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New Corvette is refreshingly simple

2.12.04.  The new, sixth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is engineered with refreshing simplicity. The name becomes even simpler, too, as GM in its infinite wisdom is removing the Chevrolet badge from the Corvette in Europe altogether - possibly to avoid any perceived connection with Daewoo’s lacklustre range - and hence the car will be known simply as Corvette when it arrives in the UK early next year.

With a projected price tag of £45,000 - despite being available in left-hand drive only – it represents sensational value for a 180mph-plus car capable of mixing it with sports cars costing two to three times more.

 

With a 6-litre V8 engine producing 402hp and drive to the rear wheels, plus a lightweight plastic body, the Vette is pretty much in the same mould as a TVR - and exhibits equally explosive performance. Unlike a TVR, however, the Vette delivers huge amounts of torque at leisurely engine speeds and gives the impression of possessing an unstressed and refined power plant that is barely ticking over as it hauls you from rest to 60 mph in just 4.1 secs.

The engine characteristics also go some way to masking the car’s high-speed performance potential. Maximum speed, for example, is a true 187mph, while at 100mph in sixth gear, the unflustered V8 is turning over at just 2800 rpm. Such relatively low engine speeds – there are no exotic, multi-cam heads here; just the latest development of the LS2 "small block” V8 thrumming away – are partly the reason why the Vette can return fuel consumption of 24 mpg overall, making it far less thirsty than most rivals.

At first glance, the Vette looks a big car but, in fact, it’s nearly as compact as a Porsche 911, and certainly equally entertaining to drive. To prove the point, GM let me loose on a track in southern Spain, and with the electronic driver aids set to “competitive” mode, it quickly became clear that traction control is largely down to the driver’s right foot. This is one car where the handling hasn’t been tuned by the lawyers.

The mass of the Vette’s front-mounted aluminium engine is balanced by a rear-mounted transaxle for more desirable weight distribution and handling. This translates into reassuringly predictable cornering in fast driving, though suspension settings are “firm” on poor road surfaces – perhaps not surprising, considering the car still employs leaf springs at the rear. In truth, the ride varies from acceptable to very good, which is a tribute to the overall suspension design.

The praiseworthy handling is backed up by precise and pleasantly weighted steering plus large ventilated disc brakes, the latter proving to be fade-free even when coping with the demands of the punishing test track.

The six-speed manual gearbox isn’t the slickest, but it is light years ahead of its predecessor, and if you prefer, you can always choose a four-speed auto instead. I loved the fighter-plane-style, heads-up display, which projects the car’s speed onto the windscreen so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

The new Vette boasts a bigger, but lighter, removable roof panel, which can be manhandled into the boot single-handedly if you are feeling up to it, and even when stowed, there remains considerable luggage space by sportscar standards. Once the roof is off, however, wind noise and buffeting is severe at speed. Buyers will also be offered a full convertible option for the full wind-in-hair experience.

At £45,000, there’s no doubting that the new Vette stacks up well against the competition. Even at its new, higher price, it makes more sense than ever before.

Story: Russell Bray

 
 
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