2005 Chevy Corvette Convertible
How ironic that the best-ever Corvette has been produced by GM at its lowest ebb ever, amid one of the worst crises the company ever has faced. Back when GM was making money hand over fist, it was building disco Corvettes with 200 horsepower (if you were lucky: a few had as little as 165 hp), shag rugs, and Delco CB radios, as well as 125-mph top ends.
Now GM has produced a Ferrari-killer at an everyman price - just $43,710 for the hatchback coupe; $51,495 for the roadster. And it's armed with perhaps the finest pushrod V-8 engine ever designed, the 6.0-liter LS2, making a swift and sharp 400 horses. It boasts world class ft and finish, a brilliant suspension system featuring a state-of-the-art Magnetic Ride Control system that will outhandle just about anything on four wheels. And it's all snugged into the most striking composite/fiberglass shell a Corvette has worn since 1967.
For the money - even twice the money - nothing can touch it. A near-190 mph top speed is yours, as is the loin-stirring rumble from the big eight. Outfitted with the manual six-speed box the 'Vette throttles all it can from its fuel and smokes 60 mph in about four seconds. The dust doesn't have time to finish stirring, much less settling.
The 'Vette hammers through its gears, but it hustles around corners by the grace of incredible technology like its MRC suspension system, which uses a computer to "charge" electromagnetic particles held in suspension (rather than old-timey standard shock absorbers) and adjust damping/rebound forces in fractions of a second, continuously altering ride characteristics to conform to the road surface and the way the car is being driven. One step further down the evolutionary scale, the Active Handling system (AHS) is designed for enthusiasts who know what they're doing, allowing generous wheel slip before activating and is completely non-intrusive compared to the idiot-proofing electronics used in so many modern "perfomance" cars.
The body structure is light-years ahead of even the C5 Corvette. GM builds the frame with piece that are hydroformed - extruded and shaped with water pressure, rather than heat and welding. And clever packaging of the slightly-smaller-than-before 'Vette endows it with a usable, 22-cubic-foot trunk.
The delights of the Corvette are as subtle as the multi-layered soft top that holds tight in the triple-digit slipstream; all that incredible air pressure building up outside never pushes its way into the snug little pod that cocoons the lucky driver - even at silly illegal speeds that few civilians interested in preserving their DMV records will ever attempt.
Okay, we do have one medium-sized niggle. The interior of the Corvette is functionally fine, but the plastics used on the face of the dash, while far beyond the GM standard, won't send any Lexus SC430 owners running for their spot in the trade-in line.
By the way, this C6 'Vette is also the first beautiful Corvette since 1972. There isn't a single unattractive line or out-of-place proportion anywhere. The return to exposed (but clear-lens-covered) headlights works in sync with the tapered bodywork that conveys shark-like ferocity without hyermacho posing. Dipped in colors such as the burnt sienna shade of my test car, the 'Vette is aggressive, but composed.
We can't do anything but rave about the latest Corvette. It is among the quickest and fastest production cars available today, yet it unlike a Ferrari 460, most of us can seriously think about buying one. It delivers one of the most satisfying driving experiences an enthusiast could want and will test your abilities as a driver long before you come close to testing its limits. It is a 400-hp supercar that can be driven comfortably anytime, anywhere - and given its straightforward, two-valve pushrod V-8, will probably never require more in the way of routine service and maintenance than you typical grocery-getter. It is the sign of all that can go right at GM, given the resources and the right ideas.
Long after GM's current troubles have played out, for better or worse, memories of this Corvette will linger.
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