Pros: Superb off-the-line acceleration; blurring top speed; racing-caliber handling; potent stopping power; iconic status.

Cons: Unrefined interior relative to its competitors.

What's New: 427 Convertible Collector Edition; 60th Anniversary Design Package; available black-painted wheels and ZR1-style spoiler.

The 2013 Chevrolet Corvette remains at the pinnacle of American high-performance driving. This legendary muscle machine is perhaps the only homegrown offering to compete with Europe's finest sports cars and exotics at a fraction of the price. To mention the Corvette in the same breath as a Porsche, Ferrari or Jaguar is completely justified.

In its last model year before a complete redesign, the 2013 Corvette is unmistakable to the eye and the ear. Its famous profile and inspiring exhaust note are the stuff automotive dreams are made of. That's why Corvette has one of the largest enthusiast followings in the United States.

Available in coupe and convertible body styles, the Corvette range is composed of five models. Returning for 2013 are the base, Grand Sport, Z06 and the venerable ZR1 versions. New for the latest model year is the 427 Convertible Collector Edition, which boasts a 7.0-liter Z06-based LS7 engine and shares suspension components with the ZR1 and Z06.

Celebrating 60 years of Corvette, all 2013 models include 60th Anniversary exterior badges and similar logos on the gauge cluster and sill plates. The special 60th Anniversary Design Package, available on all 2013 models, takes it a step further. It includes Arctic White paint; Blue Diamond leather interior with suede accents; a blue top for convertible models; a ZR1-style spoiler; gray-painted brake calipers; and 60th Anniversary logos on the wheel centers, steering wheel, and head restraints.

Although the Corvette's primary intention is to conquer the open highway, it's also built to handle spirited drives on twisting mountain roads. In the case of the Z06 and ZR1, in particular, the Corvette is a commendable track-day performer.

Comfort & Utility

Relative to its exterior appearance and performance credentials, the Corvette's cabin is unrefined, even pedestrian. And that's the case even more when you compare it to the interiors of other world-class, high-performance machines.

That said, the 2-seat cockpit does have its virtues. The large-gauge instrument panel exudes plenty of sporting character, and controls are both functional and ergonomic. The Vette's sport seats are more bolstered than before, keeping occupants in place during speedy maneuvers. These seats are also amply comfortable for longer-distance highway cruising.

Some options, like the Leather-Wrapped Interior Package, elevate the Corvette's interior ambience with hint of upscale appeal. The 60th Anniversary Design Package has a similar effect but is available only with the white-over-blue exterior/interior color combination. Another plus is the Corvette's surprisingly expansive cargo space. With 22 cu-ft for the coupe and half that for the convertible, this is one of the few cars in its segment that can accommodate a couple of overnight bags with room to spare.

In terms of key standard convenience features, the Corvette offers dual-zone climate control, keyless push-button ignition, leather upholstery, a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat and, for the coupe, a removable roof panel. The convertible gets a fully automatic retractable soft top. Options include a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel and a head-up display to help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road--especially useful when driving fast.

Technology

The Corvette's tech offerings are limited but include Bluetooth, a premium stereo system with USB connectivity and DVD-based navigation.

Performance & Fuel Economy

With five models to choose from, engine and performance hardware vary from one to the next. All Corvettes are rear-wheel drive.

The base Corvette and Grand Sport models are powered by a 6.2-liter V8 producing 430 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque. An optional dual exhaust system takes output to 436 and 428, respectively. Energy is managed by either a standard 6-speed manual gearbox or an optional 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/26 mpg highway with the manual and 15/25 mpg with the automatic.

The Corvette Z06 and 427 Convertible Collector Edition are armed with a massive 7.0-liter V8, making a copious 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. In both models this engine is mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual and yields fuel economy rated at 15/24 mpg.

The heart of the ultra-high-performance ZR1 is a 6.2-liter supercharged V8, also offered solely with a 6-speed manual gearbox. This combination yields 638 hp and an obscene 604 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to melt down any set of tires in a single acceleration event, and to achieve a world-class top speed of 205 mph. A showy see-through panel in the hood allows gawkers to peek down at the supercharger. The ZR1's fuel economy is unlikely to be a concern for potential buyers, but, for the record, it's rated at 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway.

To clamp down on momentum, the Z06 uses large, cross-drilled brakes at all four corners. The ZR1 has high-performance ceramic discs.

Safety

Occupant protection comes from four airbags, front and side. Head curtain airbags are not offered.

To maintain surefootedness, the Corvette is equipped with ABS, traction control and stability control. The Z06 and ZR1 enhance their road grip even further with the Performance Traction Management system.

Driving Impressions

The Corvette's straight-line performance is its single greatest attribute. Combining tremendous throttle response, top-end power, a short-throw shifter and an aerodynamic shape, this car was built to reach blurring speeds quickly and gobble up long stretches of road.

Factoring in its ability to take corners with incredible precision and grip, the Vette proves to be a genuine American track star that can run on a raceway alongside the most revered Italian and German performance cars. Responsive, on-center steering also adds to the Corvette's athleticism, whether on a track or on a series of tight canyon switchbacks.

Other higher-end performance and aero upgrades include staggered tire sizes (both diameter and width vary front to rear), a front splitter and a rear spoiler. A ZR1-style rear spoiler is now available on the base Corvette and the Grand Sport.

In terms of ride, the Corvette benefits from three compliant suspension packages, including Magnetic Ride Control. Despite its hard-core track acumen, all Corvette models, including the ZR1, are surprisingly comfortable in everyday driving. Selectable modes for Sport and Touring allow the driver to switch modes based on the venue.

The convertible Vette is just as capable as its coupe counterpart. The major difference, aside from its wind-in-your-hair capability, is that it lets in more road noise with the top up.

Other Cars to Consider

Porsche 911 Carrera - It doesn't have the same sledgehammer-like acceleration as the Corvette, but it's more nimble in corners and offers available all-wheel drive. The all-new Porsche's interior is much more refined. But the Carrera's price is considerably higher than either the base Corvette or the Grand Sport.

Nissan GT-R - Many consider the GT-R a better performance value than the Z06 and ZR1. Also, the GT-R's interior is more sophisticated.

BMW M3 - The Corvette beats the M3 in most performance exercises, except for handling. Like the Porsche and the Nissan, the M3's interior beats the Vette's.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 - The Mustang is powerful and gratifying, but not in the way the Corvette is. And the Corvette is a far better-handling machine. Price-wise, the GT500 and the Corvette are similar.

AutoTrader Recommends

Of the five 2013 Chevrolet Corvette models, the Grand Sport makes the most sense to us. It offers significant performance upgrades over the base model, including a stiffer suspension, specially tuned dampers and more powerful brakes, making it a truly track-capable car. At the same time, it's a serious performance value, far less expensive than the Z06 or the ZR1. In addition, the Grand Sport touts a unique sporting character with distinctive exterior styling cues. We recommend adding the 60th Anniversary Design Package for a more distinctive look.



author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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