2005 Chevrolet Corvette
2005 Chevrolet Corvette Expert Review: New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Redesigned, America's sports car is better than ever.
Chevrolet has introduced a new Corvette for 2005, and this sixth generation of America's sports car is better than last year's model in every way.
We weren't expecting it to be that much better. After all, the fifth-generation Corvette (1997-2004), or C5, was (and is) a terrific sports car. Hailed at the time for its rigid and innovative chassis, it represented a huge leap ahead of the C4 (1984-96). And the C4 was a giant leap ahead of the rumbling (and rattling) C3 (1968-82). Because this new sixth-generation Corvette, or C6, builds on the basic bones of the C5, we figured the C6 would be an improvement but never imagined it would be this dramatic.
The new styling, with exposed headlamps and a slimmed-down rear end, is the first thing people notice. But what makes the C6 great is its improved handling, performance, refinement and comfort. It's substantially shorter and lighter than the previous model, the wheelbase is slightly longer, and it gets a new engine, new transmissions, new suspension, new brakes, a new interior and extensive refinements throughout. Chevrolet set out to eliminate every imperfection and complaint in the C5 and says 85 percent of the content in the C6 is new.
It all adds up to a car that's more comfortable and easier to drive, not only on the road, but also on a race track. The new 2005 Corvette quickly infuses the driver with confidence. It feels like it has more grip than the old one, and it does. It's more agile than before yet more stable, it's new brakes are excellent. And, yes, it's faster.
Corvette's new 6.0-liter V8, called the LS2, delivers more power than before for quicker acceleration performance, improved response, increased efficiency and enhanced refinement. Specifically, the LS2 produces 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Moreover, it sounds great and the acceleration performance is exhilarating and intoxicating. The coupe is awesome, and the convertible is really wonderful. Drop the top on a nice day, turn on the stereo and you'll have what psychologists call a peak experience.
The 2005 Chevrolet Corvette comes as a coupe ($43,445) or convertible ($51,445). The Coupe features a single-piece removable roof panel that's available in body color (standard) or transparent ($750) or you can order one of each ($1,400). The Convertible gets a new power-operated soft top.
After choosing the body style, the next big decision is whether you prefer the four-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox, both no-cost options. The final big decision is which of three suspensions to get: the standard suspension, the Z51 Performance Handling Package ($1,495), or F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control ($1,695) with electronically controlled variable damping.
The Corvette comes well-equipped with leather seating surfaces, climate control with a pollen filter, a six-way power driver's seat, power everything, and cruise control. However, we recommend opting for the side-impact airbags, which are included in the two major option packages: Package 1SA ($1,405) includes a rear area cargo convenience net, luggage shade, sport bucket seats with perforated leather seating surfaces, back angle/lumbar adjustment and side bolsters; Package 1SB ($4,360) adds to that a head-up display, a Homelink transmitter w/garage door opener and three-channel programming, interior rearview mirror with compass, driver-side auto-dimming exterior rearview mirror, dual front heated seats, a premium seven-speaker AM/FM Bose system with six-disc in-dash CD, MP3 playback, power telescopic steering column with manual tilt, and a memory package with two driver presets for seat, exterior mirrors, climate control, radio and steering column. The list of free-standing options is relatively short: XM Satellite Radio ($325), DVD navigation and seven-speaker Bose audio ($1,400), OnStar telematics ($695), and polished aluminum wheels ($750).
All 2005 Corvettes come with the same LS2 engine. There's no high-performance Z06 hard top available (yet), but the lightweight new models with the LS2 are nearly as quick as the old Z06. There is, however, a 3.15 rear ratio ($395) available for the automatic for quicker acceleration performance.
Its body work may be all new, but no one will have any trouble recognizing the C6 as the Chevrolet Corvette. At the same time, they will immediately know it's the new one.
The exposed headlights usually draw the first comments. For many years Corvettes have used hideaway headlamps to complement their sleek, aerodynamic designs, but advances in optics and lighting technology enable designers to achieve those goals with exposed headlights. From an engineering standpoint, the new headlamps are better than the old hideaways: They are lighter, which means less weight hanging out over the front wheels, a critical area in terms of overhang, polar moments of inertia, and all that stuff; reducing weight in front is always difficult in a front-engine car, so this is an important reduction. They also eliminate a lot of mechanical complexity and allow a higher-quality lighting setup. And they offer better performance; Chevrolet says lighting is improved 85 percent.
More important than the headlamps, however, is the Corvette's smaller proportions. The C6 is fully 5 inches shorter than the C5 (3 inches shorter in front, 2 inches shorter in the rear), and it's 1 inch narrower. Its smaller size and lighter weight improve agility. The new Corvette also cuts a tighter, more taut profile. And it does all that without eliminating usable interior space. The more diminutive dimensions give it a more international character, says Chevrolet, allowing it to feel more at home in other parts of the world. Though 5 inches shorter in overall length, the wheelbase has been stretched by more than 1 inch, resulting in shorter overhangs; shorter overhangs improve agility, while the longer wheelbase improves stability. In other words, the wheels have been pushed out toward the corners of the car.
The body work is smoother aerodynamically and generates less lift in front. Translation: better grip, increased stability at high speeds. The sculpted fenders, the sharp creases that sweep dramatically up to the planed rear deck and other aspects of the design call to mind exotic cars, race cars and jet fighters. The narrower rear end is the biggest improvement from a styling standpoint, offering more pleasing proportions.
Viewed from the rear, the four jeweled taillights make the new Corvette look like an F18 taking off in full afterburner mode. The quad tail pipes, black lower diffuser and tiny rear spoiler accented in black, give it the look of an Italian exotic. That tiny spoiler is functional, reducing rear lift at high speeds. Ducts on the trailing edge of the front fenders draw hot air out of the engine compartment. Chevrolet says it spent more than 400 hours in the wind tunnel refining the new design, resulting in numerous subtle and meticulous changes to improve high-speed performance and to route fresh air to the 400-horsepower engine. The windshield wipers are designed to not lift off the windshield until you're going 150 in the rain. The optics of the reverse lights magnifies the light they throw out, helpful when backing up in this beast.
The interior is all-new for 2005 and much improved over past Corvettes. It no longer looks like an upgraded Camaro inside. There's a two-tone leather treatment available that doesn't make me feel like I should be wearing a black leather jacket. Chevrolet indicated that some dramatic changes were needed to meet the expectations of buyers in the new millennium, so the C6 got premium soft surfaces, beautiful grain in the materials, more elegant tailoring. The dashboard is finished in a soft material that feels nice to the touch. The seats are nicely finished. Glare is managed. Real metal accents are used, but they don't generate glare. The electronics serve the driver without getting in the way.
The seats are comfortable and easier to adjust than in past Corvettes, though there's still that feeling of sitting deep down in a massive machine. There's more headroom, though, and the windshield doesn't seem as close to the driver's face. The steering wheel looks more like a Suburban wheel than a Ferrari wheel, but it felt good in my hands and afforded a good view of the instruments.
The instruments are big analog gauges that are easy to read at a glance. The Corvette is, thankfully, devoid of a lot of digital readouts. One exception is the head-up display, which projects speed, rpm and even g-forces onto the windshield, a handy and entertaining feature.
There's no need to take the key out of your pocket to unlock the doors or start the car. Simply walk up to the car and open the door. Sensors detect your key and unlock the door. Climb in and press the starter button.
The Convertible features an optional power-operated soft top, a feature that last appeared on a Corvette in 1962. The power top features a single-button control and completes its cycle in 18 seconds. An easy-to-operate manual top is standard. The five-layer fabric top is available in three colors. It looks good with the top up, but looks terrific with it down, with body-color trim that gives it the racy look of an open-cockpit Le Mans prototype. Naturally, the convertible gives up cargo capacity, offering 10.5 cubic feet of storage with the top up, which isn't bad for a roadster, and just 5.1 with the top down. The coupe offers 22.4 cubic feet of trunk space.
Whether cruising down the road or pushing your limits on a race track, the new Corvette is much easier to drive than the old one, which feels dated by comparison. It rides nicer, the handling is improved, it generates more grip. When driven hard, it's more forgiving than the old car.
The low, throaty roar of the LS2 sounds great and generates thrilling acceleration. Stand on the gas and even the automatic will chirp the rear tires when it shifts into second. The new LS2 V8 displaces 6.0 liters (364 cubic inches) making it the largest standard small-block engine ever offered in a Corvette. It's also the most powerful. Its 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque represent a substantial increase over the previous LS1 5.7-liter V8's 350 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. The new Corvette nearly equals the output of last year's limited-production Z06 model, which came with a special LS6 engine rated at 405 horsepower. No exotic overhead cams here. This is an overhead-valve engine that has more in common with a heavy-duty Silverado than a Ferrari. But it's tuned well and refined. The new Corvette can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds and cover the standing quarter-mile in 12.5, according to Chevrolet. That's quicker than a Porsche 911 Carrera or Jaguar XK8 and comparable to a Ferrari 360 Modena. There's lots of torque at all engine speeds. Stand on the gas and it goes. Corvette engineers say the new car can lap a racing circuit nearly as quickly as a Z06, and boasts a top speed of 186 mph. But it's quite happy just cruising around and gets an EPA-rated 18/28 mpg City/Highway with the manual (18/25 with the automatic), and there's no gas guzzler tax.
Both transmissions are new and both are appealing on their own merits: The automatic does not sap all the fun out of driving the Corvette the way automatics do in small sports cars with small engines. The big V8 ensures that. The automatic is responsive to the driver's intent. It shifts hard and fast when you're getting with the program, but smooth and soft when cruising. The manual is now a more viable option as a daily driver than it used to be. Called the Tremec T56, the six-speed manual shifts more easily than last year's manual gearbox and the clutch pedal is easier to operate. The mechanism that forces you to shift from first to fourth when accelerating slowly (to improve the fuel-efficiency rating) is less intrusive than before. Fifth and sixth gears are both overdrives, again to improve fuel efficiency. Shifting through the gears is a lot of fun and it's easy to brake and downshift using the heel-and-toe method (actually using the ball of foot and side of foot) when approaching a corner. Still, the automatic is best for commuting in stop-and-go traffic.
The new Corvette is more agile and easier to toss around than the previous-generation model, benefits of its lighter weight, trimmer proportions, and refined suspension. The coupe weighs 3,179 pounds, about 67 pounds lighter than last year's model. By comparison, the 2004 Corvette felt heavier, harder to control and more tentative going into corners, particularly when transitioning from accelerating through a high-speed sweeper to hard braking and downshifting for tight corner. I felt less likely to get into trouble in the new car.
On the road, the new Corvette feels more refined. It's quieter, smoother, and feels tighter, with less cowl shake than before. Though based on the C5 architecture, the basic structure has been extensively revised for the C5. Chassis engineers were able to reduce weight substantially, helping offset weight gains from larger wheels and tires, bigger brakes, sound-deadening measures and interior features.
I liked the standard suspension and would not hesitate to order my Corvette so equipped. It appears similar to the suspension on the C5, but it's all new. The ride quality of the C6 is firm but quite pleasant, n.
If you've always wanted a Corvette, this is the one to get. Extensively redesigned, the C6 is the best Corvette ever. It's easier to live with, easier to drive and more fun than past models. Of course, it should be. More to the point, it offers an excellent performance value when measured against other sports cars, and generates many grins per mile.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough filed this report from Detroit.
Chevrolet Corvette Coupe ($43,445); Convertible ($51,445).
Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Options As Tested
Z51 Performance Package ($1,495) includes larger cross-drilled brake rotors, performance-tuned suspension w/tires, stabilizer bars, springs, shocks, gear ratios; Preferred Equipment Group 1SB ($4,360) includes dual side-impact airbags, rear area cargo convenience net, luggage shade, dual front sport buckets w/perforated leather seating surfaces, back angle/lumbar adjustment & side bolsters, head-up display, Homelink transmitter w/garage door opener & 3-channel programming, interior rearview mirror w/compass, driver-side auto-dimming exterior rearview mirror, dual front heated seats, AM/FM stereo w/6-disc in-dash CD, MP3 playback, Radio Data System (RDS), seek-scan, digital clock, auto-tone control, auto volume, TheftLock & 7-speaker Bose premium sound system, power telescopic steering column w/manual tilt & Memory Package w/2-driver presets for seat, exterior mirrors, climate control, radio & steering column; DVD navigation with Bose 7-speaker AM/FM/CD system ($1,400); polished aluminum wheels ($1,295); special paint ($750); OnStar ($695).
Chevrolet Corvette Coupe ($43,445).
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