2009 Corvette New Car Test Drive
The Chevrolet Corvette is the great American sports car. It's thrilling to drive, with breathtaking acceleration performance and exceptionally tenacious grip for hard braking and high-speed cornering.
Value isn't the first thing that comes to mind when talk turns to the Corvette but, when it comes to high performance, it might be the best bang-for-the-buck deal on the planet. For the price of a midsize luxury sedan, the Corvette delivers supercar performance. It's easy to drive on a daily basis and maintenance costs are not exotic.
We love the standard Coupe, with either the manual or Paddle Shift automatic. It quickly infuses a driver with confidence. Its brakes are fantastic. And, it's blazingly fast. The six-speed automatic transmission works great and lives up to the advanced technology in the rest of the car; it can be shifted manually with levers on the steering column.
The Convertible on the other hand is plain wonderful. Drop the top on a nice day, pop in your favorite CD, and you might have what psychologists call a peak experience, a moment where you revel in being alive. It's a fantastic feeling, and at those moments the Corvette more than justifies its price. The aural sounds of the burbling V8, the body-colored trim that surrounds the cabin, the feel of power beneath, it is automotive heaven.
The Corvette can be a reasonably comfortable daily driver in most locales, for at least three of the four seasons. The latest-generation Corvette is a sophisticated car, and its performance does not exact a painful toll on driver or passenger. And, with all that performance, it still gets an EPA-rated 26 mpg on the Highway, better than most SUVs.
The Z06 is a true supercar for a price that's merely expensive, as opposed to insanely expensive. The Z06 is powered by the 7.0-liter 505-horsepower LS7 V8, has a lightweight chassis and is fitted with upgraded brakes. If any $70,000 car can be called a bargain, this is the one, at least in terms of raw performance. The Corvette Z06 accelerates faster, grips better and stops shorter than European sports cars that cost twice as much. And we find it easier to drive than a Viper. Indeed, it takes an expensive machine, well driven, to compete with a Z06.
Moving even further upward is the ZR1, a limited-production extremely high performance iteration that boasts a 6.2-liter V8 that's supercharged and cranks out 638 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque. It is the most powerful, quickest, fastest, most capable and highest-performing production car ever built by General Motors, which also makes it the highest-performing Corvette ever built, and carries a hefty price tag of $103,970. According to Chevrolet, it has a top speed of 205 mph.
For 2009, changes to the Corvette line are minimal. There is a lower-priced Convertible, the 1LT, which makes it possible to have a Corvette Convertible for less money. The power convertible top is standard on the 2LT trim level and all versions above that. The Coupes have a standard power hatch pull-down. And there are some new colors inside and out and minor enhancements to trim and features. The Z06 has new 10-spoke alloy wheels and its engine has a bigger dry-sump lubrication system, with 10.5 quarts capacity instead of the former 8.0 quarts.
The Chevrolet Corvette is available in two body styles, Coupe or Convertible, with either a manual or automatic transmission. The Z06 and ZR1 models are available only as fixed-roof Coupes.
The Corvette Coupe ($48,565) and Convertible ($53,220 are powered by a 6.2-liter V8 with 430 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; a six-speed Paddle Shift automatic ($1,250) is optional. An optional dual-mode exhaust system ($1,195) raises horsepower to 436. There are four trim levels; 1LT, 2LT, 3LT and 4LT, with increasing levels of features.
The Coupe features a one-piece removable roof panel in body color or transparent plastic ($750). The dual-roof option ($1,400) includes both. The Convertible comes standard with a manually operated soft top; a power soft top, with a heated glass rear window, is standard on 2LT trim levels and above.
Standard features for the Corvette include leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control with a pollen filter, power everything including seats, cruise control, tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry and starting, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack, XM Satellite Radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlights, alarm, fog lights, xenon headlights, OnStar telematics, and P245/40ZR18 front and P285/35ZR19 rear run-flat tires on alloy wheels. The Convertible adds sport seats with adjustable lumbar support and side bolsters. The sport seats are included with Preferred Equipment Group 2LT ($1,545) for the Coupe, which also adds power passenger's seat, side airbags, a rear cargo net and a luggage shade.
Two suspension options are offered for both Coupe and Convertible. The Z51 Performance Handling Package ($1,695) is designed for track events, while Magnetic Selective Ride Control ($1,995) automatically switches from extra-firm to more comfortable touring settings with electronically controlled variable damping.
Preferred Equipment Group 3LT ($4,555) includes a head-up display, heated seats with position memory, a premium Bose stereo with six-disc CD changer, redundant steering-wheel controls, a power telescoping steering column, universal garage door opener and rearview mirror with compass. Preferred Equipment Group 4LT includes 3LT and adds custom leather upholstery on the top of the instrument panel, upper door panels, and console cover, as well as extra armrest padding, crossed flags seat embroidery and a special console trim plate.
Options include DVD navigation ($1,750), which includes the Bose audio and voice recognition; chromed aluminum wheels ($1,850); polished aluminum wheels ($1,295); and dark gray painted wheels ($395). Customers can also opt to take delivery of their cars at the Corvette Museum ($490). The event is broadcast on the internet and customers receive a plaque, special door badges, and a one-year membership to the museum.
The Corvette Z06 Coupe ($73,925) comes with a 7.0-liter V8 producing 505 horsepower, with dry-sump lubrication and coolers for the power steering pump, gearbox and rear differential. Beyond the engine, the Z06 package includes a host of high-performance components. The Z06 hardtop is fixed in place. Its brakes are upgraded, its tires are huge (P275/35ZR18 fronts and P325/30ZR19 rears), and it's offered only with the six-speed manual transmission. The head-up display comes standard.
Two option packages are available for Z06: The 2LZ Preferred Equipment Group ($3,045) has side airbags; power telescoping steering column; steering wheel audio controls; heated seats; memory for the seats, mirrors and steering wheel; the Bose audio system; universal garage door opener; cargo net; and cargo cover. The 3LZ Preferred Equipment Group ($6,545) has the 2LZ equipment plus the 4LT package items. There is a variety of wheel choices, from painted aluminum to polished or chrome finishes.
The ZR1 has a supercharged 6.2-liter version of the Z06 V8, utilizing an Eaton four-lobe supercharger. To deal with the additional stresses and loads, every appropriate piece of the engine has been upgraded. As with the Z06, it is available only as a coupe, and only with a heavy-duty six-speed manual transmission. The ZR1 gets huge Brembo brakes, 15.5 inches in front and 15.0 inches in the rear, and made of special heat-resistant carbon-ceramic material. The tires are Michelin Pilot Sport 2 ZP run-flats, sized 285/30ZR19 in front and 335/25ZR20 in the rear; the rims are 10 inches wide in front and 12 inches in the rear. The ZR1 also has the lighter-weight aluminum chassis components of the Z06, and carbon fiber for the roof, hood and front fenders. In addition, the ZR1 hood has a transparent panel, just so folks can look in on the engine.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual-stage front airbags, ABS, tire-pressure monitor, traction control and electronic stability control. Side airbags are standard on the Convertible, but optional on the Coupe. We recommend them.