2017 Chevrolet Corvette

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One reads that the current Corvette is the best Corvette ever, but is it?

It is certainly the best-performing Corvette ever. That can’t be debated. The numbers tell the tale. It accelerates more quickly, has the highest top speed and can lap a track at a pace no previous Corvette could match.

But do the numbers make it the best Corvette ever?

That’s another question.

WHAT IT IS

The Corvette is America’s exotic sports car. The unique (now that the Viper is kaput) American alternative to Porsches, Ferraris and so on. It is exotic because of its performance – as good or better than a Porsche’s or a Ferrari’s –  and also because of its price.

Though not yet six figures, it is getting there.

The least expensive Corvette is the $55,450 for a Stingray coupe with manual (seven speed) transmission. A Z06 – with a supercharger strapped to its 6.2 liter V8 – lists for $79,450.

When Corvette was America’s sports car, it was still within the grasp of a guy who could afford a V8 Camaro. A regular guy, in other words.

It’s not anymore.

In 1970, the base price of the then-new Z28 Camaro – which had the same solid lifter-cammed LT-1 350 small block V8 as the 1970 Corvette – stickered for about $4,400. For less than $1,000 more, you you could move up to a 1970 Corvette – the base price of which was $5,192.

Times have . . . changed.

It is now an $18,545 jump from a 2017 Camaro SS to a 2017 Corvette.

But if it makes you feel better, a new Corvette is still less expensive than a new Ferrari or 911 Porsche.

For the moment.

WHAT’S NEW

Chevy has brought back the Gran Sport trim – which includes the handling/braking enhancements you’d get with the Z06 – along with the Z06’s butched-up bodywork – but without the Z06’s supercharger and price tag.

WHAT’S GOOD

Faster than most motorcycles but your passenger doesn’t have to cling to you like a baby Rhesus monkey – and you’ve got AC, too.

Exotic car performance out of a pretty simple V8 powerplant. No four valve heads. Just one camshaft. No turbos.

As much trunk room as a Camry (15 cubic feet).

It’s still a deal compared with a performance-competitive Porsche – or any Ferrari.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

A base 2017 Corvette costs not far from twice as much (adjusted for inflation) as a 1970 Corvette.

It looks less and less like a Corvette – and more and more like an exotic.

An SS Camaro has the same basic engine, is nearly as quick – and can be made just as quick as the Z06 Corvette by bolting on the supercharger you just bought  . . . with the $40k you just saved.

UNDER THE HOOD

There can be no argument about the current Corvette’s engine being the strongest standard engine ever put into a Corvette. Nor any doubt that the performance it delivers is the most extreme ever offered by a standard-issue Corvette.

The 6.2 liter V8 makes 455 hp (460, with the optional sport exhaust) and 465 ft.-lbs. of torque. It works through a standard seven-speed manual (steep overdrive gearing in 6th and 7th, making 25 MPG on the highway possible) or an optional eight-speed automatic. Either way, America’s exotic sports car is capable of an explosive 4 second-to-60 run, a 12 second quarter mile and 170-plus on the top end.

Some perspective:

One of the all-time prior high-water-mark Corvettes – as far as power/performance – was the 1968-’69 L-88 Corvette. Today, it is one of the most collectible Corvettes you can buy. Provided your buying power is such that you can afford a quarter-million-dollar car. Anyhow, the L-88 (which was an extremely low-volume, special-order deal and not a standard-issue Corvette) had a 427 cubic inch (old school way of measuring engine size; about 7.1 liters in modern liter-speak) V8 with a choppy solid lifter cam that made it almost impossible to drive on the street and forget air conditioning or an automatic transmission.

You couldn’t even order a radio.

But you did get 435 hp.

That’s 25 less than the current Corvette offers – from its standard and deceptively docile 6.2 liter engine, which is as stop-and-go traffic friendly as a Camry’s V6.

With AC – and a very good stereo.

An automatic, if you like.

Fully warranted, no sketchy “for off road use only” liability exemptions.

And Chevy is building as many as demand will support.

Back in ’68 (and all the way through 1969, when production ended) the L-88 was an almost occult option known only to insiders who were mostly professional racers. Only  216 of these animals were made, all told, over that two year run. Chevy builds that many 460 hp Stingrays in a month, nowadays.

Perhaps even more amazing is that all that power is the result of engine architecture that is, in broad brush strokes,  pretty much the same as it was back in ’68.

As it was back in ’55, actually.

That was the year Chevy unveiled its then-new (and then-exotic) “small bock” V8 engine. It was compact, lightweight – and high-powered. The first mass-produced V8 to achieve the much-coveted honor of producing one horsepower for every cubic inch of displacement (283 hp out of 283 cubic inches, in ’57).

It had a single camshaft, pushrods actuating the valves – of which there were only 16 (one intake and one exhaust for each cylinder).

Just like the current Corvette’s 6.2 V8.

It needs no turbo – let alone two of them. Just one camshaft – and the same (basically) cylinder head layout, with two valves per and those valves actuated by pushrods. It is the only exotic car powerplant laid out so simply – and yet, so potently.

How did Chevy engineers get such big numbers out of such a simple engine? Airflow is always the way. The current ‘Vette’s cylinder heads huff so much air it’s surprising there is any atmosphere left to breath within a radius of 20 yards of the car.

And you can double that down, if you like (and can afford it).

Select the Z06 and the power jumps to 650 hp and 650 ft.-lbs. of torque via the force-feeding of even more air through the 6.2’s Lincoln Tunnel-like ports. The supercharger nestled between the banks of the V8 howls – and pokes through the hood – and gets you to 60 in the mid threes.

It makes the L-88 look like a Prius, almost.

ON THE ROAD

It feels more than slightly ridiculous to drive a car like this at anything less than twice whatever the posted speed limit is – because anything less is like being pumped up with two or three Viagras and a couple of Red Bulls … and then staying home to watch Game of Thrones (by yourself).

This problem is magnified by the rest of the Corvette.

Its tires, for instance. You have traction. Huge, staggered-size (18 and 19 inch front/rear) wheels wrapped with ultra-sticky “summer” tires. Even more aggressive 20-inchers are available (standard with the Z51 and Z06)

The L-88 had 15×7 steel wheels and 60-series bias-plys. Which made it almost impossible to get traction. It was easy to chirp the tires.

You have to really mean it to chirp the new ‘Vette’s  tires. And that means pushing it. Not so much the car.

You.

Do not be deceived by the Camry-esque docility. A stab of the throttle will make it very clear that you are not behind the wheel of a Camry. The view may be sideways.

And now, you are operating well outside the boundaries of the law.

Arguably, there can be such a thing as too much.

Here you have a car that is very hard to make much use of without running the risk of severe consequences, legally and otherwise. One of the things about older Corvettes with much less power and much lower limits was that you could max them out without maxing yourself out.

Bring lawyers, guns and money.

There is also this:

To drive a Corvette is to wave the red flag in front of the bull. Other drivers (Camry drivers, unhappy with their lot) see you in their rearviews and close ranks, block you in. Every kid in a winged WRX or fart-canned Civic wants to race; they blip their throttles, baiting you.

Hard it is, to resist.

What else did you buy this car for, after all?

So – as with any exotic car – it is an exercise in temptation and frustration to drive this car. Perhaps even more so because it is so deceptively docile. An L-88 Corvette self-regulated. Only a deliberate fool would try to drive one in stop-and-go-traffic. And it took a bigger fool to not respect what it could do when provoked. It was an expert’s car.

Everyone else was – rightly – terrified of the thing.

The 2017 Corvette is a car with capabilities even more extreme yet it is not initially intimidating, which encourages a lack of respect for what it can do when provoked. There are ugly YouTube videos of the results of this.

The now-deceased Viper (deceased because the ‘Vette cleaned its clock at the track) was much more of a handful; a car that instilled respect for your limitations very much in the manner that the big-engined bruisers of the ’60s (like the L-88) did. You could not get it with an automatic and while you could drive it in traffic, it was never easy to do so.

The Corvette’s blessing – and its danger – is that it is.

Be careful.

AT THE CURB

Well, first of all, there is such a thing as redemption.

Did you know that current Corvette’s look is the result of the same mind that gave the world the Aztek? The mind in question belongs to Tom Peters (no relation) who is an Executive Director of Exterior Design at GM.

The planes and angles are similar – just not ugly and awkward this time. Think Dennis Quaid  . . . and Randy Quaid.

But does it look too much like a Ferrari or some other Euro-exotic – and not enough like a Corvette?

Corvettes used to be long and lean (and every young man’s dream). A 1970 Corvette was 182.5 inches bumper-to-bumper, only 69 inches through its wasp-waisted hips and rode on a tight 98 inch wheelbase. The 2017 Corvette is much stubbier – and wider. Just 177.9 inches long – and 77.4 inches wide. Almost eight inches wider! It rides on a much longer 106.7 inch wheelbase. And – strangely enough – the ’17 is taller than the ’70: 48.6 inches vs. 47.4 inches.

There is a rumor that the next Corvette will be mid-engined, which would complete the car’s transition from America’s sports car to America’s exotic sports car.

It is probably inevitable – and perhaps, necessary.

If Chevy is going to compete with the exotics, the Corvette has to offer more than just exotic car performance – for the same reason that adding, say, climate control AC and leather seats to a Malibu isn’t enough to make it a Cadillac.

The car has to have exotic looks – and this one certainly does.

But it’s sad – to me – that it looks less and less like a Corvette with each new generation.

THE REST

In keeping with the exotic car theme, you can order a new Corvette with the tech features you’d certainly expect to find in an exotic car – such as a performance data recorder that is kind of like a super GoPro, with telemetry, too. There are cameras built into the car to record your exotic car driving, including g forces registered, braking, lap times and so on. Just don’t post to YouTube – unless you do it via an anonymous cutout and your license plates aren’t showing.

The coupe has a removable roof section (available in translucent clear or carbon fiber) and – huge surprise – a trunk area that’s as roomy as a mid-sized family sedan’s. Convertibles have less space (10 cubes vs. 15) but it’s still better-than-decent for an exotic sports car.

One of the cool things about the convertible is that you can raise or lower the top (electric) without having to stop for saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety. It works – either way – at speeds up to 30 MPH.

The Safety Cult is chewing the carpet about now.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s without doubt the most formidable Corvette yet. It is also an almost-exotic Corvette – including its price tag.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that makes it the best Corvette yet.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Nice look at the legendary Corvette, Eric. I agree that it is ugly looking. I don’t see any of the heritage of the Corvette in this current generation. Such a shame. And yeah…to have the designer of the fugly Aztec also design the Corvette….yuck. At least Dodge is sticking to their Mopar heritage with the Challenger. And I like the look of the new Mustang (it is growing on me more and more, and still has its lineage apparent).

  2. “because anything less is like being pumped up with two or three Viagras and a couple of Red Bulls … and then staying home to watch Game of Thrones (by yourself).”

    ouch

  3. I have a fair bit of experience with the Corvette. I used to have a C6 Z06, and I still own a 1972 Stingray. I can’t stand the looks of the C7, and now that you mention it was the same guy that designed the Aztek, it all makes sense. The current generation is by far the ugliest of any Corvette generation, including the 84-96 C4 generation (which has grown on me as it has aged). The current gen has lost most of what made it look like a Corvette. In place of curvaceous, flowing, feminine lines we get something that looks like a third grader with a ruler drew on a napkin during nap time. It doesn’t have any good angles, only less bad ones. The rear end looks more like a Camaro than a Corvette. That said, as you write, you can’t argue with the performance numbers, even out of a base C7.

    Though it may be rated at 25mpg highway, I can promise it will do far better than the EPA ever dreamed, if it’s like previous generation Vettes. My Z06 could get 30mpg all day long at interstate speeds and, if I was doing state highway two lanes, I could get closer to 33mpg consistently. In town driving usually hovered in the low 20s, and you’d only dip into the teens if you drove it with a heavy foot (which is hard not to do, admittedly). It was an ideal daily driver as it was both comfortable and roomy as long as you only needed room for two. The trunk was not only large, but it was quite usable. Not only did it swallow luggage with the best of them, it actually served pretty well for Home Depot runs as long as your expectations were realistic. I even used it once to move my office down the road (not furniture).

    As an observer, it seems to me that GM is moving Corvette more up market. It used to be that Camaro wasn’t permitted to compete with Corvette in terms of performance numbers, but now we have the likes of the Camaro Z28 1LE that can hang with Corvettes on a track, not to mention Ferraris and Porsches, though admittedly for a pretty sizable chunk of money. Ford only had the Mustang at the time, so it was free to make higher performance models that started to encroach on Corvette territory while Camaro was relegated to bargain performance only. As you mentioned, the strong rumor is that the next gen C8 Corvette will move to a mid-engine platform. Their chief engineer has been noted to say that they’ve maxed out the on-track performance of a front engine layout with the current generation and need to move to mid-engine if they want to raise the performance bar any higher. This will necessarily be a more expensive car, due to the nature of mid-engine layouts and the performance targets, but likely still much cheaper than a Porsche or Ferrari of comparable performance. Thus they seem to have let the Camaro team cut loose on the new Camaro platform, which also underpins the Cadillac ATS and CTS, to move up and truly compete (and beat) the best Mustang has to offer.

    I’m glad one can buy a reasonably priced ($55k) performance car that has this level of performance when the average selling price of a car in the US is now $35k. It’s glorious in the same way that it’s glorious we can purchase a Dodge Hellcat or Demon and go ridiculously fast in a straight line despite all the governments environmental and safety fatwas. In that regard, the Corvette, in all its forms, is still a giant middle finger to the government busybodies.

    On a related note, for various reasons I have had to step back from the sports coupe world into something more practical as a people and stuff hauler, but I didn’t want to give up too much performance. I’m now in a 2017 Chevrolet SS. I’d highly recommend you check one out, EP, if you get a chance. They are no longer making them (made by Holden in Australia), but it is a sweet platform. Under the hood is the 6.2L LS3 engine from the previous generation Corvette and Camaro pumping out 415 hp and 415 lb-ft. In many ways it’s a sleeper, as from the outside it doesn’t appear to be anything special to the untrained eye, yet it is capable of 0-60 times in the mid to upper 4s and 1/4 mile around 13 flat. It’s also a full size sedan with plenty of room for 5 people and a pretty large trunk. It is also a track monster, with handling and overall performance comparing favorably to the classic E39 M5 BMW from the early 2000s.

    This, like many others, is a dying breed. Large American (actually Australian) car with a big American V8 under the hood getting 22mpg highway. It uses simple mechanicals with bulletproof parts that are time tested and proven. It’s shocking that Uncle Sam even permitted it to exist on these shores. I’d highly recommend checking one out if you’re at all interested in performance and value.

    • Hi SJ!

      I need details about the ’72!

      The ’68-73s are my personal favorites. They have everything – the looks and the goods. Including the potential to make the goods even… gooder!

      I agree with you on all points about the new one. The performance (and value) it offers are spectacular, but I can’t get over the looks of the thing. I don’t think it will age well.

      Unlike, say, yours!

  4. Hi Eric,

    Uber fan of your site and donate to it. Question for you. I have a R8 V10 MANUAL and a TTRS he same. I’ve considered the Z06 to replace both. I think my manual tranny Audi’s will go up in vaule over timenot to mention the screaming V10. However the vette has all the new toys and fully customized from factory for 90K.

    Your thoughts and any other gents would be appreciated.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Craig!

      Thanks for the kind words, first of all (and the support)!

      Ok, wow… you have a tough choice there 🙂

      The R8 is – to my mind – the more exotic. But the Z06 is a killer, whether the measure is acceleration or road course/lap time capabilities. It is also the more everyday drivable of the two – not so much because of how it drives but because of the way other drivers and people generally react to it. Oh, there goes a Corvette. Car people know the Z06. But most people see a Corvette.

      Can you keep both?

  5. The Vette I loved was the early 70s with the 427, sports cars are not always about the ultimate performance( there’s always some rich Guy who glad to spend 20K just to get a nose ahead of you in special circumstances to put you down) Myself I am of the 95% at 50% of the cost set. These new ones are rather ugly in my opinion. I do pity the poor saps( at least in the old days) who would buy a Z28 and think they were going to collect Vette, doors.( sort of like comparing a Cessna Citation to a 210)

    • Hi Kevin,

      I’ve been lucky enough to get wheel time in several older Corvettes. In my opinion, one of the best all-arounders was the mid-late ’70s ‘Vette with the L-82 350 and four-speed manual. The L-82 was similar to the LT-1, but had a milder hydraulic cam, lower compression and a Quadrajet on a medium rise manifold instead of a Holley. It made around 220-240 (rated) hp.

      That car was a lot of fun – that being defined (to me) as more than fast enough to excite and limits/cornering capabilities high enough to be enjoyable for a good/skilled driver (someone who has or is capable of getting an SCCA license) but not so high that you’d need to be a pro shoe (and on a track) to come close to testing the car’s capabilities.

      Also, the L-82 350 was one of those great engines that was amenable to minor mods that delivered big hp increases.

      • An intake change, headers and exhaust, a hotter cam and the rest of that stock L 82 would produce more than half again as much power as stock. While I don’t know the numbers of them sold it seemed there were a great many of them.

        There were two distinct groups who bought them. I always equated the automatic crowd as “poseurs”. Same for Camaro.

  6. I was recently looking on YT about the new, most badass ‘Vette. $150K. Thats outta my range…..but, it runs rings around such things as the new half million dollar GT 40 and lots of other exotic cars. Keep in mind the $55K model ain’t no slouch and costs $15K less than the GMC pickup lots of people choose.

    Back in the day of “affordable” Corvettes did anybody(and everybody)have pickups that cost $15-18K more than the Vette or the equivalent amount in that time period?

    Dodge, not my fav brand for pickups has the ultimate priced job now even topping anything GM or Ford produces. Put in those terms a ‘Vette isn’t expensive when you consider vehicles such as the Caddy/Tahoe special. No, I won’t be buying one simply because I wouldnt spend that much on anything with less than 10 wheels and a 15 L diesel. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth the price.

    Consider the wage people make compared to 50 years ago and it all makes sense(to me). I can make half again as much trucking now as I could in 1973. Boy, am I getting rich or what?

    And the ‘Vette of today has standard stuff I could only dream of in the 70’s. Titanium connecting rods in the 70’s were $1500 a set of 8. What would that be in 2017 money? And a Corvette has a higher standard to achieve now than then. Ford matches the badass Corvette model with a half million dollar GT 40 that’s less reliable.
    I’m not grooving on not being able to afford one but there’s more at play than simply driving up the price.

    I don’t mean to be crass but pussy was a lot cheaper(and better)back then too. Who to blame that on?

  7. Cruised alongside a Caddy ATS for a few miles the other day. Got me to thinking about the new ‘Vette and why it exists. As I’ve said before and Eric points out, the Corvette was always an affordable car. It got guts in the muscle car era but still more looks and fun than performance. Pontiac was the performance line, and when it got the axe they had the chance to take the Corvette back to its roots and make Cadillac the performance/exotic brand. Instead Cadillac is a forgotten brand riding on the Escalade.

    • Geez, no coffee. Really need an editor! “As I’ve said before (and Eric points out it was an affordable car), I knew teachers and recent college grads who owned Corvettes.”

      • Hi Ready,

        Yup.

        When I was in high school a friend’s dad had one. He wasn’t rich, either.

        Corvettes – regular models – were affordable through the ’70s; they began to drift toward exotic car prices in the ’80s.

        At some point, GM may need to sell the car as a stand-alone model at a high-end “Corvette” store. People who pay Corvette money don’t want to sit in a waiting room with people who own Malibus…

        • I had a friend whose parents appeared to be unemployed in the early 80’s- they owned one of those gaudy sliver/black 78′ pace car editions…they used to drive me and their son around town in it while smoking weed(I was around 11 or 12 at the time). lol, the Corvette slight used was definitely in reach of the average Joe back then.

          I used to worry about them smoking weed while in the car with them driving around, but the gaudy car itself was lure enough for an 11 year old boy to keep his trap shut and try to enjoy the ride.

          • Ditto that, Nick!

            I had a very similar experience… a friend of mine’s dad had one. We were in Scouts together. His dad was named Buddy; a good ol’ boy from Texas. He would take us for tire-chirping rides down the street and back… good times!

            • That’s true. However father could order 2 or 3 a year up through ’91. (I see my typo above.) There was a factory code that delivered the Calloway with the full factory warranty via Chevrolet. I don’t think Calloway ever delivered more than about 50 a year via the factory. (BTW, I wonder what a Calloway Rabbit or Alfa GTV sells for now, let alone the ‘Vette.)

  8. And then there’s GM/Chevrolet “quality”:

    “Corvette Z06 Owners Hit GM with Proposed Class-Action Lawsuit for Cooling System Defect that Leaves Cars Limping on the Track” https://www.hbsslaw.com/cases/corvette-z06-overheating/pressrelease/corvette-z06-overheating-corvette-z06-owners-hit-gm-with-proposed-class-action-lawsuit-for-cooling-system-defect-that-leaves-cars-limping-on-the-track

    I speak from experience – once an all GM guy (SS 396 Chevelle, Camaro Z28s, etc.) to no GM vehicles. Especially troubling when GM attempted to sic their lawyers on me rather than repairing the vehicle.

      • “Chevy Bolt EV is already being discounted by $5,000+ as deliveries are stalling, CA customers paying $25K after incentives”.

  9. Saw one of these Vettes at the dragstrip last weekend. Didn’t bother to see what ETs it was running though, maybe next week. I was too busy trying to stay away from (Tom) Klemme in the early rounds of eliminations, wanted to delay the spanking until later in the evening…

    Was also talking to a guy with a new ZL1 Camaro, Livernois tuned & modded to over 800 hp. He has been unable to break into the 11s due to a lack of traction (even with drag radials) but trap speeds were 130+ mph. Funny how the mfr. claims mid 11s from a stocker.
    A real drag car should be running high 9s given a 130+ mph trap speed…

  10. I’m surprised GM hasn’t turned Corvette into a brand name. They could offer a variety of cars under the name instead of trying to make one model do everything (which never really works).

    On the subject of price. Camaro’s are hardly affordable to an average joe, let alone a Corvette.

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