The car’s overall aesthetic stance is akin to a fighter jet, rather than a bulbous two-door with a V8.
I’ll start this off by being totally frank – the Chevrolet Corvette may be an American icon, but it has never really done it for my enthusiast side. I grew up as a car nut, chalking ‘Vettes off as straight-line cars with no real passion, while offerings from Europe and Japan appealed to my inner purist far more. Things changed in 2013 with the introduction of the current model, known as the C7 and the return of the Stingray nameplate. This car was designed as a multi-faceted dynamic sports car, available either with a removable targa roof or as a soft-top convertible.
As in previous years, the C7 Corvette has been offered in a variety of configurations, including the range-topping Z06 with its supercharged V8. This test vehicle, while bearing many aesthetic similarities to the Z06, lacks the blower and is naturally aspirated. It may sound like a disappointment, but in reality, the 2018 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is the Stingray to have. This car combines all of the goodies from the Z06 including cosmetic upgrades, suspension, and brakes, and puts it into one perfect well-rounded package that starts at a remarkably affordable price.
First things first – what’s under the hood? The ‘Vette packs a 6.2L all-American V8, naturally aspirated and pushing a generous 460 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 465 lb-ft. of torque at 4,600RPM. It has direct injection, an aluminum block and heads, and is codenamed “LT1”. For the vast majority of drivers, this is more than enough power. Throttle response is excellent, and the center-exit exhaust makes an epic noise. Selecting “Sport” and “Track” on the drive mode selector crispens everything up, including the steering, and opens the baffles on the exhaust even more. For those who aren’t in the know, this is the non-supercharged version of the same motor in the Cadillac CTS-V (reviewed here).
The Corvette is, as expected, very tail happy, but easily manageable by a competent driver. Our example was fitted with the seven-speed manual, which has a great shifter and clutch combination. This transmission complements the car’s eager chassis nicely. The Grand Sport adds a dry sump oiling system, which helps it hustle even more. The Z07 Performance Package equipped here adds ceramic brakes all around with painted calipers, Z07 performance suspension with Magnetic Ride Control, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer tires.
Steering feel is surprisingly well retained on this car, with great response and tons of feedback coming through to the driver’s fingers. It’s beautifully weighted and the car is a delight to fling around corners. The Brembo carbon ceramic brakes on this model are also simply incredible, and have “pull your face off” stopping power. With 15.5” rotors in the front and 15.3” out back, those intending on taking their car to the track can brake much later than would be otherwise possible. The problem is, the carbon ceramics cost a fortune to replace, will wear out quickly under track use, and do tend to squeak at low speeds. Even still, as far as pure track performance is concerned, these brakes are amazing.
Where Chevrolet has done a spectacular job on this car is in the chassis engineering – this car has a split personality. It’s perfectly balanced and happy to play immediately on command, but ask it to be a civilized cruiser and it buckles down instantly. We had to put considerable mileage on this vehicle to travel to another event, and despite being a 6.2L V8, it was able to pull off some surprising fuel economy numbers thanks to the active cylinder management. We kept it at 8.6L/100km highway, which surpasses the manufacturer’s 8.9L/100km highway claim. After a week of commuting and even some spirited driving, the Grand Sport easily kept itself under 12L/100km on 93-octane fuel.
Aesthetically, the current Corvette is an aggressive looking car, especially with the Grand Sport sporting the same flared fenders and wide tires as the Z06. Our tester was painted in Watkins Glen Grey Metallic with some interesting blue stripes affixed to the front bumpers and 19” wheels. The Z07 aero bits include a carbon-fiber front splitter, decklid lip spoiler, and side skirts to complete the whole look.
The iconic quad circular taillights that have been affiliated with the Corvette name for decades are now squared off, and the car’s aesthetic stance is akin to a fighter jet, rather than a bulbous two-door with a V8. The removable targa roof is easy to take off, and stows neatly in the rear cargo area. This is an easy task for one able-bodied person – it’s more cumbersome than it is heavy. Three latches on the inside of the car release the roof piece; two at the top of the windshield and one above the center console, directly above the seatbacks. This body style is my pick over the convertible any day of the week – road noise is minimized with the top in place, but the open-air experience is only ever a minute or two away.
The cockpit of the Grand Sport is once again a reminder of why the C7 is the best Corvette yet. It’s completely devoid of the cheap plastic Fisher Price feel that the American muscle car is plagued with. All of the materials are very nice, including an Alcantara steering wheel and shift knob, two-tone custom leather seats (both heated and ventilated) and a powerful Bose 10-speaker audio system. The car also packs the latest Chevrolet MyLink system, with a touchscreen and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The OnStar system is also equipped with a 4G-LTE WiFi hotspot. Starting at $76,395, the Grand Sport is only a small jump from the standard Corvette. This particular tester includes everything including the Z07 Performance Pack with carbon ceramic brakes and Magnetic Ride. A few extra (unnecessary) options including the aesthetic stripes on the front fenders bring this one up to just over $110,000 as tested.
It seems as though the rumour mill is finally proving somewhat true – a mid-engined Corvette appears to be in fruition. Cool as it will be, if that ends up being the next-generation car, it will be the end of an era. The 2018 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is an astonishing car, with significant versatility. This is a car that is just as happy setting lap times at your local racetrack on weekends as it is getting you to work and back during the week. Unless you really need the extra power of the Z06, the Grand Sport provides enough engagement for 90% of buyers. Those intending to drive it in the winter will want to exercise caution, as even winter tires won’t change the fact that there is almost no ground clearance. Regardless, whether used as a track toy or a summer cruiser, the Grand Sport is the best Corvette ever made.