There was a look of disappointment in the eyes of the radar cop as we drove by, a wee bit below the speed limit. Seeing us coming, with the ticket-me-red paint job and the white racing stripes on the front fender he was certain we were going to help him meet the day’s quota.
To be honest, it isn’t easy to hold the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport under the speed limit. Heck, it’d be hard to slow down if we were living along the German Autobahn.
Think of the GS as a sort of hybrid. It starts out with the same steel chassis as the “base” Corvette, but the crossed-flag emblem is your first hint that there are some other significant changes in store. Indeed, if you pulled out your tape measure you’d notice the dimensions are decidedly different. The Grand Sport shares most of those with the high-performance Z06 model, including the gill slits and taller rear spoiler. (See First Look: 2010 Corvette Grand Sport)
There are plenty of poseurs on the market, models that attach the word, “sport” to their name but offer little more than cosmetic enhancements. Not so the Corvette Grand Sport. And the changes do more than just enhance aerodynamics.
There are the oversized wheels, shared with the Z06, as well as the more expensive model’s cross-drilled brakes, measuring 14-inches up front and 13.4-inchers in the rear. They deliver real stopping power.
And you need that. The big news is the big LS3 V8. Yes, that’s the same designation as a standard-issue 2010 Chevrolet Corvette, but Chevy engineers have made some significant enhancements on the Grand Sport, including a forged steel crankshaft designed to handle higher loads. Offered with the 6-speed manual gearbox only, buyers also get an enhanced oil system that is actually built by hand.
The Grand Sport also features enhanced anti-lock braking, traction and stability control systems, as well as Launch Control, which is designed to ensure maximum take-off speeds with minimal tire-spinning.
(What’s particular nice is that this feature is considered a functional part of the package. Some of the other makers who have offered this technology have taken a use-it-you-lose-it approach, which means that engaging launch control permanently disengages your warranty.)
Sure, you’ll “only” get 430 horsepower, compared with 505 for the Z06, and 638 hp for the ultimate Corvette, the ZR1. But the Grand Sport’s performance numbers make it difficult for anyone but the most serious performance hound to justify the price premium – for $55,720, the GS will launch from 0 to 60 in just about 3.9 seconds, compared to about 3.5 seconds for the $107,830 ZR1.
(The entry price of the standard-issue 2010 Chevrolet Corvette is $49,880.
As for fuel economy, anticipate 16 mpg in the City – and probably well under 10 if you’ve got the right place to really push the GS to its limits. On the highway, however, the Corvette Grand Sport turns in a respectable 26 mpg.
For open-air fans, the good news is that the Grand Sport is available in both coupe and convertible body styles, though we only had the opportunity to test the hard top model. That said, on concrete pavement we could have sworn the top was down, the road noise was so loud.
As with all Corvettes, the seating is, ahem, sporty, and not for everyone. We’re hoping Chevrolet listens to the drumbeat of complaints and opts for a better seat design in the not-too-distant future. Yoga lessons certainly help in ingress and egress.
Our only other complaint concerns the interior layout. It’s definitely not a $55,000 cabin. But we’ll accept a bit of money-saving on the plastic to get the high-value package squeezed under the hood of the 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport.
With the (at least temporary) demise of the Dodge Viper, the Chevrolet Corvette is the last of the American sports cars. The launch of the sixth-generation Vette, several years ago, transformed the often over-hyped 2-seater into a true, world-class performer. Now, for a relatively modest premium, Chevy has one-upped itself. Anyone looking to Europe for a real performance machine would be foolish not to take a look a little closer to home.