May 21, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 25 October 2012 10:38
It’s been 60 years since the first Chevrolet Corvettes rolled off the assembly line. Hollywood star John Wayne bought the 51st Corvette. He gave it away, supposedly because the low-slung two-seater couldn’t accommodate his 6-4 frame. We’ll never know whether the Duke was also disappointed by the early Corvette’s meek mouse of a motor: a 150-horsepower inline six, with two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission.
There’s nothing meek about today’s Corvette. Our test car, a 2012 GS coupe, packed a wallop: a 6.2-liter, 436-horsepower V-8 engine with 428 pound-feet of torque, and a six-speed manual shifter. Fast? Oh, yeah. And the price is right: $55,925, with options boosting the bottom line on our test car to $71,980. This falls well below the price point of comparable European sport coupes by Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Porsche.
The challenge for the Corvette folks is to compete with the latter-day muscle cars that have taken the country by storm in recent years, including the Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang. Automakers have wrung exquisite handling and raw power from the muscle-car platforms, and all of these cars are more versatile and convenient than the Corvette. They can transport more passengers, and are easier to access and egress. And they’re available with engines ranging from 400 to 650 horsepower.
Our 2012 Corvette was a styling success among our friends, family and neighbors around Bethel, Conn. Front fender humps that once interfered with forward vision even for average-height drivers have been shaved, markedly improving visibility. And folks also prefer the current generation’s open headlights to the retractable headlights of old. The car seemed wider and lower, less a caricature of raw power (as some Corvette designs were in the past) and more like a reflection of the real thing.
Our coupe, like one we drove in 2010, had a removable top. As before, it can be removed and reinstalled by one person, but this is best viewed as a two-man job. And the top gobbles up a big chunk of the Corvette coupe’s impressively big (22.4-cubic-foot) luggage compartment.
Chevrolet has tailored the Corvette’s option packages and body styles to every possible taste, so each Corvette has potential to be like no other, in terms of interior accommodations, styling and performance capabilities. Starting with the $49,600 base model, Corvettes are offered in GS, Z06 and ZR1 trim, the latter coming in at $111,600. But if you want modest power, forget it. The most lightly endowed Corvette engine packs 430 horsepower.
The 2013 model is “the final year of the current generation” of the Corvette, according to the manufacturer. It’s been a good run — even in its waning days, the current model is maintaining its sales volume — and while we don’t know what’s in store for Corvette fans in the 2014 model year, we’re confident it will still be a true thrill ride.
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 436 horsepower, 428 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-60 time: 4.4 seconds (edmunds.com performance testing)
Weight: 3,311 lb.
Suspension: short/long arm double wishbone, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, monotube shock absorber, front and rear
Wheels: 18x9.5-in. front, 19x12-in. rear, silver painted aluminum
Tires: P275/35ZR18 front, P325/30ZR19 rear, both Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar run flat
Luggage capacity: 22.4 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18 gal.
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 26 highway
Fuel type: Premium unleaded gasoline (recommended but not required)
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