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1997 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

2dr Cpe

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  • $37,495 original MSRP
Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe


1997 Chevrolet Corvette

Source: New Car Test Drive

A world-class all-American.

by Tony Swan

It's been 14 years since the last all-new Corvette came along, and with that much time you'd expect the new one to be an improvement on its predecessor. But even so, we think you'll be surprised at the magnitude of those improvements.

The previous Corvette was fast and agile. The new one is faster, and it has the reflexes and poise of a world-class athlete. And that's just the sportscar side of the equation. Chevy's work on the comfort side of the ledger is even more impressive. The new car is far easier to get in and out of, with more room inside. Improvements in structural integrity and assembly have eliminated the stress squeaks that have plagued Corvettes ever since 1953, and ride quality has improved by a factor of four. Driving a Corvette is no longer a mixture of pleasure and pain.

Although this new Vette arrives four years behind schedule, it's clear that the development team put the extra time to excellent use. For the first time, the Corvette can claim a place among the elite of the world's best sports cars.


Unlike previous Corvette redesigns, the styling of the fifth generation represents an evolutionary change rather than a distinct visual break from the previous model. It's not easy to see the changes at a glance, particularly if you're looking at the car from the front. The new hood has a slightly more contemporary shape, reminiscent of the Mazda RX-7, but the pop-up headlights lend a familiar look, as do the overall proportions, which are classic sportscar -- long hood, short rear deck, and a wide, action-ready stance.

Distinctions at the rear are more apparent. The rear fascia has been squared off, and the glass of the rear hatch is fully framed, making it much easier to close and much less prone to breakage. The going-away view is much more aggressive, giving the new Vette the look of a Le Mans racer.

Overall, this is a shape that evolved in the wind tunnel, a development program that included the underside of the car as well as the surface. The payoff is outstanding aerodynamic efficiency. The new Corvette rolls into showrooms with a coefficient of drag rating of 0.29, better than any other General Motors offering save for the ultra-slippery EV-1 electric. Aerodynamic efficiency pays dividends in high-speed stability, fuel economy and reduced wind noise, just one example of the painstaking attention to detail that went into this all-new car.

All-new is always a relative term in the car biz, of course, but it's truly appropros here. Beneath its plastic body panels, the Corvette has a new chassis with rigidity numbers that make its competent predecessor seem like a piece of spaghetti. Chassis rigidity is the starting point for good handling, ride quality and noise isolation, and the new Corvette is vastly improved on all three counts.

As before, the strength of the chassis lies in two massive siderails. However, thanks to a new production technique the rails are one-piece units, rather than a multi-piece fabrication, and are far stronger as a result. The front suspension is anchored to sturdy sub-framing, and the rear suspension has been redesigned so that the halfshafts, which transfer power from the differential to the rear wheels, no longer have to double as suspension components. All of this conspires to keep all four tires solidly in contact with mother earth, regardless of the road surface.

Wheelbase is another key ingredient in ride quality, and the new Corvette has more of it -- 8.3 inches more, to be precise. That's a big stretch, and the car's track has been widened proportionately. The body is also substantially wider -- almost three inches -- but overall length has stretched by just over an inch, which means there's less car extending beyond the axles, fore and aft, a plus in the weight distribution scheme.

A bigger plus in this regard is the transmission location, which has been moved to the rear of the car. It all adds up to a 51/49 front/rear weight split, a key factor in the new car's outstanding handling balance. And speaking of weight, the basic Corvette scales in 69 pounds lighter than its predecessor, a noteworthy achievement considering the increases in structural rigidity and overall dimension.

You expect power in a Corvette, and the new Vette's 5.7-liter V-8 has plenty -- 345 horsepower, enough to produce consistent 0-to-60 mph dashes in less than five seconds with the standard six-speed manual transmission (an electronically-controlled four-speed continues to be the automatic option).

The intriguing element here is the engine's design, which preserves Chevy's classic small-block overhead-valve concept, dating to 1955, even though virtually all its components are new and it's all aluminum. Why didn't Chevy go with a contemporary overhead cam, multi-valve design? Chevrolet cites tradition, but the key elements were probably the relatively low cost of production (fewer moving parts) and packageability (tidier dimensions overall).

In any case, there's plenty of thrust and fuel economy is surprisingly good for a car in this performance class.

The Inside Story

Sportscar drivers expect snug cockpits, but the previous Corvette seemed to confuse snug with cramped. Thanks to its stretched wheelbase and increased width, the new Vette corrects that problem. There's more room to squirm in the excellent multi-adjustable bucket seats, more room in the footwells and, at last, a driver-side footrest.

Another significant improvement, in our view, is the return to basic analog-style instruments in place of the previous liquid-crystal display -- easier to read at a glance, and better looking. The center stack controls -- climate and audio -- are nicely marked, with knobs and swtiches big enough for easy adjusting when the car is moving, and all control locations are logically arranged.

Climbing in and out of the previous Corvette, with its high door sills, was a chore. The new car corrects this problem by lowering the sill 3.7 inches and expanding the door openings. It's also easier to get at the luggage space, and there's more space to get at -- enough for the obligatory two golf bags -- thanks in part to the new run-flat tires, which eliminate the need for a spare.

Standard equipment is plentiful -- air conditioning, leather, a very good sound system, power seats, locks, mirrors and windows, plus a standard removable roof panel that no longer requires special tools.

Upgrade options include two more performance-oriented shock absorber packages with automatically adjustable damping, fancier sound systems and an automatic transmission, but the basic Corvette Coupe, our test subject here, is basic in name only.

Ride & Drive

You expect eyeball-flattening performance from a Corvette and that's what you get. It takes less than 12 seconds to reach 100 mph, and top speed is just north of 170 mph, almost as fast as the old ZR1.

The handling that goes with all this speed is pure joy -- decisive, balanced, cat-quick and laser-precise. The prime purpose of a sports car is to make the vehicle an unerring extension of the driver's will, and that's what the new Corvette delivers, with amazing brakes thrown in for good measure.

In short, wow.

As good as the dynamics are, though -- and they are very, very good indeed -- we think the new Corvette's strongest suits are comfort, all-around driveability and quality. We think that largely because these elements were marginal in previous Corvettes. Harsh ride quality has been replaced by an up-to-the-minute blend of firm control and supple response to small bumps and ripples in the pavement. Thanks to much higher construction quality, squeaks and rattles have been banished, and the sweeping improvements in the details make the new Corvette far more useful as an everyday car, as well as an adrenaline generator.

Final Word

With a base price of $38,000-plus, the Corvette is clearly not just a toy. On the other hand, Its performance capabilities are substantially higher than other cars in the same price range -- the BMW Z3 2.8, Porsche Boxster, Mercedes SLK and Toyota Supra Turbo, to name just a few. And they're on a par with sports cars costing far more, such as the Porsche 911.

Add comfort, plenty of standard features and vastly improved quality and you have a true world-class sports car, something we couldn't really say about previous Corvettes.

Well done, Chevrolet.

Order our 200+ page magazine of reviews. Send $8.00 (S&H included) to New Car Test Drive, 2145 Crooks Rd. Suite 200, Troy, MI 48084

© 1997 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
Traction/Stability Control Std
Tire Pressure Monitoring System Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std

Road Visibility

Daytime Running Lights Std
Fog Lamps Opt
Intermittent Wipers Std


Alarm Std
Anti-theft System Std
Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles No Deductible
Roadside Assistance Courtesy Care Roadside Assistance Program

Chevrolet Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

2-Year/24,000-Mile1 CPO Scheduled Maintenance Plan.

12-Month/12,000-Mile2 Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty.

5-year/100,000-Mile3 Powertrain Limited Warranty.

1Covers only scheduled oil changes with filter, tire rotations and 27 point inspections, according to your vehicle's recommended maintenance schedule for up to 2 years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. Does not include air filters. Maximum of 4 service events. See participating dealer for other restrictions and complete details.

2Whichever comes first from date of purchase. See participating dealer for limited warranty details.

3Whichever comes first from original in-service date. See participating dealers for limited warranty details.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 2009-2014 model year / Under 75,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 172-Point Vehicle Inspection and Reconditioning
Download checklist
Return/Exchange Program 3-Day 150-Mile Satisfaction Guarantee
Roadside Assistance Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $0

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

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