The 2005-2011 C6 Corvette (so named because it's the sixth redesign since the car's launch in 1953) is a true world-class performance car. Although easily recognizable as a Corvette, the C6 jettisons the long-running pop-up headlights in favor of more aerodynamic integrated units, and its overall dimensions are more compact with shorter front and rear overhangs. In fact, though the C6 Corvette's wheelbase is more than an inch longer than the previous C5 model, the car is actually five inches shorter, making it easier to maneuver in tight spots.

As with all Corvettes since the beginning, the 2005-2012 models are clad in fiberglass body panels, which greatly reduce weight but can be easily damaged in a minor accident. Available as either a coupe or convertible, Chevrolet offers the Corvette in three distinct flavors (base, Z06 and ZR1) ranging from affordable sports car to supercar.

Why You Want It

If you're looking at the Corvette, you're looking for something fast, flashy and fun. While you could choose a Porsche 911 or Nissan Z, neither offers the sheer punch of a big, pushrod V8 engine nor the hyper-masculine growl that accompanies it. And for the money, you just can't beat the Corvette's muscle, which ranges from 400 horsepower in the base car to nearly 640 hp in the supercharged ZR1.

Of course, considering that the Corvette is longest-running two-seat sports car built by a US company, there's the all-American angle for owning one. But, surprisingly, the best reason to buy a Corvette is actually more about its practical side. Mash the throttle to the floor and you'll get blistering fast zero-to-60 runs. But set the cruise control at 75, and you'll be driving a sports car that achieves 25 mpg on the highway.

Unlike most of its competitors, razor-sharp handling goes hand in hand with a comfortable ride and plush interior filled with creature comforts more common to a Cadillac than a Chevrolet.

Lastly, there's the Corvette's price-to-horsepower ratio, which is ridiculously low considering the car's performance potential.

Notable Features & Options

The base cars come with a 400-hp, 6.0-liter engine (2008 and later models get a 430-hp, 6.2-liter) and six-speed manual transmission. Run-flat tires are standard, as are a limited-slip rear differential and electronic traction and stability control. Coupes have a removable roof panel while the convertibles feature an available power-operated soft top.

Other standard features of note include leather seats, HID headlamps, fog lights, staggered-sized alloy wheels (18 inches up front and 19 inches in the rear) and an AM/FM/CD stereo. The Z06 trim adds a 505-hp 7.0-liter engine, larger brakes with cross-drilled rotors, wider wheels and tires, a revised suspension and sport seats. The ZR1 brings a 638-hp supercharged 6.2-liter engine, bigger wheels and tires and a $100,000 price tag.

Available features for the Corvette include the Z51 package, which brings a stiffer suspension and special performance enhancing gearing on the six-speed automatic transmission (2006 and later). Magnetic Selective Ride Control that adjusts the shock dampening rates is the only other suspension option.

Other noteworthy options include side-impact airbags (coupes), heads-up display with track mode and g-force meter, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar upgraded packages, Bose audio, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, dual removable roof panels and perforated leather seats.

Model Milestones

2006: A new paddle-shift six-speed automatic transmission with Drive and Sport mode settings replaced the previous four-speed unit. The Z06 was introduced, touting a 7.0-liter (427 cubic inches for you Corvette junkies) engine, producing 505 hp and 470 ft-lbs of torque.

2007: An enhanced Bose sound system was added along with steering wheel audio controls. Cross-drilled brake rotors were added to the Magnetic Selective Ride Control package and a new sound insulation package is offered for the base and Z06 models. A power soft top is added as an option.

2008: A new 6.2-liter V8 replaced the base car's 6.0-liter engine. New equipment included keyless entry with push button start, standard satellite radio and new wheel designs. The six-speed manual was revised for smoother operation, while the steering feel was firmed up.

2009: A new, lower-priced convertible model was introduced, while the base and Z06 coupe received a power hatch pull-down. Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity was made available. A new variable-ratio power steering setup was standard on all models, while a 10.5-quart dry sump lubrication system was added to the Z06. The high-performance ZR1 was also introduced.

2010: A Grand Sport trim featuring flared fenders, functional brake ducts and Z06 styling cues debuted. The Grand Sport also received wider wheels and tires as well as specific gear ratios for the transmission and rear end. Side airbags were made standard on all Corvettes and manual transmission cars included launch control.

2011: The Grand Sport could now be equipped with the Magnetic Ride Control package and, when equipped with a manual transmission, Goodyear F1 Supercar Gen II tires. The Z06 gained a new exhaust and F1 tires, while new options included the Z07 and Carbon Fiber packages.

Engines & Performance

From the standpoint of pure acceleration, all three Corvettes are more than up to the job; it's just a matter of degree. What makes the 2005-2011 Corvette so much better than the last three generations is the new attention to handling, primarily accomplished by adding such high-tech features as stability control and the available Magnetic Ride Control suspension.

The manual gearbox still feels heavy and a bit crude, but once you adjust to the heavy clutch pedal, it can be quite engaging. For a car that can pull some impressive Gs, the Corvette's ride is impressively comfortable. It's not Lincoln-Town-Car-soft, mind you, but the ride is not punishingly harsh either.

Straight-line acceleration will have you laughing (or screaming) all the way up to the legal limit (and possibly beyond). But come to a curve and the Corvette will surprise you with its level cornering, well-controlled rear end and well-mannered steering that provide a welcome lack of understeer.

Recalls, Safety Ratings & Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the 2005-2011 Chevrolet Corvette:

2005: A recall was issued for a possible situation where the brake line could contact the engine manifold causing the brake fluid to boil and the brakes to fail.

2005-2006: Certain model cars may have the incorrect power steering hose that could fail under high pressure leading to a loss of power steering control. A recall was also issued for some cars with a tilt wheel where repeated movement may cause a signal interruption within the steering column leading to a situation where the left or right front brake might be actuated via the car's Active Handling System.

2005-2007: Coupe models were recalled for a possible defect that could cause the removable roof panel to separate from its frame due to weak adhesive.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, he'll fix the car at no charge to you.

As for safety, it's a bit of a mystery as neither NHTSA nor the Insurance Institute for Highway (IIHS) have tested the 2005-2011 Chevrolet Corvette.

The 2005-2011 Chevrolet Corvette comes with a 3-year/36,000 mile basic warranty and a 5-year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty. Chevrolet also offers a Certified Pre-Owned warranty that includes a detailed inspection of the car and additional coverage beyond the factory warranty.

Word on the Web

A look at some consumer sites such as ConsumerReports.com show the 2005-2011 Corvette earns average marks for repairs and reliability, but scores high in later years in more specific areas such as engine, transmission, power equipment and paint.

JDpower.com gives the Corvette excellent marks for initial quality, design and performance. For consumers on fan sites like Corvetteforum.com and Z06-vette.com, it's hard to find anyone who complains much about their car - except for those who wish for even more power.

We didn't find any universal fails, although rear-end chatter and finicky manual transmission problems seem to come up regularly. Also mentioned frequently are brake squeal, interior rattles and squeaks and the cost of replacing tires that quickly wear out (we think this last one is more a driver issue than the car itself).

Competitive Set

The Porsche 911 can certainly handle as well as the Corvette, and it's quick enough in Turbo and S form. But its price far exceeds that of the base and even the Z06 model Corvettes, and its reliability and repair history is not as favorable as the Z06.

The Dodge Viper has two seats and a V10 engine, but it's nowhere near as refined as the Corvette, or as comfortable on long drives. If you're not adamant about having just two seats, you could shop the Ford Shelby GT500, although you won't get the same kind of handling or high-tech suspension as found in the Corvette.

Other choices include some high-end models from Ferrari, BMW or Aston Martin, but you'll pay almost double what the Corvette costs and you won't get the home-grown Red, White and Blue feel the Corvette naturally exudes.

AutoTrader Recommendation

We think most drivers will find the base Corvette to be more than satisfactory, although we'd hold out for the 2008 or newer version with the more powerful 6.2-liter V8. The Coupe works best as a daily driver and its removable roof panel makes it almost convertible like when you feel the need for a bit more fresh air.

Those who are more performance oriented will be happiest with the Z06 model equipped with the Z51 package. This is a purist's car, with a conventional suspension setup tuned for track-style driving.

author photo

Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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