a little Corvette history Apr 4, 2011 21:52:24 GMT -8
Post by JOHN WILLIAMS on Apr 4, 2011 21:52:24 GMT -8
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by David Finlay (11 October 2005)
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Engine5967 cc, 8 cylindersPower404 bhp @6000 rpmTorque403 ib/ft @4400 rpmTransmission6 speed manual Fuel/CO221.7 mpg / 310 g/kmAcceleration0-62mph: 4.1secTop speed186 mphPriceFrom £44999.00 approxRelease date04/05/2005
Corvettes have been around for a long time. General Motors brought its first muscle car of that name to market back in 1953, and since then the very notion of a Corvette has involved a large engine up front, tortured tyres at the back, storming straightline performance and a rousing soundtrack. The Corvette you can buy now, more than half a century later, is the sixth-generation model, but the basic philosophy hasn't changed at all.
The design of the C6 is essentially traditional, too. A 1953 customer transported through time would immediately recognise this car's purpose, even if he (probably he) might be surprised by some of the styling details, a few of which might be mistaken in sufficiently poor light for early sketches on the back of a Ferrari designer's cigarette packet.
Among the traditional features there's some real up-to-dateness about the Corvette's technical spec, though you have to go beyond the £45,850 list price to find much of it. Magnetic Selective Ride Control is a very clever concept involving metal filings in the shock absorber oil. When increased damping is required, the metal bits join together, effectively stiffening the oil and therefore the shockers themselves. Ingenious, but you have to ask for it and be prepared to stump up an extra £1600.
Similarly, you must add £1950 to your budget if you want the excellent head-up display (which shows the car's speed and other information on the windscreen) and reach adjustment on the steering wheel (which you just gotta have unless you happen to be exactly the size GM hopes you are).
These things do not themselves cost £1950, of course, but they are available only as part of the Luxury Pack, which does. Other Luxury items include heated seats with memory, auto-dimming mirrors and a fancy audio system.
But here the question arises as to whether someone who buys a Corvette and switches on a fancy audio system is largely missing the point. That's because of what lies under the bonnet.
We're back to tradition here. The six-litre engine, remarkably enough, is the latest development of the iconic small-block Chevy, a unit which has been around for decades and has been used in more road and competition applications than I imagine anyone could possibly count. As a small boy I listened in awe to race cars fitted with this bellowing V8 - every one of them sounded extraordinary, and despite so many years of spoilsport noise legislation the modern Corvette does too.
At 2000rpm the Corvette sounds purposeful. At 4500rpm it sounds stirring. At 6500rpm, where the markings on the revcounter turn red, it's like carrying your own private thunderstorm with you. And the process of going from the lower figure to the upper on full throttle is a physical as well as an aural treat. With 404bhp on available, the Corvette shifts along very smartly indeed.
Few things fire the adrenal gland quite like redlining the Corvette in second and then (after some delay, for the gearchange is clumsy and the gate indistinct) starting the same procedure in third. But there's a difficulty here, since you are already well beyond the national speed limit, and to achieve full revs in third gear would be to trifle with the future prospects of your driving licence. It should be considered only if you have access to a race circuit, or to an autobahn, or if you have the barest minimum of conscience and imagination.
The chassis copes with the power more effectively than anyone with a prejudice against American sports cars might guess. It's not difficult to exceed the grip limit of the rear tyres, but the suspension does a good job of sorting the situation when it arises.
This, however, is far from the same as saying that the Corvette has agile handling. A small piece of marshmallow seems to have been inserted within each of the major controls, leading to a delay between you asking the car to steer, accelerate, brake or change gear and any of these things actually happening. On UK roads, the Corvette usually feels imprecise and always feels very wide; the true driving experience occurs only on the rare occasions when you find a long, empty straight and get the chance to accelerate down it as hard as possible.
The Corvette is a one-trick pony, then, but it's an amusing and enjoyable trick. If you have around £50,000 to spend on a toy, there's a lot to be said for spending it on this one.
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