Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg
Cars

With the 2017 Grand Sport, It's Time to Give Corvette a New Chance

I’m not going to tell you that the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible is better than a Porsche 911 or Mercedes SL Roadster.

But it’s at least as good as them in many ways, and quite a bit cheaper.

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The 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport derives from the original 1963 model. It combines the power of the legendary Corvette LT1 6.2L engine with a lightweight chassis inspired by those used in Chevy racing cars. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

For many years now, that top range of sportscars have all gotten so good, what your opinion of the “best” is really comes down to your personal preference and style, not straight performance. 

The one thing that I ask you to do if you are considering spending anywhere between $70,000 to $100,000 or so on any sportscar is to actually drive a Corvette. Promise me you will. Until you do, how can you say with total confidence that you are a “911 person”? Or that the Jaguar F-Type is definitely “the car for you”? Really, you won’t have a full picture of what’s out there, and what is, in fact, best suited to your style.

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The 2017 Grand Sport has a 6.2L LT1 V8 engine that gets 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque.

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

The Set-Up

I wrote about the Stingray in 2015, and I said then  that never had a car changed my mind so quickly and so completely as this one has. 

This year after driving one all week in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Update New York, New Jersey and Queens, I have fallen in love all over again. This isn’t me! I hardly ever even drive GM cars, let alone make excuses to do extraneous errands in one, which I did several times in this pretty convertible. But the Grand Sport is special, and it deserves serious consideration from all of us. (Not just you white, now-middle-aged Midwestern males who had photos of one in your bedroom growing up—not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just want to expand the tent!).

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The electronic convertible top can be lowered by a button or remotely using the key fob at speeds of up to 30mph. When deployed, it is covered under a body-colored tonneau shell.

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Ron Kiino at Chevrolet tells me the mean age of a modern Corvette buyer is 55, and of Chevrolet in general it’s 49. This should change—there’s real potential with this Corvette to show your friends that you can that you think for yourself if you buy one.

It Can Look Cool (Just Don’t Track-Nerd It Out)

Here is a basic premise: When you have a statement accessory, piece of furniture, physical attribute or piece of clothing, you should let that special thing speak for itself. It doesn’t need anything else flashy to highlight how cool it is. If you wear a big-deal watch, let your shoes, coat, bag remain subdued; if you’ve got an outré couch, let the paint on the walls, the expensive rug, the wood floors, remain more neutral; if you have a Dior red lip for the evening, don’t also cloak your eyelids and lashes in layers of black. 

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The car is engineered to be driven with the top down, so performance doesn't suffer when you take off the top. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

The same applies to cars in general, and the Corvette Grand Sport in particular. The simple act of rolling it down the street draws attention: The deep growl that comes when you press the ignition (performance exhaust comes standard), the mesh grill and front splitter, the fenders set wide apart like Dwight Howard’s knees on defense—these all testify that the Corvette is a Major Car. You needn’t add insult to injury by blaring the horn, blasting your music, or revving the 460hp V8 engine as you blow past your neighbors, too.

You can also forego paying the extra couple thousand dollars for a “Heritage Package” that affords racing stripes and fender hash marks. Skip the “Carbon Flash Badge Package” or the Grand Sport Satin Black Wheels with red stripe. In white or silver or blue, with slanted high-intensity headlights and 20-inch rear wheels, the ‘Vette already handsome and sleek and (new for 2017) more compact than previous generations. The hood is lowered; the body stretched closer to the ground. It’s less bulky in the rear than the 2016 Stingray, and more balanced from front to back. The tonneau shell cover that holds the rag-top hood blends in cleverly with the full body line of the car—when the top is down the car looks seamless, like it never has a top at all.

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The newest model in the Corvette lineup has wider fenders and wider wheels and tires than previous generations; the hood is slightly lower than the Corvette Stingray. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

The bottom line: This is one of the most iconic, most recognizable cars in history. Everyone already knows that you have the car born from the original 1963 small block V8 track demon—if they don’t, let them inquire.

It Drives Like Your Best American Dream

If you have driven a Porsche 911 or a Jaguar F-Type, you’ve felt some of the best European engineering on the planet. Flawless transitions as you pass through the gears; steering so precise the car seems to know your own mind. The Corvette is not that. This, rather, is a guttural experience. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat tires and Brembo brakes stick to the road with unrelenting vigor; you feel every.extra.mph as you spin through the seven-speed manual transmission (eight speed automatic is available). Magnetic ride control ensures the drive experience is balanced, smooth, but the Corvette Grand Sport will give you a visceral, not ethereal, drive. (Choose the manual here for the full Corvette experience; true stick-shift manual transmissions are rare these days, so when you find one on a superior car it's a real treat.)

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The flat-bottom steering wheel is available in sueded microfiber or wrapped in premium leather. A head-up display and connectivity and a unique Performance Data Recorder are available.

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Zero to 60mph in the Grand Sport convertible is 3.6 seconds, a half-second faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. There are five drive modes and a Performance Recorder on the dashboard that saves route times and drive data, much like Strava does for cyclists. “Valet Mode” records video when you’re gone, “for additional peace of mind,” GM press materials say. Even better, the black rag top will deploy at speeds of up to 30mph, so you can put it down or up as soon as you need to. It gets 26mpg on the highway. Top speed is 195mph.

To a generation of young people raised on virtual reality, Uber and with the very near prospect of self-driving cars, the act of feeling something like this under your command—something truly tangible, analog even—will be a revelation. It feels steady and reliable under hand, as true American as the face of John Wayne or the Marlboro Man. It’s that feeling when you leave a workout with a couple bruises, possible heat stroke and the lactic acid already building up in your legs—but you know that’s a good thing, and you know it’s working because you actually felt something.

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There are five distinct, selectable driver modes that electronically calibrate up to 12 performance variables to customize the Corvette Grand Sport for any surface. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

You Can Afford It 

The base price of the Grand Sport convertible is $70,445, roughly $15,000 more than the entry-level, less aggressive Corvette Stingray and $10,000 more than the Stingray convertible. It’s $10,000 less expensive than the more-aggressive Corvette Z06 ($14,000 less than the Z06 convertible). This, my friends, is what we call a sweet spot.

Want to compare Grand Sport to the 911 and the Merc? A new 911 costs $89,400 at the bare-bones base level—that doesn’t even get you the S variant, which costs $103,400. A new Mercedes SL450 Roadster costs $86,950 but is far slower and less powerful than the Grand Sport. You’d need to pay closer to $111,000 for that SL to get a version with near the same amount of horsepower, and you’d pay $219,850 for the AMG SL65 Roadster, which is an amazing car—that is still not as fast as the Grand Sport.

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The Grand Sport Convertible can hit 60mph in 3.6 seconds; top speed is nearly 200mph. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

To my mind, the new Jaguar F-Type convertible comes closest to the excellent value proposition of the Grand Sport corvette: it costs $65,400 in base form, though it is far slower and less powerful, with a smaller engine, than the Grand Sport. Instead, you’d need to pay $128,800 to get the F-Type SVR Convertible to match the performance of the Grand Sport. But that’s still a fair price compared to the more-expensive icons I listed above.

The specimen I drove cost $85,910, thanks to some performance and comfort additions. The heads-up display and competition sport seats were especially worth the extra cash, as were the suede-wrapped thin, flat-bottomed steering wheel. The rear vision camera is standard; curb view cameras are important upgrades too, since the ‘Vette does have some real blind spots as you glance just over your left shoulder.

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The car comes with "Grand Sport" badging and optional carbon fiber packages. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

This is a small consideration, though, and it shouldn’t detract from the larger picture. I could go on about this car, how surprisingly effective the 8-inch touch screen is to use, how cool it is that the carbon-fiber-framed instrument cluster and control accoutrements are angled slightly toward the driver, rather than fit straight head-on with no tilting toward the left or right. I could talk more about how this car fills the gap between the cruiser Stingray (did I mention it’s three inches wider?) and the track-primed Z06. But I’ve said enough. The important thing now is that you try it for yourself. Then we’ll talk.

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The Grand Sport is the middle of the Corvette range, sitting between the Corvette Stingray and the Corvette Z06.

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

 

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The Grand Sport has the unmistakably Corvette quad-tailpipe configuration. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

 

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Magnetic ride control and traction control come standard. 

 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

 

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For the money, the Corvette Grand Sport is an excellent choice. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg
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