The 2008 Chevrolet Corvette's larger base 430-horsepower V8 isn't what the car realistically needs because the 2007 model had more than enough sizzle with 400 horsepower than typical Corvette buyers needed.
The Vette's new V8 has been enlarged from 6 liters to 6.2 liters and also produces more torque than the car's 2007 V8. It can be ordered with a $1,195 "dual-mode" exhaust system that lets horsepower climb to 436. The added power is from an exhaust that bypasses the quieter of two passage through the mufflers.
Unlike the overhead-camshaft engines in most rivals, the Corvette V8 has a pushrod design, although it's an advanced one and is less complicated than an overhead-cam engine.
For those who must have ultimate Corvette power, there's the 505-horsepower Corvette Z06 hatchback with its 7-liter pushrod V8-although it costs $70,175 and doesn't come as a convertible
The Z06 is less comfortable than a regular 'Vette, feeling much like a race-ready street car with a higher-performance suspension that provides a stiffer ride, uprated brakes and unusually large, wide tires for a street machine.
Two Regular Trim Levels
The regular Corvette hatchback lists at $45,170, and the convertible is $53,510. You can add expensive options to any Corvette trim level, which is something Chevy dealers like to do.
The Z06 originally started out as a lower-cost Corvette that would be within reach of working class folks, which was the case with 1960s and 1970s 'Vettes. But Chevy was selling so many high-profit regular Corvettes when considering a low-cost, entry level version several years ago, it figured it would shoot the works and opt for an even more expensive, higher-horsepower version. Hence, the first Z06.
No lower-cost, entry level 'Vette looks like it's on the horizon. Instead, a more powerful Corvette than the Z06 is reportedly in the works to battle lower-production rivals such as the $83,895 Dodge Viper, which has an 8.4-liter V10 engine with 600-horsepower.
Corvette rivals keep adding power, so Chevy must figure it has to do the same.
The Corvette got a major redesign for 2005, so the only exterior difference between the 2007 and new Corvettes are new wheels. But there are major mechanical differences, which help make the car feel more refined.
Improved Steering And Shifting
For instance, the 2008 Corvette no longer has rather dead-feeling power steering-long a weak point. It now provides more feel. And the base 6-speed manual transmission shifts more directly, with shorter throws and lower effort. Also, the lighter clutch doesn't require as much effort.
The interior has been upgraded and can be given a real uptown look with the (gulp!) $8,005 (hatchback) and $8,600 (convertible) 4LT Preferred Equipment Group. This upscale interior-also offered for the Z06 in the $6,545 3LZ Preferred Equipment Group- has finely stitched 2-tone leather on the dashboard, door panels and seats, along with unique interior trim.
Options Escalate Price
My test 2008 base Corvette coupe had a bottom-line price of $54,610 with options but without an $825 freight charge -or $9,440 more than the list price. And no wonder, because extras included a $4,505 Preferred Equipment Group with items including an upscale sound system, power telescoping wheel, heated seats and side impact air bags.
You might figure that a power tilt/telescopic wheel would be standard in a $45,000-plus car. And side air bags (standard on the convertible) shouldn't be in a costly option package. (You can get them for the coupe in a $1,496 option package that also has perforated leather upholstery and a 6-way power passenger seat.)
My test car also had a $1,695 "Z51" Performance Package, with larger cross-drilled brake rotors and a performance-tuned (spell "firmer") suspension, which didn't affect the comfortable ride much.
Then there were the $1,295 polished aluminum wheels, $750 removable transparent roof panel and that power-enhancing dual-mode exhaust. How many Corvette owners really need the special exhaust for that 6 extra horsepower?
Extras Not Really Needed
While some of those extras are desirable to some folks, they're not really necessary unless you've got extra money to throw around because even the base Corvette hatchback coupe and convertible are well-equipped with comfort, convenience and safety items. They include leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate controls, anti-lock brakes and traction control.
The base V-8 works with a 6-speed automatic transmission or my test car's manual gearbox. Shifting gears usually makes driving a sports car more fun. But, with the Corvette's prodigious power and torque, the quicker-shifting automatic is the way to go for most 'Vette buyers. In fact, the majority have ordered the automatic for years.
The standard suspension is fine for fast, safe driving. So are the regular brakes.
The new Corvette provides decent highway fuel economy for such a high-performance car despite its added power-and lower EPA fuel economy ratings for 2008 cars. It's an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 26 on highways with the manual transmission and 15 and 25 with the automatic. The Z06 comes only with a 6-speed manual and delivers 15 mpg in the city and 24 on highways.
Difficult In And Out
It's not easy to enter or leave any version of this low-slung 2-seater without some contortions, and long, heavy doors aren't suited to tight parking spots.
Gauges can be read quickly, and the nicely placed controls are easy to use. But the seats can be improved, and small interior push-button door openers are more gimmicky than practical.
High Trunk Liftover
Trunk room is pretty good, but getting objects in or out of the high cargo opening can be a strain.
It's too bad we never saw the proposed lower-cost entry Corvette, but the 2008 model is even more of an outstanding performance bargain.