9 January 2004

The ultimate American motoring icon is back. The Chevrolet Corvette C6, seen here in the first official pictures six weeks after Autocar first scooped an undisguised car, is a huge nod to the Vettes of the past, combining aggressive new styling and a powerful 400bhp 6.0-litre V8.

The sixth-generation Corvette is 130mm shorter than the outgoing car at 4435mm long, although the wheelbase is stretched by almost 30mm. GM bosses claim the new car is much more agile, helped by a 51:49 weight distribution.

The company has spent more than 400 hours in the wind tunnel honing the aerodynamics and claims a 0.28 drag co-efficient – an impressive figure. The Vette sits on 18-inch front wheels and 19-inch rear wheels.

The front headlights mark a departure from the traditional pop-up style for the first time since 1962. The pointed nose, headlamps, flared wings and bonnet ridge have a strong hint of the Dodge Viper about them. Keyless entry leaves an uncluttered door profile, while a shorter rear overhang houses quad pipes and the iconic round tail-lamps.

The removable roof panel has grown by 15 per cent and can be stowed in the boot. A convertible will be unveiled this spring.

Powering the new model is the fourth incarnation of the small-block V8 – the most powerful engine in the Corvette’s history – producing 400bhp at 6000rpm and 400lb ft of torque at 4400rpm. A six-speed manual ’box is standard, but a four-speed Hydra-Matic auto will be on the options list. Chevrolet has already confirmed a high-performance Z51 pack, which offers a ‘more aggressive’ set of gear ratios and track-orientated suspension. Adaptable dampers offering sport and comfort settings will also be an optional extra.

The company claims its stability control is less intrusive than rival systems. ‘Our intent was to encourage Corvette drivers to keep the system on,’ said chief engineer Dave Hill. ‘We wanted our Active Handling System to work with drivers in their spirited driving, rather than work against them.’

The new Corvette goes on sale in America this autumn, with UK sales following in 2005, although a right-hand-drive model has yet to be confirmed.

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