Not many cars can be called a true American icon. With a history dating back to 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette fully deserves that designation.
Chevrolet offers the Corvette in four flavors, according to performance: Stingray, Grand Sport, Z06, and ZR1. Each is available as either a closed coupe or a convertible.
Stingrays and Grand Sports come in 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT trim levels. The Z06 is offered in 1LZ, 2LZ, and 3LZ trim, while ZR1s come in 1ZR or 3ZR form.
Both the base Stingray and the step-up Grand Sport boast a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter LT1 V-8, promising 0-60 mph acceleration in 3.6 seconds with a 7-speed manual shift (3.7 with 8-speed automatic). An optional performance exhaust hikes horsepower to 460.
Aerodynamic elements blend with a wider rear end to accommodate bigger, high-performance tires for greater grip. Additional performance equipment is available in the Z51 package.
In the Z06, a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 produces 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, slashing 0-60 mph time to a blazing 2.95 seconds (3.2 with the manual gearbox). A Z07 package for either the Grand Sport or Z06 adds more track-targeted features.
If that’s not swift enough, the new ZR1 holds a hotter-yet version of the supercharged 6.2-liter LT5 V-8, kicking out a startling 755 horsepower and 715 pound-feet. This one hits 60 mph in 2.85 seconds, according to Chevrolet. An optional ZTK Track Performance Package adds a big, adjustable carbon-fiber rear wing and an even-stiffer suspension.
Each Corvette can have either the 7-speed manual transmission with short, positive throws and downshift rev matching, or a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash-tested the Corvette. Active-safety features found in most cars nowadays are absent from Corvettes, including forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
The current (C7) generation debuted as a 2014 model. A redesigned 2020 Corvette has been introduced, and it now sports a mid-engine design.
Prices do not include $1,095 destination charge.
Stingray 1LT (coupe $55,900, convertible $60,400) includes the 455-horsepower V-8, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, nine-speaker Bose audio, power seats, HID headlights, keyless ignition, staggered 19- and 20-inch wheels, and leather upholstery.
Stingray 2LT and 3LT trim levels add more features.
Stingray Z51 1LT (coupe $60,900, convertible $65,400) includes the Z51 package with performance upgrades, such as a transmission oil cooler, active suspension, performance brakes and exhaust, and electronic limited-slip differential.
Stingray Z51 2LT and 3LT trim levels add more features.
Grand Sport 1LT (coupe $65,900, convertible $70,400) adds aerodynamic elements including wider rear fenders, bigger front and rear brake rotors, Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires, Brembo brake calipers, a limited-slip rear differential, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, and a unique grille.
Grand Sport 2LT and 3LT trim levels add more features.
Z06 1LZ (coupe $80,900, convertible $85,400) holds the 650-horsepower engine, and includes a head-up display and outside temperature gauge.
Z06 2LZ and 3LZ trim levels add more features.
ZR1 1ZR (coupe $120,900, convertible $125,400) gets the 755-horsepower V-8, adding unique Nappa leather upholstery, heated/cooled seats, navigation, a microfiber-wrapped dashboard. A Performance Data Recorder is available.
ZR1 3ZR (coupe $123,895, convertible $128,395) adds the ZTK Track Performance Package, with stiffer suspension components, a tall adjustable carbon-fiber rear wing, and Performance Data Recorder.
Low-slung, brash, wide: each C7 Corvette is an amalgam of scoops, spoilers, and ducts. They amplify the car’s sinister appearance, making it almost exotic.
Most exotic of all, then, would be the new ZR1. Highlighted by its huge wing, oversize cooling ducts, and massive hood scoop, the ZR1 conveys the aura and essence of a supercar.
Although the C7-generation Corvette retains the basic shape it’s had since the C4 generation of 1984, it’s far more blatant today. Sharp creases meld with smooth curves. Differences from past Corvettes center on details applied to its long hood, sharply raked windshield, and truncated tail.
Though brash in nature, the Corvette cockpit isn’t quite as bold or extroverted as its exterior, but is modern and driver-focused. Passenger space is suitably upscale, boasting plenty of soft-touch materials and a number of premium trim choices.
Great, supportive seats have eight-way power adjustments. Even in Stingray models, they mate with a standard power tilt/telescopic steering column. Nearly any occupant should find a comfortable seating position, with sufficient bolstering to keep them securely planted.
Space is snug but not tight, able to accommodate sizable passengers. Six-footers shouldn’t have trouble, though headroom tightens for the very tall. Small in diameter, the flat-bottom steering wheel provides space for a driver with greater girth.
Displays on the digital instrument cluster change by mode. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard.
The power-operated convertible top lacks a manual latch, but can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 30 mph. When open, wind buffeting can grow troublesome.
In coupes, the hatchback opens to 15 cubic feet of cargo space. At 10 cubic feet, the convertible’s trunk is larger than those in other droptop models. The ZR1’s big rear wing creates a tall liftover. Cubbies and bins are plentiful.
Whether equipped with manual shift or automatic, the Corvette’s power ranks as legendary. Z06 and ZR1 editions qualify as American supercars.
Choices are simple, starting with the 455-horsepower V-8 in the Stingray, with Z51 handling package optional. Next: the track-aimed Grand Sport, followed by the 650-horsepower Z06. King of today’s hill is the ZR1.
Whatever the powertrain, a Corvette promises agile handling, tenacious grip, communicative steering, and powerful brakes. Convertibles differ little from coupes in performance, and don’t shudder when driven across broken pavement.
Base Stingrays handle well, but the Z51 package stiffens the suspension, upgrades brakes, tweaks aerodynamics, and adds an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Grand Sports feature a wider rear end to fit larger tires that grip even better.
An aluminum-intensive architecture gives Corvettes a strong structure, helping them stay flat through corners. Electric-assisted steering is quick and provides satisfying feedback.
Urban thirst for fuel is inevitable, but the base V-8 isn’t bad on the highway. With 7-speed manual, the base Stingray is EPA-rated at 16/25 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined. Automatic dips the estimate to 15/25/18 mpg.
The Z06 is EPA-rated at 15/22 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined, with manual. Automatic is close at 14/23/17 mpg. The ZR1 is EPA-rated at 13/19 mpg City/Highway, or 15 mpg Combined, with manual; it’s 12/20/15 mpg with automatic.
Even non-enthusiasts are aware of the potent virtues offered by the Chevrolet Corvette. Every model delivers stunning power, and is a strong performance value. The Corvette Grand Sport is ready for track duty, but at a reasonable price with livable ride comfort. Despite its performance potential when the pedal is pushed hard, any Corvette can be driven easily, without issues, in ordinary situations.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.