Call it an automotive icon, call it a legend, call it awe inspiring. The Chevrolet Corvette is all three and more, especially now that the ’08 version features drivetrain and interior upgrades to make its steal-of-deal base price look like its missing a digit.
Call it an automotive icon, call it a legend, call it awe inspiring.
The Chevrolet Corvette is all three and more, especially now that the ’08 version features drivetrain and interior upgrades to make its steal-of-deal base price look like its missing a digit.
Talk to current or previous ’Vette owners, or to anyone who is just plain smitten with the marque, and watch their eyes glaze over in trance-like reverence. Corvettes have a way of evoking passionate responses like no other North American vehicle could ever hope to stir. Brand loyalty doesn’t begin to cover it . . . this is more like brand worship of a slavish sort.
For the fervently fixated, the latest plastic-bodied ’Vette will make their pulses quicken at a bigcubic-inch-V8 kind of pace. Yes, an enhanced level of performance this year is practically a given considering this car’s license-tothrill mission in life. However, just as much focus has been placed on making the ’Vette a well-rounded, world-class performer that can mingle in polite, pedigreed company without fear of slight or shame.
Tending to the finishing touches — viewed as something that might have held the Corvette back a bit — has been a major objective and has been undertaken on a number of fronts for 2008. Visually the Corvette, whether coupe or convertible, is already a stunning piece of work that looks the part of a supercar. The very un-supercar decor, however, is what’s at issue here. It could take a completely new model to really fix what ails the cockpit, but at least Chevy has acknowledged the need for change and has dressed up the cabin with a satin-nickelstyle trim plate for the door sills as well as brightwork for the control panel and surrounding the shifter and cupholder, in addition to the available two-tone dashboard and leather seat fabrics. There are also new-style cast-aluminum wheels to mention, influenced by the set installed on the 2007 Indianapolis 500 pace car and its limited-edition take-offs.
Mechanically, the Corvette’s rack-and-pinion steering system has been upgraded to deliver greater “feel” at all speeds and both the six-speed manual transmission and optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters have been recalibrated for quicker, more precise gear changes.
That brings us to the base engine, which has been enlarged to 6.2 liters (376 cubic inches) and 430 horsepower/424 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s 30 ponies and 24 lb.-ft. of torque more than last year’s 6.0-liter engine.
Assisting in the production of this prodigious grunt are newly designed cylinder heads, intake manifold, camshaft plus larger intake valves. As well, buyers can opt for a special two-mode performance exhaust system that opens up to reduce back pressure (and add six more horsepower for a total of 436) during hard acceleration.
Virtually untouched for ’08 is the formidable Z06 model. Its 505-horsepower 7.0-liter powerplant will, according to Chevrolet, pounce to 60 m.p.h. in 3.7 seconds (0.6 seconds faster than a base Corvette), as quick, if not quicker, than many so-called high-performance exotic sports cars that sticker at more than twice the price.
If that isn’t enough, an extraspecial low-volume Corvette variant is expected for 2009, producing 650 horsepower from its supercharged V8.
Meanwhile back here on earth, the standard content on regular strength ’Vettes (the usual air/cruise/tilt/power-operated accessories) is augmented this year by an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and an ignition key with integrated remote-access functions.
One of the most popular options is the Z51 Performance Package that includes beefier suspension and brake components, sticky-and-stiff-sidewalled rubber and a performance-geared rear axle. Don’t buy your ’Vette without trying a Z51-outfitted model.
None of the adjustments for ’08 will lessen the Corvette’s brash, bad-boy approach to fun. But its value-for-the-money quotient is remarkable, as is its superior acceleration, braking and road holding abilities that continues to delight drivers, passengers and gawkers alike.