Some cars are delightfully impractical. While a few might think this Corvette falls into that category given its 6.2 liter V8 and petite, two-seat capacity, thinking such things might be missing the point – and completely misjudging the car itself.
When generously offered the chance to drive this Corvette, it would have been rude to refuse. In scouring my memory, I do not remember ever having ridden in any Corvette other than this example, let alone driving one. So in a sense, this was my first foray into Corvette-dom, this car being the benchmark I will likely forever use to judge all other Corvettes. Doing so will cause all its predecessors to inherently possess some manner of unrefined-ness in comparison, but as I don’t Corvette shop very often I’m willing to run that risk.
I was fortunate to get some good seat time in this ‘Vette, about 150 miles of hills, curves, a few towns, and some interstate. Venturing from my home base of Jefferson City to the town of Cuba, the departure route is the one seen here in blue. The return trip was via the eastern and more northern route shown, the one with a distance of 75.5 miles. This route, and the circumstance, gave me ample opportunity to explore the extremes of the Corvette’s behavior.
Participating in a car club cruise to visit a place along old Route 66 in Cuba, I was told upon departure our convoy would be traveling at 50 mph. In one of those many instances where plans don’t materialize, we generally ran a lethargic 35 to 45 mph, with a brief blast to 55 mph. We did get to see the world’s largest rocking chair that was perched near our destination.
The oldest car present was a 1948 Lincoln Continental I had followed for the duration of the trip to Cuba. It’s flathead V12 was capable (and profoundly silent when idling) so I’m still perplexed on the sauntering pace.
As an aside, the most incongruent moment of the trip was driving a newer ‘Vette, looking at the rear of this Lincoln, and hearing this Jefferson Airplane song coming over the radio.
Traveling at these gingerly speeds never allowed me to shift the Corvette’s seven-speed manual transmission beyond fifth gear – and even in fifth gear the engine was barely above idle speed. Despite all the slow running the Corvette was as calm and docile as a Camry or any other comparable mid-sized sedan. It never once balked about loafing for such prolonged periods and it gave me abundant opportunity to realize its throttle is not touchy; in fact, unlike some torquey engines I’ve experienced with manual transmissions, this Corvette requires a wee bit of throttle or it will stall. That only happened once, upon my first getting in it and backing from a parking space.
The constant rowing of gears also demonstrated how this clutch is likely the best I’ve ever experienced. Light without being numb, and heavy enough to know you were still using a clutch, there was easy, precise engagement and a delightfully short travel distance. This Corvette is equipped with a toggle switch just behind either side of the steering wheel that says “rev to match”. In my gleeful ignorance, I was privy to learn it will match engine speed to the next gear whether upshifting or downshifting.
In full throttle mode it really works great.
Upon departure from the rest of the group, I was given free reign upon hearing “Jason, drive it as hard and as fast as you want. I’m tired of going slow.” Ah, carte blanch hooning! Always happy to oblige, I eased onto old US 66 and stood on the happy pedal.
Acceleration in this car is the biggest opiate it contains – as well it should as comparable ‘Vettes have been clocked doing the 0 to 60 mph sprint in a mere 3.8 seconds. And it will reach that speed in first gear. It also seems that second gear is good for ninety (or so), but I was too busy concentrating on the rapidity of the world approaching me, primarily that annoying Tahoe in front of me. I can verify the 6.2 liter engine is as smooth at its 6,500 rpm redline as it is at idle.
While I stated this Corvette requires a little nudge on the throttle to start from a stop, don’t equate that to having no low end torque. It’s quite the opposite. While I did have a full throttle blast (or two), I drove the speed limit or under for the majority of this escapade as there were simply too many cars driving well below the speed limit on these two-lane roads. However…
For one section of Route 19 north of Cuba, I was the second person behind a very pokey Ford Ranger. I was going down a hill into a valley and facing a sizable grade when oncoming traffic abated. In fifth gear I punched it and was soon going 80 mph – uphill and from an initial engine speed that was little above an idle. While I dearly love the newer turbocharged engines, this scenario explains why I prefer old fashioned displacement. There is no waiting for a turbo to spool up or need to downshift to get the engine in its power band. The 6.2 comes across like a bottomless well of power, limited only by the 6,500 rpm redline.
Another (mis)perception that I have often had about Corvettes is the ride quality, or lack thereof. While most of the roads we drove were in quite good condition, we did venture off state maintained highways, with a two mile voyage down a gravel road.
Even with the washboard texture found in places along this aggregate avenue, the ‘Vette maintained its genteel composure. In other words, it didn’t make my belly fat jiggle like a bowl of jello sitting on top of a washing machine during the agitate cycle. This same road would have provided abundant cellulite shaking sensations in many other vehicles and I was sitting close enough to the road surface to gauge it well.
In fact, the ride quality more than once put me in mind of the Cadillac XTS also owned by the owner of this Corvette. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t the same but this Corvette is consistently smooth on all road surfaces, a feat that is hard to accomplish. Even better, slowing down for curves when driving this ‘Vette is wasted effort; even on sharp ones you never feel it as the car remains as flat as a table top.
Making me better appreciate the build quality of this Corvette is the fact it is a convertible. Frankly, other than the wind hitting the top of my scalp, it was easy to forget this was a convertible given its absence of rattles, body flex, wind noise, and by its useful heater (it was 43 degrees Fahrenheit / 6.1 C when we left that morning). It being a convertible is also a huge benefit upon entry and exit; it seems I am no longer twenty-odd years old and my flexibility isn’t what it used to be. Not having a roof in the way was a real bonus for getting in and out.
But once in, it’s a great place to be. The shifter is placed in just the right spot with nice, short throws. If having to look for a demerit, the only one would be the shifter as what often seemed to be an upshift from fifth to sixth occasionally resulted in a downshift to fourth. Going into sixth required a mild intentional movement to the right to ensure success. However, as 60 mph in sixth gear results in a fast idle engine speed of 1,300 rpm, I didn’t use sixth very much due to the speed limits and gearing of the car, so this is almost a non-issue.
Built in the base 1LT trim, this “stripper” Corvette covers all the bases and is profoundly comfortable for long drives. The only gripe the owner has is the size of the interior. It seems he likes to stop for an occasional nap when traveling and the interior layout is not at all conducive for doing this.
In all my reviews of late model cars, I have unintentionally developed the habit of commenting on the console. In reviewing what I’ve said previously, it often appears like I’ve been out to skewer, excoriate, or otherwise sully the car due to the asinine size of its console. In reality, that has never been the intent; the console affects my person more than does say, the axle or compression ratio, and these ridiculously bloated consoles have often cast a big, dark shadow of unfortunate over an otherwise terrific car.
Well, I can’t say anything negative here. Sure, the console is close but you know what? It never once assaulted, molested, or annoyed my leg in any way, shape, or form. The only other car I can remember where I didn’t indict the console for grossly imprudent behavior is a 2011 Chevrolet Impala.
So based upon these two data points, I will offer this: Toyota, Nissan, Ford, and a few others I’ve reviewed need to take lessons from GM on how to build a console in a car. It obviously isn’t some herculean feat of engineering and GM has done it right. There is a certain irony in the smallest interior car I’ve reviewed having the best console of them all – plus, it’s been the only one in which there is a driveshaft to work around. Sure, GM has a few issues (and let’s be honest – who doesn’t?) but they’ve figured this one out. A round of applause for GM is in order.
Every few days I happen to drive by a billboard showing what the latest lottery jackpots are. While I don’t play the lottery, seeing this usually prompts the fifteen second daydream of what my self-congratualtory ride would be should I ever win the MegaLottoPowerBallCashIsKing jackpot.
My thoughts have vacillated a lot, as I can mentally cover a lot of ground in a quarter-minute. Thoughts have ranged from an Audi R8, a Mazda MX-5, and even the most alluring new (and highly versatile) F-250 King Ranch I can find – you name it.
After having experienced this Corvette – a car that is as docile as a drugged goldfish at low speeds, can pounce like a leopard when provoked, possesses a surprisingly roomy trunk, is nearly as smooth on gravel as on pavement (a feat I have seen repeated, but only by the biggies from the 1970s), and has an EPA rating of 28 mpg highway (21 combined city/highway) – which is one mpg better on the highway than the four-cylinder MX-5 and vastly better than the R8. In fact, the ‘Vette is only 2 mpg worse on the highway than a new Toyota Avalon. I think I have a strong candidate.
And, unlike that Audi, when something goes wrong, there will always be a Chevrolet dealer a short distance away regardless of where I am in North America. Plus the ‘Vette costs a lot less. Overall, this Corvette is much more practical than what first meets the eye – a high performance car that isn’t finicky, gets terrific fuel mileage is driven judiciously, and has adequate storage room.
While I never thought I would type such a sentence, I will confess I am now a fan of the C7 Corvette. Its predecessors? I have no experience there.
A hearty thanks to T.S. for giving me this opportunity.