As a lifelong Europhile, the cars I look at always come with inevitable and costly problems. And the standard wisdom says Corvettes balance fun with reliability at some expense of build quality. As in the previous articles, I have set out to determine whether or not I like Corvettes enough to buy and drive one on the daily. So, this is day three / car three of this all-important quest.
Today, Facebook Marketplace leads me to another NoHo used car lot full of tired fun rides and there’s a C6 waiting for me. Unlike the first two Vettes I drove, today’s C6 shows no hint of class. With its faded orange paint, bubbling window tint, and worn black interior, it reminds me of a washed-up party girl – let’s call her Lindsay. However, unlike the previous C5s, the C6 Corvettes came with a 6-speed automatic transmission complete with paddle shifters and a 6.0-liter 400 horsepower V8. So, there’s still the promise of American thrills. The portly salesman who greets me says that because of COVID I will be on my own for this drive.
First impressions: the C6 is theme-park-ride exhilarating! Someone made the hilariously bad decision to remove the mufflers, and now the effortless Corvette speed broadcasts with an unhinged V8 roar that has me giggling at every stoplight. However, after 10 minutes of this aural assault, my ears are starting to ring- though I’m sure the engine sounds phenomenal and/or obnoxious to pedestrians.
Happily, there are no issues from the fun pedal. The torque feels smooth and immediate and an extra 50 horsepower over the C5’s 350 doesn’t hurt. But, the real surprise of the drive is the 6-speed automatic. Despite being roundly dismissed in its day, I found that the transmission is far better than the previous 4-speed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the paddle shifters! Unlike current designs, both paddles shift up and down which can create confusion in the heat of the moment. Better to have a dedicated paddle to upshift and another to downshift, don’t you think?
Fortunately, the rest of the driving dynamics shine. The steering in addition to being heavier features improved road feel that registers through the handsome three-spoke helm. There’s a certain magic that happens when torque and grip come together to pin you to your seat around an onramp. And, thankfully, when you’re about to run out of road, the brakes provide excellent stopping power along with reassuring pedal feel.
As an everyday car, the C6 is a vast improvement over the C5. This particular C6’s foibles aside, it’s becoming clear that the C6 is a major upgrade over the C5. Really, it would be much easier to live with a C6 every day. The interior is still plasticky crap, but it actually works. More importantly, the seating position is far more comfortable for tall drivers like me (I’m 6’6”).
Now I’m left with more questions than answers. What’s better? A manual C5 or an automatic C6? Would it be better to pay cash for a cheap C5 or to finance a C6? Are the C5’s Radwood-cool pop-up headlights worth the terrible interior and slushbox? Can’t be sure. As it is, when I return the C6 to the dealer, I find that the interior door button release doesn’t work. No worries, says the salesman, greeting me as I reach out the window to grab the exterior handle, he’ll have his guy fix it. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Corvette number four.
I’m kind of liking the orange paint. My paddle-shifter experience is limited, but the two identical-function paddles seem odd. But it’s probably something one would get used to quickly.
Soooo – is that gold C3 on the test drive list?
Orange you glad you test drove it? It sounds like the C6 is a real improvement. Honestly for me after the C5 I quit noticing new Corvettes in general. The interior of the C5 and later Vettes looks too overstuffed, the seats the dash, the steering wheel. The C4 was pretty terrible for different reasons. I used to ride modified exhaust Harleys, though by the end of my time with them my exhaust choices were more society friendly. I just don’t like overly loud machines, at least not anymore. I find it kind of interesting that you give each of the car’s a feminine personality, I always thought of the Vette as a masculine machine, even if it might be a paunchy middle aged man!
I don’t like paddle shifters but I would take a C6 over a C5 independent of transmission, they’re just better all round cars to drive and live with I think they’re actually aging pretty well.
As plastic as the interiors remained at least the design itself isn’t as fisher price as the materials are. Generic, but a step up in generic, like worthy of an Impala instead of Cavalier like the C5
I know I’m an old stick in the mud for saying this but I firmly believe that Corvettes ought to have manual transmissions. Like the Miata I can’t imagine owning a Corvette with an automatic transmission.
And welcome to why, despite seven years of looking, I still don’t have my Corvette. Given my budgetary considerations (which means C4 or C5 at the moment), I’ve been unable to find one Corvette in my price range, that’s not mechanically questionable, with a manual transmission. Everything I’ve followed up on was an automatic.
And I absolutely will not consider a Corvette with an automatic. Well, OK, an early C1 or a C8. But both are way outside my price range.
I’ve come to the conclusion that real Corvette lovers drive manuals and keep their cars for life. Meanwhile, people who want a short term toy happily churn the automatics.
I just sold my 99 coupe with manual transmission and purchased a 13 grand sport convertible with manual transmission. I love my c6 way better. As far as an automatic transmission, they made those for people who don’t know how to shift etc. You might as as well by a caddy and enjoy complete comfort. Half the fun of driving a sports car is shifting. Next you will be a c7, hopefully a 2019 with manual transmission. Unfortunately there aren’t many out there. The end of an American legend. Chevrolet really up dropping the manual stick. I guess they decided to cater to the yuppies. I hope Harley never goes with an automatic transmission. Thanks, 2 toy boy(62 years old)
I can’t tell which orange this is but the Daytona sunset orange is a beautiful color in person. Really shows the lines of the car. I had one and loved it. Manual though. I currently have the C7 and I love it even more.
I like the C6 much better than the C5 but for one detail – the headlights. Not the fact that they were no longer hidden (I thought that was heresy at the time but I got over it – after all , corvettes didn’t get hidden headlights until 1963), but the tiny ugly projector headlights themselves. They make the thing look like a spider.
I assume after market options are available. If I bought one of these that would be job one.
Thanks for the height info! I’ve always had issues w/ fitting in certain cars @ 6’4″, so it’s good to know that Corvettes have improved on this front. 🙂