Story and Photos by Keith Burton - GulfCoastNews.com
When is comes to the quintessential American Sport Car you have to be talking about the Chevrolet Corvette. So anytime there is a new model, you are talking earthmoving news in the world or automobiles. Such is the case with Chevy's sixth generation Corvette featured here in this article. The 2005 Chevrolet Corvette delivers more passion and precision to a vehicle long known for its power. Now you can also add refinement.
Chevy says the development of the Corvette intends to not only replace the outgoing C5 Corvette (1997-2004), but also to create a 21st century Corvette that both thrills the legions of traditional loyalists and captures the imagination of a new generation of performance enthusiasts. The formula from the C5 era remains: extremely high performance capabilities in a car that offers great style, value and quality, with surprising comfort for daily driving. The Corvette builds on that foundation but wrapped in a passionate new design.
Five inches shorter than the current car, the 2005 Corvette cuts a tighter, more taut profile – with virtually no loss of usable space. More than just visual, the new dimensions make the car more agile and “tossable,” with upgrades in handling, acceleration and braking. At 0.28 coefficient of drag, the Corvette is the most aerodynamically efficient Corvette ever and has improved anti-lift characteristics that enable improved high-speed stability and confidence.
And how high is that speed? While I didn't have an opportunity to find out, Chevy's engineers tell me the top speed is 185 mph. Even the car's windshield wipers are designed for high speeds.
"While there is no place in the U.S. to legally drive at those speeds, General Motors plans include selling the new Corvette in countries where such speeds are possible. And the wipers needed to work where speeds of 150 and more are possible," said a Chevy spokesman.
On the road, I found the new Corvette lives up to its "tossable" hype as this truly is the first Corvette that I have ever felt was at ease on the road. While my time was short in the car around the GM Milford test facility, I did have the opportunity to push it a bit. Where Corvette's have never felt light on their feet, this one does. It isn't just a result of being slightly smaller, which it is, but it is in the totality of the way the controls feel, and in the power of the new LS2 engine.
Chief among the elements that make the car feel so much better, is a new, lighter action clutch, which is far quicker and lighter to engage. For the first time, you don't have to get an automatic to enjoy driving a Corvette in traffic and quickly around the twisties. The steering, always good in a 'Vette, feels even more telepathic. I think it actually compares favorably to some of Europe's best sport cars. But here, in a 'Vette, you get reliable performance. A BMW Z4 I drove back-to-back with the new "Vette, seems tinny and loose in comparison, besides being A LOT slower.
The LS2 delivers 400 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. It is the largest, most powerful standard small-block engine ever offered in Corvette.
Major revisions to the manual and automatic transmissions provide Corvette with significant improvements geared towards performance driving. The Tremec six-speed manual gearbox is available with two sets of ratios, one with more aggressive acceleration characteristics reserved for Corvette’s Z51 Performance Package that emulates the performance of the C5’s landmark Z06 model. Improved shifting characteristics are another major improvement, with new synchronizers that reduce travel by 10 percent, and a shifter knob that is an inch shorter and redesigned for greatly improved driver operation.
The Hydra-Matic 4L65-E automatic transmission is an upgraded version of the C5’s 4L60-E, strengthened and revised to accommodate the LS2’s 400 lb.-ft. of torque. It includes GM’s advanced Performance Algorithm Shifting, which automatically selects the optimal gear for a given driving condition, making it a willing accomplice for performance driving and hard cornering. The transmission now shifts at higher revs to take advantage of the higher engine output.
Not only does the LS2 engine deliver impressive horsepower, but in a true measure of real-world efficiency, it also boasts the best combination of horsepower and fuel economy among the world’s best performance cars. When the LS2’s 400 horsepower is multiplied by its 22.6 mpg combined city/highway mileage estimates, it yields a total of 9,040. Here’s how the Corvette compares with some of its key competitors:
Amazingly, the LS2 gives Corvette power in the range of exotic cars that cost tens of thousands more, combined with fuel efficiency better than some family sedans.
PASSION IN DESIGN
Larger wheels (18-inch in front, 19-inch in rear) are topped by fenders that feature a crisp look and are direct legacy of the original Stingray Corvette's of the late 1960's. Compared to the outgoing C5, this new generation Corvette has much more character in its front and rear fascia areas. The exposed lamps combine with the grille to create much more of a “face” on the car. The rear fascia is more expressive and lean, with truly round tail lamps and integrated exhaust tips.
Designers used the latest advanced computer-aided design techniques and relied heavily on traditional hand sculpting and the personal passion of designers and engineers. Chevy said sculptors pored over every millimeter of the car’s surface. The aerodynamic development combined digital simulations, Corvette Racing experience and more than 400 hours of wind tunnel testing.
The passion on the outside is reflected in an all-new interior. The twin-cockpit layout incorporates sophisticated contours, leather-like surfaces that are richer and softer, and pleasing details including metallic accents and an expressive use of color. The interior can be further enhanced by dealer-installed accessories designed to match the exterior color of the car.
ATTENTION TO DETAILS
The instrument panel and door trim areas make extensive use of cast skin, which retains the look and feel of genuine leather with excellent softness, low gloss and low glare that conveys an overall premium appearance and quality. Anodized aluminum accents the interior in key functional areas, such as the manual shift knob and door release buttons. This material includes a screen-printed appliqué that minimizes sun glare, and is resistant to temperature changes and fingerprints.
Perhaps the biggest change on the exterior are the exposed headlamps, the first time since 1962 that a production Corvette has not had a mechanism to conceal the lamps when not in use. Chevy engineers tell me that the hidden headlight system would not accommodate the high-power Xenon High-Intensity Discharge lamps, which provide an 80-percent improvement in night lighting on the road.
The new Corvette contains many new electronic technologies including Keyless Access with push-button start, and optional features such as a reconfigurable head-up display, DVD-navigation system with voice activation, XM Satellite Radio and OnStar. The keyless access system is like that found on the Cadillac sports car and new STS sedan.
The chassis features low weight, high strength, cored composite floors, an enclosed center tunnel, rear axle-mounted transmission and aluminum cockpit structure
None of the suspension bits has been carried over from C5. The short-long arm and transverse leaf spring independent suspension configuration remains, but the cradles, control arms, knuckles, springs, dampers, bushings, stabilizer bars, and steering gear are all redesigned. The Extended Mobility Tires (EMT) also are new, taking advantage of the latest sidewall design and compound technology for run-flat capabilities, and play a critical role in the tuning of the suspension for excellent handling and comfortable ride.
Improvements in ride and handling include greater lateral acceleration, more body control, less noise transmitted from the road, and better traction and stability in corners. The specific tuning changes in the chassis and suspension include suspension and steering geometry optimized for better handling and ride, advanced compounds in the tires, new directional control arm bushings, increased caster angle and greater suspension ride travel. The result is a Corvette that is more poised at even higher handling levels, yet easier to drive.
Suspension Choices. Three suspension choices allow drivers to choose the setup that best suits their driving style – Standard, Magnetic Selective Ride Control, and Z51 Performance Package. The Standard suspension is tuned for a balance of ride comfort and precise handling.
Magnetic Selective Ride Control. The optional F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension features magneto-rheological dampers able to detect road surfaces and adjust the damping rates to those surfaces almost instantly for optimal ride and body control. Magnetic Ride Control debuted on the 2003 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette, and is the world’s fastest reacting suspension, replacing mechanical valves with nearly instantaneous reactions of magneto-rheological fluid. The system has been improved for the Corvette, allowing drivers more differentiation in character between the system’s two settings, “Tour” and “Sport.”
Z51 Performance Package. The Z51 Performance Package brings Corvette Coupe performance very close to the same level as the widely admired Z06. The Z51 offers more aggressive dampers and springs, larger stabilizer bars, and larger, cross-drilled brake rotors for optimum track performance capability while still providing a well-controlled and comfortable ride. Chevy engineers conducted extensive racetrack testing, which revealed that a Corvette equipped with the Z51 suspension almost equals the lap time of a C5 Z06.
Chevy engineers tells us they sought to eliminate the little imperfections and potential “dis-satisfiers” that sports car customers formerly had to accept. All of the major user interfaces – the hood, the doors, and the rear hatch – have been painstakingly designed for top quality performance, look and feel. The hood is still forward-hinged, but is 15 percent smaller, 35 percent lighter, and 40 percent stiffer than the previous Corvette. The rear hatch has a power-operated single-cinching latch for excellent fit and easy operation. Doors are stiffer and easier to close, doing so with a more refined sound. There are no traditional door handles on the 2005 Corvette. The Corvette features GM’s Keyless Access with Push Button Start technology. By detecting the proximity of the key fob, the system both unlocks the doors and allows it to be started.
The removable-roof panel is 15 percent larger, yet offers the same structural stiffness as C5’s while weighing just one pound more. The roof panel comes standard painted body color, or is available with optional tinted clear or with a dual-roof package. Both the tinted clear and painted roof panels weight just under 20 pounds, so removal is a snap. With new indexing side-window glass that fit tightly to their seals, wind and road noises are hushed for a sports car, until you stomp on the gas.
Now by this time, you may be wondering if all of this new found goodness is going to cost you more. Here's a surprise for you. The base price for Corvette coupe is $44,242, which is $1,300 LESS expensive than the C5 similarly equipped. The base price for the convertible is $52,245, which is $305 less.
My only question now is, can the new Corvette by too refined for its own good? Gone are all the rough edges that made this car what it was. This new generation Corvette, I believe, marks a whole new potential worldwide for this American Icon. Well done, Chevrolet. Well done.