?It?s loud, sucks gas, tires are expensive, it?s hard to get in and out of, scrapes the front on anything larger than a pebble, (has) terrible rearward visibility, and I love it!?
Hard not to get emotional about a sports car that for six decades has been foisted with the aspirations of an entire nation. For fans of the Chevrolet Corvette, its history was rooted in America?s manifest destiny. It just had to be good.
Yet the sixth-generation (C6) Corvette appeared to be a renovation, not a revolution. To the layperson, all that had really changed was the retractable headlights had been replaced by fixed Xenon lamps.
Lighting the engine, however, instantly drowned out any errant protests.
The 2005 C6 Corvette arrived from Kentucky as a two-seater hatchback coupe with a detachable roof panel, or as a convertible with a fabric soft-top and heated glass rear window. It was some 13 cm shorter and slightly narrower than the outgoing C5, some say to make it more palatable to European buyers.
Fibreglass body panels were again hung on a stiff metal chassis. That structure retained the same hydroformed-steel side rails, tall centre tunnel and balsa wood floor construction. Cast aluminum upper and lower control arms and transverse composite leaf springs also made a return engagement.
Magnetic shocks automatically adjusted firmness to match road surfaces within driver-selectable Touring and Sport modes. The Z51 performance package featured a firmer, nonadjustable suspension and larger brakes.
The driver and passenger earned a brighter cockpit with clearer instrumentation and textured plastics, but plastics just the same.
?Interior is sparse and devoid of luxury,? summed up one owner online. The Corvette?s seats, while improved, still didn?t compare well to the best from Bavaria. Some drivers found the optional seat heaters redundant.
?The transmission puts out loads of heat and the centre console can toast your right leg,? posted one owner.
Power was supplied by a new LS2 engine. Engineers bored out the aluminum 5.7 L V8 to an even 6.0 litres, increased the compression ratio to 10.9:1, boosted the red line to 6,500 r.p.m. and added freer-flowing induction and exhaust systems to achieve 400 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque.
The only transmission choices were a Tremec six-speed manual and a four-speed automatic. The Tremec was fitted with Computer Aided Gear Selection (CAGS) requiring drivers to shift from first gear directly to fourth in low-speed/low-throttle conditions to improve fuel economy.
The high-performance Z06 model returned to the lineup for 2006, barely concealing a 505-hp 7.0 L V8. Base Corvettes got a new six-speed automatic transmission to replace the aging four-speed slushbox.
The 2008 Corvette got a new base engine: a 430-hp 6.2 L V8 that increased to 436 hp with the optional dual-mode exhaust system. For 2009, the ZR1 gained a 638-hp supercharged 6.2 L V8.
ON THE ROAD
The C6 leapt to 96 km/h in 4.3 seconds, more than a half-second quicker than the old-generation C5 Vette. The aluminum-framed Z06 took an astonishing 3.6 seconds, on par with the Ferrari F430 and other exotics.
Both the base model and Z06 could pull 0.98 g of grip on a skid pad and come to a stop in just 50 metres from 112 km/h. The Corvette?s run-flat tires were roundly criticized (sorry) for their noise and rough-riding quality, however.
Despite the Corvette?s prodigious power, its V8s were downright prudent with fuel. Owners reported getting up to 20 mpg around town and 30 m.p.g. on the open road.
WHAT OWNERS SAY
Serial Corvette buyers characterized the C6 as a ?kinder, gentler? sports car compared to the C5, providing more amenities and a better ride along with all that tire-scorching power.
Delve deep into owners? posts, however, and there are some mechanical idiosyncrasies.
The most common issue involves the base coupe?s removable top. A few have detached from the car at speed, although the more common gripe has to do with the lid?s annoying rattling. By contrast, the Z06 was built with an integrated roof to aid chassis rigidity and shave a few kilos.
Manual-transmission 2005 models must be parked in reverse to shut down the car?s electronics. If not left in ?R,? the car will stay awake, draining the battery rapidly. Later model years did away with the requirement, but there was no shortage of owners complaining about short-lived batteries anyway.
Other deficiencies included truculent automatic shifters, differential whine, leaking steering racks, assorted electrical faults and more squeaks and rattles. Be prepared to spend wheelbarrows of cash replacing the Vette?s soft-compound tires.
Still, unlike NASA, General Motors managed to build a rocket sled on a manageable budget.
WHAT?S BEST: Surface-to-surface missile, best Vette engine yet, performance bargain.
WHAT?S WORST: Impala-inspired cockpit, short-lived tires, rattle trap.
TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2005 ? $33,000; 2008 ? $48,000
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