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THE UNEXOTIC EXOTIC

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 15, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

QUICKXOTIC By John Grafman

The specs speak loud and clear. 430 horsepower rockets this 0-60 in 4.3 seconds. The lightweight composite body panels, hydroformed steel frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis component, and a curb weight of just 3,246 pounds is on par with many of the fastest cars on the road. The interior is form-fitting for two, but not cramped. Oh yes, the top speed is 190 mph in the coupe and just a little under that in the convertible. In every reasonable means one can think of, this is an exotic supercar - except for one thing. The problem stems from the price. Most cars of this caliber are supposed to be easily in triple digit territory when it comes to dollars. This one small but significant fact prevents the Corvette from taking on the aura of a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Well, that and it does happen to be made right here in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The question is, can an exotic truly be exotic when so many exist? This has been a nagging problem lately, but one that most companies wish they had. This generation Vette, and perhaps the previous model, can be confused with some ultra rare Italian job if it weren't for the badging. Sadly, this for many enthusiasts takes it down a notch or two in their minds. The reality is this is as close as many will ever need to owning a full bore race car.

Chevy does make a hopped-up version of the Corvette in the Z06, but not in a convertible. Those who have driven that might not be so inclined to want the 505 horses that it cranks out. The convertible (and the base coupe for that matter) feels far more refined. Can you go a bit faster in the Z06? You bet. The trade off is just that, power for practicality and comfort, as well as a big chunk of change. For any naysayer who thinks this car is exotic-lite, let me make one thing perfectly clear: The Corvette provides enough thrills and endangers your license every time you get behind the wheel. A squeeze of the pedal on the right and the relatively docile car comes alive. On full throttle, getting thrown back into the seats is pretty much a given. More amazing is how the Corvette can gobble up road while already at cruising speeds. Going from a mild 60 to arrest-me 90 mph is almost instantaneous. One other feature that's a bright spot is the optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension, featuring magneto-rheological dampers able to detect road surfaces and adjust the damping rates to those surfaces almost instantly for optimal ride control. A simple turn of the knob on the center console allows the driver to immediately change how the suspension handles the road. The normal mode doesn't roll much, but the firmer setting is perfect for the right conditions. On long, extended sweeping curves on the freeway the Corvette was in its element. At rapid fire speed the car was planted flat without any indication of roll. This might be an illusion and providing a false sense of security pushing one to drive faster, but regardless of that it did feel comfortable enough to justify the car's reputation. Performance is in the same league as several highly rated sports cars. And while that side of the car hasn't been and issue for Chevrolet for several years, the other aspects have fallen short on the refinement side. Interiors of the past had a feel that were marginal, especially the expanse of plastic. The car can be equipped with an upscale custom leather wrapped package. The optional package includes two-tone, leather-wrapped upper and lower instrument panel, door pads and seats, and "Corvette" embroidered on passenger-side dash pad, plus embroidered crossed flags logo on the headrests. What a different a cowhide makes. This immediately gives this a big dollar feel, although it does indeed cost a few pesos for the option (not to mention a cow or two).

The interior still suffers from some poor placement of switches and buttons that just feel more randomly placed than should be. Just hunting for the control for the convertible top is mystifying. Also, the top requires a manual-twisting latch to secure the top down. The operation is really not very elegant, regardless of the fact that it's manual. On the plus side, the convertible top is able to stay affixed to the car at hurricane force traveling speeds. The Corvette did have all of the bells and whistles that one would hope for, including a keyless go that is similar to the Cadillac XLR. The slim key fob for the keyless system is itself a nice slim piece that shows some thought and consideration. It reminds me of how the Motorola RAZR cell phone cut a new course in thinly style products. Similarly, some designer somewhere had the common sense to realize this needs to actually fit into somebody's pocket. The HUD (heads-up display) is still a great feature, and is adjustable in brightness and position on the windshield. This will also allow several layouts to be picked from. It does add to that fighter-jet cockpit feel. The only thing it lacks is a targeting system for approaching undesirables. The automatic transmission does what one wants from an automatic. When left in drive or in the sport mode, the transmission is intelligent enough and quick enough to provide an entertaining and smooth ride. The paddle shifters work properly, but it is easy to forget about them as the roadway is absorbed so fast by the car it can mesmerize and shifting becomes lost in a blurry haze. Personally, I enjoy a good manual over an automatic, but this doesn't really feel necessary unless an interactive experience is desired.

The low-slung body with the roof down is ultra-stealth and lends it to an even more exotic look. I do have to take issue with one styling point. In particular, the wheels equipped on this car don't really have anything that connects to the styling of the car. The very simple open spoke design just doesn't look the part of exotic. If anything, they look non-descript. But these massive wheels in the rear are eye-catching, not just because they are 19-inchers, but because they are wrapped in super-wide body P285/35ZR19 tires that keep the car tacked to the tarmac. Okay, you can break them loose with some effort. In even moderately heavy exercise, this car stays planted. On the other hand, the 430 ponies do want to break free if you provide the right opportunity. Not included in the Corvette, but should be is the Passport 9500i radar detector. This marvelous piece of GPS intelligence is my get-out-of-jail-free card. It can actual target several radar targets at once. Now if they could link it to the HUD, this would really be the bomb. Freeway speed runs are defining as far as technology goes. Not only can the convertible run with the best, it can get damn good gas mileage for a machine of this caliber. At a steady freeway speed with cruise control engaged, it is possible to get into the upper 20s. Given the minimal weight, drag (.286 coefficient of drag in the coupe), and the fact that the car is only using about one third of its potential when it comes to speed, maybe it shouldn't be so surprising that the Corvette gets decent highway mileage. Running up and down the 405 does prove this is an almost sensible daily driver (once you take four dollars-a-gallon gas out of the equation). Sensible isn't why one wants a Corvette. It's the sensory experience that makes this desirable. The ability to streak up the steepest of streets and continually gain speed in rapid fashion is breathtaking. Just a select few can scale walls like the Vette. Even fewer can do this topless. With the price of gas and other economic factors this might just become an exotic after all. Those who purchase a convertible Vette might not be the first on their block with one of these, but the way things are going it is possible to be the last one on the block to obtain the American exotic.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT Aside from the "Chevy" badge, reasonable reliability and a price that starts under 50K - this is a supercar in disguise. Let's just keep that our little secret. Find out more at www.gm.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Chevy Corvette Convertible Price: Base $45,000, as tested $61,586.20 Engine type: 6.2-litre LS3 V8, Overhead 2 valves/cylinder, aluminum head and block EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 11/18 Horsepower: 430 @ 5,900 rpm Torque: 424 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed paddle shift automatic Suspension: Front: short/long arm ( SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper & lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, monotube shock absorber Rear: short/long arm ( SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper & lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, monotube shock absorber Wheels and tires: Front: 18-inch x 8.5-inch, P245/40ZR18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar (w/Z51) Extended Mobility Rear: 19-inch x 10-inch, P285/35ZR19 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar (w/Z51) Extended Mobility Brakes: Front: discs 12.8 x 1.26 / 325 x 32 diameter Rear: discs 12 x 1 / 305 x 26 diameter front and rear power-assisted disc with ABS; cross-drilled rotors with Z51 package and Magnetic Ride Control Overall length: 174.6 / 4435 Overall width: 72.6 / 1844 Overall height: 49 / 1244 Curb weight 3246 / 1473 0-60 mph: 4.3 Top Speed, mph: 190 (coupe)

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