SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
Few cars have achieved the near-legendary status of the Chevrolet Corvette. It's not just Chevy's sports car, it has been the only American production sports car for most of its nearly fifty-year existence. And, if hasn't always been the most high-tech sports car available, it has rarely been criticized for a lack of performance. It has also traditionally offered the speed and power of much more expensive "exotic" sports cars at a considerably lower price. The current fifth-generation Corvette - nicknamed the C5 - embodies all that has been good about the car over the years while refining away the rough edges.
The C5 is offered in Coupe, Convertible, and Hardtop body styles. All share basic chassis and engine specifications, with a rigid backbone-and-perimeter frame featuring hydroformed side rails and independent suspension for precise handling, and the 345- horsepower LS1 aluminum-alloy V8 for power. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard in the Coupe and Convertible, with the six-speed manual found in the Hardtop available. All transmissions are rear-mounted transaxles for better weight distribution and handling.
I tried a Corvette Hardtop a year or so ago and found it to be an impressive vehicle. More recently, I was able to spend a week with a Coupe equipped with almost all of the available luxuries. Despite an appointment level almost appropriate to a luxury car, the Coupe was no softie. It was more like a barbarian in a tuxedo - elegant at a glance, with plenty of rippling muscle underneath.
APPEARANCE: The C5 Coupe is discernibly a Corvette, with proportions familiar from the past quarter of a century of Corvettes. It's a classic long-hood / short deck sports car. Cab-forward is not spoken here, as the front of the windshield is behind the front axle line. It's more rounded than the C4, but retains the signature twin hood bulges, flowing lines, and, for the coupe, the wraparound fastback hatch rear window.
COMFORT: Imagine! A Corvette that's easy to get into or out of! Anyone who has attempted to get into or out of a C4 will love the C5. If not quite a family sedan, lower door sills and wider doors make major improvements in accessibility. Once inside, the much- copied dual cockpit design will be familiar. Sport seats with leather upholstery, good climate and sound systems, and power everything give a touch of luxury, but the drilled aluminum pedals tell the real story. There isn't much room for luggage, but this is a Corvette, not a minivan.
SAFETY: Corvette crash avoidance features include quick acceleration, excellent handling and maneuverability, and 4-wheel antilock vented disc brakes. A safety cage around the passenger compartment, front and rear crush zones, three-point safety belts, and next-generation airbags protect occupants in case the crash is not avoided.
ROADABILITY: The C5 'Vette has a frame much like those found under previous generations, with a separate composite body. The suspension continues to be fully independent with transverse leaf springs made of composite material. But the chassis is much more rigid, for improved handling and lower noise levels. A variety of suspension tunings are offered, but even with the Z51 "Performance Handling Package" with which my test car was equipped ride comfort is reasonable for its class. Drive a new Corvette and you'll know every bump in the road, but they won't perturb you or the car. The steering is very quick, so attention must be paid at all times. The Corvette is big, wide, and heavy-feeling, but it sticks in the corners thanks to the massive Goodyear Eagle F1 tires - 245/45 ZR17 front and 275/40 ZR18 rear. Brute force is still a Corvette hallmark, and `Vette aficionados would have it no other way. Unlike many other smaller sports cars, the Corvette driver never has the feeling of being a small Mesozoic mammal amongst the SUV dinosaurs.
PERFORMANCE: Zero to traffic school in the blink of an eye...yeah, it's a Corvette, and one the most powerful regular production versions ever. The LS1 V8's 345 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque mean instant response at any speed. Bowing to the realities of contemporary traffic, the four-speed automatic transmission is standard, but my test car was equipped with the available six-speed manual gearbox. That is a more sport-oriented transmission, although with the amount of torque available the automatic should be just fine. Clutch and shift action are appropriate for the amount of power transmitted. It idles with a menacing V8 lumpiness. Under 3500 rpm it's docile if not particularly quiet (this IS a Corvette, after all), and perfectly happy to troll through traffic. Over 3500, it sounds like a vintage Can Am race car and rockets forward almost as quickly. Four-wheel antilock vented disc brakes ensure that it decelerates as well as it accelerates. This is not a car for the undisciplined driver, but it offers supercar levels of performance for far less than anything else available.
CONCLUSIONS: The C5 Corvette Coupe is not only the most comfortable `Vette yet, it's also one of the fastest ever.
SPECIFICATIONS 2000 Chevrolet Coupe Base Price $ 39,130 Price As Tested $ 45,339 Engine Type aluminum alloy pushrod overhead valve 16-valve V8 Engine Size 5.7 liters / 346 cu. in. Horsepower 345 @ 5600 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 350 @ 4400 rpm Transmission 6-speed manual (4-speed automatic standard) Wheelbase / Length 104.5 in. / 179.7 in. Curb Weight 3246 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 9.4 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement premium unleaded (92 octane) recommended Tires Goodyear Eagle F1 GS EMT, P245/45 ZR17 front, P275/40 ZR18 rear Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent short and long arm with aluminum control arms and transverse monoleaf spring / independent multilink with aluminum control arms and transverse monoleaf spring Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 27 / 19 0 to 60 mph 5.2 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 13.8 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Polished Aluminum Wheels $ 895 6-speed manual transmission $ 815 Leather-trimmed adjustable sport bucket seats $ 700 Magnetic Red Metallic paint $ 500 Active handling system $ 500 Head-up display $ 375 Dual-zone electronic air conditioning $ 365 Performance handling package $ 350 Power telescoping/manual tile steering column $ 350 6-way power passenger seat $ 305 Memory package $ 150 AM/FM stereo with CD player $ 100 Foglamps $ 69 Twilight Sentinel $ 60 Luggage shade and cargo net $ 50 Color-keyed floor mats $ 25 Destination charge $ 600