2003 Corvette New Car Test Drive
It's hard to believe, but Chevrolet's fiberglass flyer turned 50 this year. That's half a century as America's premier sports car. Many Corvette owners have been attending events to celebrate. For most of those 50 years, the Corvette has been America's only true sports car, that is, the only U.S. production two-seater capable of real race-track performance.
The Corvette has endured because it has always represented real performance value. We realize 'value' may not be the first word that springs to mind when looking at a $50,000 sticker. But this fifth-generation Corvette (sometimes called the C5) delivers a combination of acceleration and handling matched only by the Dodge Viper, Porsche 911 and various exotics, all of which are far more expensive.
There's really nothing quite like the Corvette. Sports cars in the C5 price range, such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK, BMW Z3, and Porsche Boxster, offer an entirely different driving experience.
For 2003, the Corvette celebrates its longevity with a special 50th Anniversary Edition, featuring unique dark red paintwork and a 'Shale' (gray-beige) interior color scheme. All 2003 Corvettes wear the 50th Anniversary logo and come with even more standard equipment than before. A new option called Magnetic Selective Ride Control promises better ride quality with the same handling precision that made the Corvette a legend.
The Corvette lineup consists of the coupe, the convertible, and the Z06 hardtop.
Powering both the coupe ($41,680) and convertible ($48,205) is the 350-horsepower 5.7-liter LS1 V8, which meets California's Low Emissions Vehicle standards. An automatic transmission is standard; a six-speed manual ($915) is optional.
The LS6 V8 in the Z06 hardtop ($50,043) displaces the same 5.7 liters, but produces an amazing 405 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.
The coupe comes with a body-colored removable roof panel as standard equipment; a translucent plastic panel is an option. The coupe's rear window opens like a hatchback. The hardtop and convertible have trunks. The Z06's top is fixed, for maximum rigidity.
Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate controls, fog lamps, sport seats, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, a driver information center, remote keyless entry, stainless steel exhaust with chromed quad outlets, retractable headlights, Bose speakers, 6-way power seats with leather upholstery, extended-mobility (run flat) Z-rated tires, traction control with Active Handling, and cast alloy wheels. The coupe comes with a parcel net and luggage shade. Child Restraint Attachment System (CRAS) hooks have been added to the passenger seat for 2003. Don't forget that the passenger-side air bag must be manually shut off while carrying children.
The Z06 hardtop adds a head-up instrument display, titanium exhaust, a tire inflator kit for its Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, and forged alloy wheels. The six-speed manual is the only transmission offered.
In addition to its special colors, the 50th Anniversary Editions feature a color-coordinated instrument panel, Champagne-painted wheels, embroidered badges on the seats and floor mats, padded armrests and grips on the inner door panels, and a Shale top for the convertible. Race fans may recognize the package, which was previewed on the 'Vette that paced the 2002 Indianapolis 500.
Standard on the Anniversary Edition, and optional on coupes and convertibles, is Magnetic Selective Ride Control, which provides continuously variable suspension damping without electro-mechanical valves or any small moving parts at all. Instead, the system relies on Magneto-Rheological (MR) fluid in the shock absorbers and an electromagnetic coil inside the shock-absorber pistons. Varying the current to the coil instantly changes the viscosity of the MR fluid. This in turn allows the system to continuously adjust the shock rates, providing a quieter, flatter ride with more precise, responsive handling, particularly during sudden high-speed maneuvers. On bumpy or slick surfaces, Magnetic Selective Ride Control integrates with the Corvette's standard traction control to maximize stability; it also communicates with the anti-lock brakes.
Changes made last year (2002) included revised rear shock valving and new high-performance front brake pads. New aluminum front stabilizer-bar links were added for Z06s, and coupes and convertibles with the Z51 suspension package. All Corvettes with automatics got a new aluminum transmission cooler case.
A CD-capable stereo is standard on Corvette coupes and convertibles; a 12-disc remote CD changer costs $600 extra.