that is being sucked into poor policies that will be defeated again and again until we stop the madness and let them go into a bankruptcy resolution that will demand better for less.

    My opinion. And my first here…

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    “Imagine a ‘Vette with an additional upgraded interior with $4,000. This is money on top of what has already been spent…it would go directly to the refinement of plastic, stitching and style that makes it so raw currently.”

    The 08-09 Vettes already offer just such an option, called the 4LT or 3LZ, depending on which model you are buying, which includes a leather wrapped dash and door panels. Doesn’t quite turn it into an F430, but makes the interior quite acceptable….certainly not “raw.”

    And with current discounts, you can pick up just such a Vette for $10k under MSRP, which more than accounts for the $4000 all leather option.

  • avatar
    deadofknight

    This is not a typical market. Current strains on economies can make the luxury car more easily attained at prices under MSRP. Anyone that wants a car right now can steal one, basically.

    The point I was trying to make is simple; buying more upgrades and more refinement is possible. The question is not can we do it–it is can we do it for the same number of dollars?

    We are discussing the difference between the Vette and BMW, aren’t we? The question asked early on was a good one. Why doesn’t the Vette have the refinement it’s opponent bears and buyers have come to expect. It is obvious that for the same number of dollars, the BMW is a more refined vehicle. Amenities and upgrades are already on them…why?

    My opinion was simple; the car industry here is broken. it is broken on several fronts: Wages, Past Debt, Management and the overall unquenchable desire to meet quarterly earnings over long term R&D.

    If you want a better vehicle; solve these problems and you will have more options, upgrades and designs that will be competitive at prices that are comparable to the BMW or better.
    Americans can build the best cars in the world under proper circumstances. Burdened as they are, it is an uphill climb and writing them a check today will only forestall the inevitable.

    These ideas are not mine solely, but also the pitch Mitt Romney made in the NY Times Op Ed piece he wrote some months ago. I believe he was right.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Why doesn’t the Vette have the refinement it’s opponent bears and buyers have come to expect. It is obvious that for the same number of dollars, the BMW is a more refined vehicle. Amenities and upgrades are already on them…why?

    Let’s turn the question around for a better perspective: Why doesn’t the BMW offer the same performance as the Vette? After all, they are the same price, right?

    The answer to both questions is the same: One is a sports car, and a very refined one, esp with the optional F55 magnetic ride and 4LT leather wrapped interior. The other is a sporty 4 seat GT. Period.

    Why doesn’t the BMW 3 series offer a heads up display or a leather wrapped dash?

    Why haven’t tire pressure sensors been standard since 1997 like they have in the Corvette?

    Why is keyless entry/start optional, and standard in the Corvette since 2005?

    Why is it slower and heavier than the Vette?

    It’s a different class of car. Period. Apples/oranges.

    Don’t get me wrong…I agree that much is wrong with the auto industry, and especially GM….which makes the Corvette, a true no apologies sportscar, all the more remarkable.

  • avatar
    baldingfatguy

    As for me, I would love either of these cars, each for its own reasons. But I think the vette would be a gigglefest with all that torque. On the downside, the vette is hard for a baldingfatguy to get in and out of. Not so great for overcoming a midlife crisis when you are embarrassed to get in and out of the car. Kinda shoots down that whole theory of vette=midlife crisis car (unless you are thin and not balding, then it still applies). Yeah, having been a car guy since I was a toddler (just ask my mom), I can say with authority that some guys in thier 40′s drive the modern vette platform just because it is a great performance machine. I sure liked it. The beamer is sweet too. Ain’t it just awful having to live in an age where you have to choose between so many fast, safe, efficient, clean-burning (my first car had no smog but a pcv valve),precise-handling, reliable, and daily-driveable cars? I sold my ’70 mach 1 (351c4v/4spd)
    because it drove like crap. Oh it was perfectly driveable, properly tuned and in really nice shape. But the steering had no feedback, it understeered like a plowhorse,the brakes faded like a pair of cheap denim jeans and it couldnt get much of that cleveland power to the ground. I’ll take that vette or beamer anyday.

  • avatar
    russianauthorskickamericanonesasses

    TTAC – you guys should’ve let Robert Fandingleberry write this article. He would’ve given to the Chevy for sure. And the rest of the morons loyal to this site would’ve toasted him with their Bud-lights.


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