The 2010 Grand Sport Coupe. Photo courtesy of GM
As part of a series of articles on what I consider top five rides for a Minnesota summer, today I bring you “American’s sports car”, the Corvette.
In this case it’s Chevy’s new model for 2010, the Grand Sport, a vehicle that harks back to the company’s early history and pays homage to Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov who oversaw the production of several prototype GS’s back in the 60’s.
In Minnesota I don’t think you’ll see any other sports car representing American engineering in greater numbers than the Corvette, which makes it round out my top five picks for a summer ride here. Corvette is an iconic sports car and the company frightened the socks of the Europeans in recent years with the ZR1. A stomping race bred monster, the ZR1 blasted its way around famous European race tracks like the Nurburgring in record time for an American sports car. Yet the car is almost cheap compared with some of the exotic European machinery it competed with.
Corvette’s success in European sports events such as Le Mans and GT racing, not to mention its broad success and appeal back home, has translated itself to the road cars for some years now. The 2010 Grand Sport is the company’s latest attempt to deliver a practical everyday road car which is equally happy on the track in the right hands.
The GS replaces the venerable Z51 Corvette line and breathes new life and exhilaration into the package thanks to a focus on retuning the handling characteristics of the vehicle. Corvette increased the track of the car, shod the car with wider tires, and sharpened up the suspension components. In essence, the Grand Sport came about in response to strong customer interest in the handling package that was available in the Z06, but without the higher cost of that car and the greater skill needed to drive the manual shift Z06 with its more powerful engine.
While down on horsepower next to the Z06 or the flagship ZR1, the GS has a 6.2L engine which delivers 430 hp - more than enough to light up the rear tires. The car will reach 60 miles an hour in 4 seconds and go on to more than 180 mph. An optional exhaust system will produce an extra 6 hp and a smidge more torque, and increase the throaty growl from the rear, especially appealing if you choose to buy the convertible version of the GS model.
The car is available in manual or automatic transmission configurations and if you want, an optional Formula One style paddle-shifter which is new for Corvette. The manual gearbox features shorter ratios designed to enhance the car’s punching power out of corners and improves its overall performance. The new launch control system is a sophisticated bit of kit designed to let you floor the throttle and drop the clutch for lightning quick take-offs without - hopefully - planting it in a ditch.
Corvette hasn’t just played with the car cosmetically. While there are some new styling cues borrowed from the Z06, the GS’s package also features bigger brakes designed to haul the car to a pretty quick stop. Thus, expect 14 inch cross drilled rotors in the front, 13.4 in the rear, in conjunction with 6 piston calipers front, and 4 in the rear brake assembly.
The GS delivers about 26mpg on the highway according to EPA standards, which isn’t all bad for a sport’s car that shares so much with its bolder, older cousins. The engine is hand built and has been updated to handle the extra power as as be more reliable given the extra loads from people putting the launch control system to the test.
Aesthetically, the GS has some nice features. The shark gill grills behind the front wheel are a sharp touch and its unique wheel rims, combined with the wider wheel arches enhance the muscularity of the car. It really is more car, and while pricing for a base model kicks in at more than 50 grand, it compares favorably with similar models given its impressive performance figures.
The Car and Driver video below pits the Grand Sport against the big unit from Ford, the Shelby GT500, which is an impressive road car. It seems Corvette's chassis delivers better performance, even though the car is down on power. It's a testament to Corvette's racing heritage and technical advancement they have made in recent years.
While the GS has plenty of race pedigree, such as dry sump lubrication and a vastly improved aero-package to increase down-force, the car is apparently tame enough to use everyday. Given the popularity of the Corvette brand in Minnesota expect to see the Grand Sport in high numbers over the next few years gracing the streets of the Twin Cities. Of course, if I had my way, it would grace my garage too.
It’s a great product and likely to be an instant American classic. The GS is definitely good enough to be a number one pick as a top Minnesota ride for the summer of 2010 and rounds out my dream garage, at least that is, until next year.
What others have said about the Chevrolet Grand Sport:
Dave Vanderwerp, Car and Driver Magazine: "Aside from the $109,130 ZR1, this is our new favorite Corvette on the track."
Joe DeMatio. Autmobilemag.com: "it's still an absolute performance bargain, with power, braking, steering, and grip that need make no excuses to any six-figure import."
Nelson Ireson, Motor Authority: "Whether you're looking for a grand tourer with flair or a track-day toy with daily potential, the Grand Sport is a solid choice, though you'll have to watch out for options prices driving the MSRP up into Z06 territory."
Nathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes your comments and suggestions, or you can post below.