Driven: Corvette Grand Sport Convertible
Grand or deluded? Unpack the prejudices, says (fanboy) Andy Craig
A belt-driven, two-cylinder, super-lightweight, three-wheeled car may not sound like the kind of thing to make a keen driver giddy with anticipation, but I was so looking forward to driving one that I'd cancelled my birthday celebrations in order to pick it up from Malvern and had even made plans to borrow the obligatory aviator's goggles and leather jacket. Alas, it wasn't meant to be...
Bauer Millett later and use of this white Grand Sport Convertible was mine. I suppose that now is a good time to confess to you all before we go any further that I, silversixx, am a card-carrying Corvette fanboy.
I like the fact that they offer bona-fide supercar performance but without all the expense, impracticality, and servicing intervals that can be measured in feet. I like the handling too (more on that later). They just work in a blue-collar, rough-around-the-edges sort of way.But even so I won't make any excuses for their shortcomings. You can only get them in left hand drive for starters. The interior is at best dull, and at worst plain unacceptable in such a car. Comfort itself isn't an issue - there's plenty of space and ample adjustment in the seats and steering wheel - it's just that you can't help but wonder why they didn't spend a little more time and effort trimming them a bit better. There is a leather option for the top of the dashboard and the doors which helps a great deal... so why not just make it standard in the first place? Oh and lateral support from the seats is woefully inadequate.
The Grand Sport is, if you like, a Z06 'lite'. You get the wide body and the Z06 suspension and brakes (6-pot calipers on the front) but the frame is steel, not aluminium, and a dry-sumped version of the 6.2 litre LS3 V8 replaces the hand-built 7.0 LS7. Compared to the Z06 weight is up and power is down, but with 436bhp and 428lb-ft to drag around 1500kg the GS is still a properly fast car.
But Corvettes have been churning out big horsepower for decades. What GM have managed to do in recent years though is to make them handle, as the current list of Nurburgring lap times for road cars proves. Of course the list is changing all the time, but that the Americans have built not one, but two cars which have lapped quicker than the vast majority of European cars ever made (and every car from Japan) simply cannot be ignored. That they've done so with two-valve, pushrod motors and a leaf spring spanning the rear uprights almost adds insult to injury.
Push hard into a corner and the car displays epic levels of grip, thanks in part to the Magnetic Ride Control (which at this point had been switched from Touring to Sport). Push harder still and the front tyres will begin to lose grip shortly before the rears follow-suit, but frankly to regularly breach this cars' grip limits on a public road you'd have to be a borderline nut-job.
Jump on the brakes and the effect of having separate brake pads for each piston (...six leading edges acting on each front disc) are that if you are a borderline nut-job you've every chance of scrubbing-off speed before your nut-jobbery gets you into trouble. The only handling gripe is a slight woolly feeling to the steering when in the dead-ahead position on a less-than-perfect surface. Other than that, it's all good news.
...and if you do it will be a lot more expensive and less-practical.
Pix: Dom Romney/Influx