Driving a Corvette should be an emotional experience, and the standard coupe and convertible deliver in spades. The 400-horspower LS2 V8 rumbles wonderfully, and the Vette intoxicates with its acceleration. With either the manual or automatic transmission, the coupe thrills. And the convertible is plain wonderful. Drop the top on a nice day, blare the stereo and you'll have what psychologists call a peak experience. It's a fantastic feeling and at those moments the Corvette more than justifies its price, which is a bargain compared to other truly capable high-performance sports cars.
Yet probably the best thing about the 2007 Corvette is that you don't have to suspend right-brain rationality to enjoy it. Chevrolet has eliminated nearly all the cruder, less desirable traits that characterized Corvettes of yore, and its performance does not exact a painful toll on driver or passenger. The Corvette could be a reasonably comfortable daily driver in most locales, for at least three of the four seasons. Driven sanely, it can deliver pretty good mileage, too, up to 28 mpg highway by the EPA's formula, better than most SUVs.
Now in its third year of production, the current Corvette is known to sports car enthusiasts as the C6 (for sixth generation). What makes it better than the previous generation is everything: performance, refinement, ease of operation. It's more comfortable and easier to drive, not only on the road, but also on a race track. It quickly infuses a driver with confidence. Its brakes are fantastic and, yes, it's faster. And to its credit, Chevrolet has not rested on its laurels with the Vette.
A year after launch, Chevrolet introduced a six-speed automatic transmission, which works great and lives up to the advanced technology in the rest of the car.
Even more significant was the introduction of the latest-generation, ultra-high-performance Z06 model. The Corvette Z06 is a true supercar for a price that's merely expensive, as opposed to insanely expensive. The Z06 gets the 505-hp LS7 V8, high-tech, weight trimming chassis features and upgraded brakes. If any $66,000 car can be called a bargain, this is the one, at least in terms of raw performance. The Corvette Z06 accelerates faster, grips better and stops shorter than European sports cars that cost twice as much. And we find it much easier to drive than a Viper.
For 2007, the Corvette gets a bigger glove box, redundant steering-wheel controls for the high-end Bose stereo, and OnStar tele-aid service for the Z06 model.
Bottom line: In either standard or Z06 trim, the 2007 Chevrolet Corvette remains the best high-performance value in America. Corvette delivers supercar performance for the price of a midsize luxury sedan, and it's easy to live with.
Chevrolet Corvette coupe ($44,170); Convertible ($52,085); Z06 coupe ($65,640)
By appearance, the sixth-generation Corvette is less overtly aggressive, perhaps more sophisticated, than its predecessors. From some angles it's almost pretty, and it shows a bit of Italian flair.
Its headlights are an obvious distinction. From the early 1960s, Corvettes used hideaway headlamps to complement their sleek designs, but advances in optics and lighting technology have enabled designers to achieve those goals with exposed headlights. They are lighter, which means less weight hanging out over the front wheels. The exposed lights eliminate the mechanical complexity of hideaways, and they light up the road better than the previous design.
The C6 body work is smoother aerodynamically and generates less lift in front than the C5, which results in better grip and increased stability at high speeds. The sculpted fenders, sharp creases that sweep dramatically up to the planed rear deck and other aspects of the design call to mind race cars as well as jet fighters. The narrower rear end is the biggest improvement from a styling standpoint, offering more pleasing proportions. The four jeweled taillights make the Corvette look like an F-18 taking off in full afterburner mode. On the functional side, the optics of the reverse lights magnify the light they throw out to help when backing up in this beast. To trim weight from the front of the Corvette, the transmission is mounted behind the seats and connected to the differential, rather than being attached directly behind the engine.
In the Z06, this quest for front-rear balance extends to the weight of the battery, which is located in the rear cargo area.
The Z06 is distinguished from other Corvettes by lots of subtle appearance tweaks, starting with the roof. It's fixed rather than removable, adding an extra element of structural stiffness for track driving. You'll never see a transparent plastic roof panel on a Z06.
In front, the Z06 has a wider, lower grille and a separate, unique air scoop above the bumper to shove more intake air under the hood. Its fenders are wider front and rear to cover massively wide tires and rims (the rear wheels are fully 12 inches wide or two inches wider than those on the standard Vette). In back, the Z06 spoiler is slightly more prominent, and its exhaust outlets are wider, too (four inches in diameter at the tips). There are also several Z06 body and chassis changes that aren't apparent to the eye. The frame is made entirely of hydro-formed aluminum (the standard Vettes have steel rails), with a magnesium engine cradle, and its fenders are formed from ultra-light carbon fiber. As a result, and despite a much heavier engine and drivetrain, the Z06 weighs 50 pounds less than a standard Corvette coupe.
The cabin features premium soft surfaces, nice grain in the materials and elegant tailoring. The dashboard is finished in a soft material that feels rich to the touch. Real metal accents are used, but they don't generate glare. The electronics displays serve the driver without getting in the way.
The steering wheel is relatively small, measuring just 9.4 inches in diameter, and it addresses one of the biggest gripes we had with the old C5 Corvette. This wheel looks less like something that belongs in a Suburban and more like one that belongs in a sports car, even a Ferrari. Yet it still feels good in the hands, and it affords a good view of the instruments.
The seats are comfortable and easier to adjust than those in past Corvettes. Sitting in the Corvette still evokes that feeling of sitting deep down in a massive machine, but there's more headroom than ever, and the windshield doesn't seem as close to the driver's face. Hefty side bolstering on the optional sport seats, even more so with those in the Z06, makes it more difficult to slide in, but the bolsters squeeze around the thighs and torso and hold the driver like Velcro.
For 2007, the upgrade seats are upholstered with perforated leather and embroidered with the cross-flag Corvette insignia, complemented by contrasting stitching.
The instruments are big analog gauges that are easy to read at a glance. The Z06 gets a unique cluster with more gauges. The Corvette is, thankfully, devoid of a lot of digital readouts. One exception is the head-up display, which projects speed, rpm and even g-forces onto the windshield, a handy and entertaining feature. The upgrade Bose stereo system includes redundant controls on the steering wheel hub for most functions.
There's even decent storage in this sixth-generation Vette. For 2007, thanks to improvements that have reduced the size of the passenger airbag and its operating mechanism, engineers have been able to increase the size of the glovebox noticeably. And in the coupe, there is 22.0 cubic feet of storage space under the glass behind the rear seats. That's as much as the trunk space in some sedans, with plenty of room for golf bags. You need to be careful loading so to not scratch the body work, however, and liftover height is high; this is not a sedan.
There's no need to take the key out of your pocket to unlock the Corvette or start its engine. Simply walk up and pull the door handle. With the keyless start feature, sensors detect your key and unlock the door. Climb in, buckle up, and press the starter button. We're not sold on the benefits of keyless starting, but it can be convenient.
The Convertible's five-layer fabric top is available in four colors, and it offers an option not available in a Corvette since 1962: power operation. The power top operates with a single-button control and completes its cycle in 18 seconds. An easy-to-operate manual top is standard.
The Convertible looks good with the top up, and it looks terrific with the top down, with body-color trim that gives it the racy appearance of an open-cockpit Le Mans prototype. Naturally, the Convertible gives up some cargo capacity. It offers 11 cubic feet of storage with the top up, which isn't bad for a roadster, and 7.5 cubic feet with the top down.
The Corvette's LS2 V8 engine sounds great, and its low, throaty roar is accompanied by thrilling acceleration. Stand on the gas and even the automatic will chirp the rear tires when it shifts into second. The LS2 V8 displaces 6.0 liters (364 cubic inches) and generates 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. That's just 5 hp less than the previous-generation Z06 engine.
The Corvette can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds and cover the standing quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds. That's quicker than a Porsche 911 Carrera or Jaguar XK8 and comparable to a Ferrari F430. There's lots of torque at all engine speeds. Stand on the gas and the Vette goes. Corvette engineers say the standard Corvette can lap a racing circuit nearly as quickly as the old Z06, and boasts a top speed of 186 mph. We haven't experienced those speeds, but on a tighter racing circuit found the Corvette much easier to drive than older models, making it easier to drive hard into corners, braking very hard, then powering out.
The Corvette is also quite happy just cruising around, and it gets an EPA-rated 18/28 mpg City/Highway with the manual, 18/25 mpg with the automatic.
The six-speed automatic and six-speed manual are each appealing in their own right, so choosing between them comes down to priorities and personal preference. The manual is a viable option as a daily driver, unlike it was on the previous generation. It shifts easier and the clutch is easier to operate smoothly. The mechanism that forces you to shift from first to fourth gear when accelerating slowly (to improve the fuel-efficiency rating) is less intrusive than before. Fifth and sixth gears are both overdrives, again to improve fuel efficiency. Shifting through the gears is a lot of fun and it's easy to brake and downshift using the heel-and-toe method when approaching a corner (actually by braking with the ball of the foot and blipping the throttle with the right side of the foot).
The automatic is best for commuting in stop-and-go traffic, however, and it gives up little to the manual in performance. The Paddle Shift automatic offers manual shifting via steering-wheel levers and an electronic controller with more computing power than the typical PC had 10 years ago. The relatively close ratios offer good performance and smoothness by allowing the engine to run at optimal rpm more often. First gear has a much higher ratio than that in the old four-speed automatic, delivering even more impressive acceleration off the line. Yet both fifth and sixth are overdrive gears, allowing quiet cruising and good highway mileage. If ever a sporting car were suited for an automatic transmission, it's the Corvette, with its big, torquey V8. The automatic does not sap all the fun out of driving the Vette the way automatics do in small sports cars with small engines. It's responsive to the driver's intent, shifting hard and fast when you're getting with the program, but shifting smooth and soft when cruising.
The Corvette is agile and easy to toss around, benefits of its light weight, trim proportions and refined suspension. The coupe weighs a trim 3,179 pounds.
We liked the standard suspension and would not hesitate to order a Corvette so equipped. Ride quality of the C6 is firm but quite pleasant, not harsh. It offers great handling, even on a racing circuit. There's almost no body lean when cornering hard.
The Z51 package makes the Corvette even more fun on a race track. Z51 is a substantia
Chevrolet Corvette is easy to live with, easy to drive and more fun than a Sony PlayStation. The ultra-high-performance Z06 model pushes the envelope for off-the-shelf production cars to limits hard-core enthusiast drivers wouldn't have imagined a decade ago. For everyday driving, our choice is for one of the standard models, though we'd lie awake at night deciding between coupe and convertible before we even got to the whole color dilemma.
NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough filed this report from Detroit; Jeff Vettraino contributed to this report.