2011 Chevrolet Corvette

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First Drive Review: 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2013.
By Shaun Bailey of Road & Track

I challenge thee to a duel! Or something to that effect was in my e-mail to GM when I asked them to meet me at a local Corvette Club of Michigan autocross with their new 2010 Corvette Grand Sport. I suggested they send development driver Jim Mero, who's responsible for Corvette Vehicle Dynamics — Ride and Handling (he's the driver who lapped the ZR1 around the Nürburgring in 7:26.4), or Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter.

Ignoring my suggestions, they pulled out their big gun Karen Rafferty, a four-time Ladies National Champion SCCA Solo II autocrosser who happens to be Director of Marketing for Corvette. A woman that runs marathons, has an MBA, owns a 1996 Corvette Grand Sport and was first to autocross a Corvette ZR1. Showing up at a CCM autocross with Rafferty is what I imagine standing next to Halle Berry at a movie premiere might be like. Everybody knows her.

Rafferty is a pro, and it shows. In autocross, learning the temporary cone-lined course is the challenge. It helps to work the course and learn from watching others' mistakes, so she and I registered early, walked the track five times and got choice placement for spectating at a difficult corner.

After we felt confident in our ability to navigate the course, we headed back to the pits to prep for our four runs. We decided to let Rafferty run first to continue the tradition she started with the ZR1 (being the first to autocross a new Vette). She would run the first two laps, and then we'd alternate.

Since autocross uses a standing start, we debated using the new launch control feature standard on all 2010 manual transmission-equipped Corvettes. But since we ran with the stability control disabled, it precluded us from using it. If we were to use the system, it requires driving the car in Competition Mode, which is activated by a quick double-tap on the stability control button. Launch control is a no-brainer. Foot to the floor, drop the clutch and let the ABS control module do its work. There's a lot of noise and spinning tires, plus a whiff of tire smoke. It's a beautiful thing to hear the engine rev and the tires squeal, accompanied by a distinctive pop and crack as the engine's torque is controlled with fuel and spark adjustment.

The 2010 Grand Sport is a replacement for the Z51 sport package-equipped regular Corvette. It's a serious step up and moves the performance level of the base car near Z06 levels. The Grand Sport is even equipped with the Z06's brakes, wheels and Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, front clip, hood and rear fenders and dry-sump oiling system. Unlike the Z06, none of these parts are carbon and the chassis is steel, rather than aluminum, making for a curb weight that's nearly 150 lb. heavier. The suspension shares anti-roll bars with the Z06, but the springs and dampers are unique to the GS. Gear ratios are the same as those of the previous Z51 package. And because the LS3 engine is from the base car, there are automatic transmission and convertible options. Going with the automatic, however, loses launch control and the dry sump. For manual-equipped coupes, the Grand Sport's LS3 is built by hand, replete with the builder's signature. These engines are assembled at the Wixom, Mich. Performance Build Center, where the LS7 and LS9 engines of the Z06 and ZR1, respectively, are made. Separating the dry-sump LS3 from the regular LS3 are a steel crank, tri-metal bearings, a higher-capacity oil pump and an LS7 oilpan. At a price of $55,720, or roughly $6000 over the base Corvette, yet nearly $20,000 less than a Z06, the GS is a screaming good deal.

But back to the "autocross challenge." When Rafferty handed the keys over to me, she'd run a 58-second lap — which was within a second or two of a Corvette Z06 running Hoosier race tires. I had my work cut out. During my first two runs I managed to whack a bunch of cones and run in the 60-sec. range. I needed to step it up. Fortunately, it started to rain, delaying our second session until the weather passed, which gave me time to gather my thoughts.

The GS is considerably less tense and more compliant and stable than a Z06. It has a more mellow character, like the ZR1. Turn-in is a little slower from the extra mass and softer suspension, but it's predictable. The slightly greater tendency to pick up understeer compared to the Z06 is easily overlooked because the GS is better balanced when on the throttle — never feeling skittish. It's an easy car to drive fast and hold slip angles, but its extra 3.3 in. of width over the base car wasn't helping me avoid cones.

On Rafferty's second heat she puts up two more 58s. She's incredibly consistent. As for me, I needed to shut off the red mist, stop hitting cones and drop 3 seconds. And on my last lap of the day, I managed just that, posting a 57-sec. run.

The Grand Sport performed flawlessly, running lap times dangerously close to the venerable Z06 competitors. Failing Chevrolet's upgrading the Z06 with ZR1 parts, I know which model I'd buy.

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BB02 - 7/27/2014 9:45:58 PM