What is it?
Four years ago, when the value of sterling was something to savour, imported sports cars like the Corvette made sense. In 2008, just before the financial crisis, you could buy a C6 for less than £50,000. And getting more than 400 ‘small block Chevy’ horses, with 5.0sec 0-60mph potential, for that kind of outlay made it possible to overlook handling and ride responses that you might charitably describe as “characterful”.
Today, however, a Corvette C6 coupé will cost you £63,000 and a convertible more than £70k. At that kind of cash, the Corvette’s value proposition is considerably weaker. Because that kind of cash ought to buy a sports car with a totally uncompromised driving experience – which it does in the case of the Jaguar XK and Porsche 911.
Enter the Corvette Grand Sport, a car that adds extra visual purpose, and some of the chassis tweaks from the more dynamically impressive Z06, into the regular C6’s mix, for a fairly modest premium.
What’s it like?
The Corvette Grand Sport’s flared wheel arches cover wider-than-standard suspension tracks (30mm more up front and 38mm at the rear). Like the standard C6, the suspension consists of double wishbones front and rear, with composite transverse springs rather than conventional coils. But there’s a lower ride height here, as well as larger, wider wheels, stiffer spring rates, stiffer anti-roll bars and uprated magnetorheological adaptive dampers. The enlarged air ducts on the car’s bodysides are functional, says Chevrolet, cooling larger discs front and rear.
There are very few cars that seem anything like a Corvette on the road. Sitting so far back within the wheelbase, with a pulsating V8 way out in front of you, creates an endearing, almost unique impression when you’re just punting around in everyday traffic. It’s a bit like driving to work in a cut-price Mercedes SLS.
But the Grand Sport’s driving position and interior fittings don’t do justice to that comparison. You sit too high in the cabin, and in front of you are bargain-basement, monotone plastics, a laughably outmoded sat-nav sytem and a trip computer that seems equally antique.
Despite the revised suspension, the Corvette’s engine provides its most vivid thrills. Torquey and responsive from low revs, it bares its teeth and beats its chest in dramatic style beyond 3500rpm, making the Corvette feel even quicker than it really is. The convertible contributes to the fun factor here, allowing your ears direct access to the V8 bellow bouncing off the hedgerows.
But in outright terms, this isn’t among the fastest £70k sports cars on the road; neither is it even close to being the most composed or controlled. Slow-steering, imprecise and inert around the straight-ahead, the Corvette isn’t a confidence-inspiring car. The suspension controls the car’s mass reasonably when you hit Sport mode on those selective dampers. Grip levels are adequate and chassis balance respectable.
But the Grand Sport’s secondary ride deteriorates from bad to worse in Sport mode. The noisy, wooden-feeling chassis sends tremors through the steel backbone chassis and into the cabin all too often. On a choppy road, your faith in this car is totally undermined and any sporting enjoyment that might have been taken is greatly reduced.
Should I buy one?
After the impressive ZR1, there may have been high hopes for this car. However, the Corvette Grand Sport just provides the critics with even more evidence for the fundamental dynamic inferiority of America’s enigmatic but flawed sporting icon.
Corvette Grand Sport Convertible
Price: £75,678; Top speed: 186mph; 0-62mph: 4.7sec; Economy: 22.4mpg (combined); CO2: 293g/km; Kerb weight: 1519kg; Engine: V8, 6162cc, petrol; Power: 431bhp at 5900rpm; Torque: 428lb ft at 4600rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd automatic