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Tuesday 30th August 2011

Driven: Corvette Grand Sport Convertible

Grand or deluded? Unpack the prejudices, says (fanboy) Andy Craig



When I received the 'phone call from Morgan telling me they'd had to cancel the Three Wheeler I was supposed to be taking to Wilton House, I don't mind admitting that I was gutted.

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...


Chris-R must have sensed my disappointment because; aware of my fondness for plastic American cars with 'aloominum' V8s he suggested that I bring a Corvette instead. One 'phone call to 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.


When I picked the car up there was another problem - one which would be an issue at Wilton House - and that problem was noise... or an acute lack of it to be exact. You'd expect a car with the 'Vette's appearance and a 6.2 litre V8 to sound heavenly, but this Grand Sport didn't have the vacuum-actuated exhaust bypass valves, so even though the induction noise under load was pleasant enough, there was no discernable note from the exhaust to accompany it, which is frankly a waste of a V8. Thankfully, Bauer Millet have now rectified this with a new system.

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.


The Grand Sport, despite its significant shortcomings, gives you access to the kind of neutral handling that's put the Z06 and the ZR1 near the top of the list. On the way back from Wilton House I left the motorway early and pointed the GS at a twisty section of undulating A-road and selected 'Competitive Driving Mode' which allows a little bit of wheel-slip before the electronics take over to help prevent you from binning it.

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.


This one is £69,995, and despite the on-track heroics of Corvettes at both LeMans and the 'Ring (to name just two areas where they've handed the competition their backsides), there will always be some people who see that as too much for a plastic American car. But make no mistake; if you're serious about accelerating, braking, transferring weight, cornering, and top speed you'll have to look hard to find anything that can out-do one.

...and if you do it will be a lot more expensive and less-practical.







Pix: Dom Romney/Influx

silversixx
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Schnellmann

Original Poster:

1,693 posts

90 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
I think the quality of the interiors is because Americans expect their cars to be cheap (and they are) so there is probably no budget to make them better.

With respect to the lateral support of the seats....perhaps with the shape of the average American (which is rapidly becoming the average for Brits/Europeans too) then having flat seats is probably an advantage.

Although the LHD puts people off in the UK, here in Switzerland Corvettes are very popular. I can see the appeal and appreciate the bang for your buck, but personally I don't like the looks.

swerni

22,493 posts

96 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
Lovely car.

Shame about the color (see what I did there wink )
I know white is the new black, but in the Vettes case it, just doesn't work.

British Beef

706 posts

51 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
No photos with the roof up???

In this country this is where it is most spend most its time and for me a convertible need to look good roof up & down.

I too dont understand why they do not spend a little more money on the inside to make it look and feel more of a quality item. As performance wise it has most things in its price group well licked, a quality interior would surely tempt more presopective owners from the Italian & German alternatives.


akeithj

207 posts

96 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
I have a Z06 and agree about the interior, but you get used to it after a while and everything is there its just not up to European standards.

toppstuff

10,903 posts

133 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
American cars are much maligned. Wrongly in my view.

Corvette is a cracking motor. And the complaints about the interiors are a little overblown in my opinion.

Was in chicago recently and hired a Buick SUV thing. It was nice. Thirsty as hell, but in real world use it was a decent car and the interior was just fine. At least as nice as a Volvo Xc90/ Merc ML etc...
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Dagnut

3,345 posts

79 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
White does it no favours, and I don't think 70k is that cheap really when you consider they cost 55k US dollars

205007

72 posts

38 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
At the risk of bringing up old news - 70k and plastic panels? no thanks (and cheap bendy plastic at that)

And the brakes - 6x piston or not (the pads are about the size of a custard cream) are not good enough for any serious use with a Z06

The engine though that is the ticket

GFWilliams

4,507 posts

93 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
Loving this shot thumbup


thewheelman

2,194 posts

59 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
White has been played out now, in this car it makes it look cheap. The hardtop Corvette i quite like, but please, stop painting cars white! White used to be my favourite colour for many cars, but since it became trendy, i'm really starting to dislike it.

ESOG

1,239 posts

44 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
If this Vette was a woman I would PHuck her brains out!

thewheelman

2,194 posts

59 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
Dagnut said:
White does it no favours, and I don't think 70k is that cheap really when you consider they cost 55k US dollars
Doing a direct currency conversion would be a little naive way to judge the car's value. Look at the cost of the cars that are mainstream in Europe & how much cheaper they are in the states. When you look at the kind of cars that it beats that cost many times more, then you see the value. The Vette it seems is like the Nissan GTR, it'll have its haters, but for me it's a lot more interesting than the played out cars that the Vette manages to humiliate.

Gaz.

50,246 posts

137 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
thewheelman said:
Doing a direct currency conversion would be a little naive way to judge the car's value. Look at the cost of the cars that are mainstream in Europe & how much cheaper they are in the states. When you look at the kind of cars that it beats that cost many times more, then you see the value. The Vette it seems is like the Nissan GTR, it'll have its haters, but for me it's a lot more interesting than the played out cars that the Vette manages to humiliate.
He has a point though, Vette's used to be £40k, just over £50k for a Z06.

JuniorJet

416 posts

46 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
dream car right there... cloud9

thewheelman said:
White has been played out now, in this car it makes it look cheap. The hardtop Corvette i quite like, but please, stop painting cars white! White used to be my favourite colour for many cars, but since it became trendy, i'm really starting to dislike it.
agree.. I think yellow always worked with the Vette


Edited by JuniorJet on Monday 29th August 15:47

Stu R

20,819 posts

101 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
I grew very attached to the yellow one parked in the Mandalay Bay recently cloud9



Never driven a GS, but driven a Z06 and loved it. Hoping to pick one up next year if the Porsche bug doesn't bite too hard.

A lex

12,131 posts

119 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
I drove a hire ZHZ round Cali for two weeks and although the interior is a bit 'simple' in my eyes the quality is fine - its certainly built well enough.

My good mate runs a Z06 as a daily drive and apart from needing a new CAT under warranty nothing has gone wrong in over 2 yrs of ownership (30k miles I think). Considering the Z06 is supercar performance thats pretty amazing.

These cars can get quite a harsh press but its totally undeserved IMO. The coupe even makes a good case of being a practical car as the boot is HUGE.

Service costs are minimal; frequent oil changes but first major service is 100k miles I think eek If I had the $$$ id have one in a heartbeat, over anything Pork has to offer for example.

5 USA

4,581 posts

131 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
Quite honestly when you can wander into the dealership with the price of an Italian sportscar in your wallet and come out with one of these and £100,000 in change there really isn't very much to complain about. Especially with bomb-proof reliability and very low running costs.

On the other hand if you're happy sitting on a crowded beach there are more than 1,300 Porsche 911s for sale in the PH classifieds.

PaulFontaine

629 posts

40 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
Inevitably there will be the detractors of this car without ever having driven it. Consider what it competes against costs far far more than it. Yes the interior is a bit ordinary but still functional. Most of the cars this company produces are simple and must be affordable enough for the working class man or woman and hence that is where their interior skill set lies. Really this is one of the few cars out there that has a blend of accessible performance, reliability, comfort and practicality and can be used daily. The only negative I have to say about it is the proportions take a while to get used to and I would say while it is good and easier to drive fast than the 911. The german car is still the benchmark but substantially more.

Motorrad

5,212 posts

73 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
Brilliant cars, no doubt some muppet who runs a crappy diesel repmobile will be along in a minute to slate the build quality and handling without ever having driven, seen or sat in one.

thewheelman

2,194 posts

59 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
Gaz. said:
thewheelman said:
Doing a direct currency conversion would be a little naive way to judge the car's value. Look at the cost of the cars that are mainstream in Europe & how much cheaper they are in the states. When you look at the kind of cars that it beats that cost many times more, then you see the value. The Vette it seems is like the Nissan GTR, it'll have its haters, but for me it's a lot more interesting than the played out cars that the Vette manages to humiliate.
He has a point though, Vette's used to be £40k, just over £50k for a Z06.
Was that £50k for a new Z06? If so, that is one hell of a bargain for the amount of go. I didn't realise the price had gone up by that much.

A lex

12,131 posts

119 months

[news] 
Monday 29th August 2011 quote quote all
My aforementioned matey bought his Z06 brand new from Bauer Millet in Manc for 50k in 2008. Incredible value - especially as its still worth 40k now.
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