2007 Chevrolet Corvette | road test
The Corvette has been America’s most revered and respected home-grown sports car for sometime, and was last evolved in 1997.
The C6 meanwhile, looks significantly refreshing and for the first time since 1962, does not sport pop-up headlights. It however retains trademark Corvette styling cues. The C6’s exposed headlamps were decided upon after a lot of emotional discussions, say company officials. “We finally settled on exposed headlamps because they fit the theme for the new Corvette – lean, purposeful, performance oriented,” they add. The egg-crate grille has been a part of Corvette’s heritage and it continues with the C6’s new, low centre-mounted grille. The grille is also necessary as C6 switches from the 100 per cent ‘bottom breathing’ air intake of the C5 to a hybrid air intake of 60 per cent front / 40 per cent bottom.
The performance too has been given a boost thanks to the LS2-designated mill, which is essentially a 6.0-litre small-block V8 based on the new Gen IV family of engines. The small-block debuted in 1955 with 265 cubic inches and ‘just’ 197.7 PS. Since then, this legendary family of engines has been an integral component of the Corvette’s performance history. The new Gen IV also makes its way into SS Commodores, Luminas and HSV Clubsports.
The vitals are impressive: 534Nm@4400rpm and 405PS@6000rpm. The rev limiter is set at 6500rpm, though sadly there’s no talk of overhead camshafts. The 364 cubic inch powerplant still makes use of 2-valves per cylinder and pushrods. More than dynamometer numbers, the LS2 engine’s range of power and torque is broad and very useable in everyday driving, as we found out in the course of this road test.
The sixth generation C6 Corvette is much sleeker than its C5 predecessor and is shorter overall by almost 13cm, giving the new model a tauter, more defined and assertive appearance. Together with this more focused demeanour, an aggressive stance, which employs shorter front and rear overhangs, and contemporary styling cues, such as the multi-lens headlights, it lends the car a more exotic flavour. And this was proven time and time again with passer-bys giving the ‘Vette lustful looks.
The C6 sits on 18-inch alloys up front; shod with 245/40ZR rubber, and bigger 19-inch rims aft, wearing 285/35ZR rubber. The simple five-spoke mags look brilliant as well. The 2005 Corvette, which sports an impressive 0.28 coefficient of drag, is the most efficient Corvette ever built, and the new aero aids also improve negative lift and high-speed stability.
Transferring 534Nm of torque to the rear wheels is the tried and tested Tremec T56 six-speed manual gearbox, offered in two styles – standard, and a sports version with more aggressive ratios, reserved for Corvette’s Z51 Performance Package, fundamentally the C5’s Z06 successor.
Also, the transmission is now located at the rear of the driveline for improved weight distribution. As for clutchless options, the old 4-speed 4L60-E auto slusher has been upgraded to the 4L65-E, which gets reinforced internals in order to cope with the increased torque loads.
Completely new suspension components combine with a more rigid chassis – whose low weight and high strength comes about via a hydroformed steel frame with aluminium and magnesium components – for improved ride and handling, especially at the limit. Run-flat tyres also make the cut.
The two-seater Corvette is factory fitted with 325mm discs up front and 305mm units at the rear, while the Z51 package adds 15mm and 25mm to the front and rear discs respectively.
On a techno-cool level, the new Corvette contains some intriguing features, such as keyless access, where the car detects the key in a certain range and unlocks the doors. Firing up the car is an oh-so-cool starter-button and our test car came with a reconfigurable heads-up display, which is clearly readable in all weather conditions. Another charismatic feature is that on shutting down the C6 (again via that green-lit starter button), a message pops up on the display beneath the big analog rev-counter to shift to reverse gear. This enables the electronics to activate security features. Leave it in neutral (like you would in most other cars) and you might find out that entry may be denied with the car shutting itself down. Sounds confusing, but that’s the way it is!
Chevrolet has tinkered and tooled around with the new Corvette and after seven years of the C5, which arrived in 1997, the C6 has arrived to take the reins. Visually, it has hit the nail right on the head. Most agree that it’s one of the most alluring cars to emerge from the US in quite some time.
And on top of its more desirable look, there’s the 6.0-litre Gen IV engine, an advanced chassis composition and who could forget those massive 19-inch rear hoops? It’s not going to scare Ferrari but the sixth generation C6 ‘Vette is without a doubt a more focused sports car than the C5.
When I took the C6 from the Chevrolet dealer in Dubai, I was like a young teenager on his first date with emotions of nervousness and excitement both, flowing freely and strongly.
Slotting the car into first of the six manual ratios available and I was off, trying hard not to induce wheelspin in those massive rear tyres, lest someone thought I was showing off. Power is prodigious and can be felt with every thump of the superb Tremec gearbox. This is a car that demands to be driven hard and fast and boy, does it deliver? There is so much grip available at the driven wheels but even with traction control on, under hard acceleration, the rear rubber threatened to slither and slip on the car’s forward momentum. The chassis is strong and extremely rigid and transmits absolutely no flexing when the car is thrown into fast corners with gay abundance. The Goodyear rubber on our test car held the car like a leech to the tarmac and only when power was fed forcefully midway into a corner did the rear end slide about. Being responsible human beings, we did all our speed testing in a secured area.
The Corvette C6 is a true driver’s car and we recommend the manual gear version to anyone who is looking to get one. There is a joy playing around with the short throw gear lever with each shift slotting into place with an astute thump as the gears mesh together. The lever itself is a joy to behold with an aluminium head (which does get a bit hot when the car is left in the sun for long) and short stubby shift-stick. The well weighted steering is another reason to spend long hours in this car. It gave fantastic feedback and was not overtly sensitive to changes in speed and direction. The slotted aluminium pedals provided yet another throwback to the sporting credentials of this sleek beauty.
Despite its credentials as a sports car, the C6 Corvette was surprisingly docile to drive about in town and can be as civil mannered as a High Street gentleman. There is power on tap throughout the rev band and one does not have to constantly drop gears to stay in tune with the revs.
The interior is simple and unassuming – the Corvette’s engineers having made a distinct decision to empower the car with the pure, unadulterated characteristics of a true sports car and to let the engine and chassis take precedence over other aspects such as luxury and comfort. This is not to say that the Corvette C6 is not luxurious. There is a stark simplicity in its interior, which is a welcome change from other modern sports cars. Thank god, there is no wood trim and although the materials used do not shout class and finesse, the C6 is very focussed in its interior design and makes no excuses for its no-nonsense trim and design. This is no sissy, prima donna going to the ballroom dressed upto the gills. It is a pure, simple and absolutely brawny muscle-car with athletic looks that has to be taken seriously as a true driver’s and connoisseur’s vehicle. It demands respect and going by the envious stares that I got during the time the car was with me, it deserves every bit of it.
The seats are extremely supportive in all facets and I felt taut and secure. But I am a lean 72 kg and wonder how somebody much heavier and of a wider girth could feel comfy in them.
Obviously there are a lot of electronics working away silently to add to the smooth functioning of the C6. Likewise, safety is also enhanced thanks to front and side airbags plus the now de rigueur ABS brakes and lots more.
The new C6 Corvette went into production during the 3rd quarter of 2004, and sales began early this year in the US. It is now in the Middle East to thrill the legion of traditional loyalists and captures the imagination of a new generation of performance enthusiasts. The formula from the C5 era remains: extremely high performance capabilities in a car that offers great style, value and quality, with surprising comfort for daily driving. The C6 builds on that foundation and reaches beyond with dramatic increases in performance and refinement, wrapped in a passionate new design.