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New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 44,425
Price As Tested                                    $ 48,744
Engine Type                             5.7 Liter V8 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 346 cid/5670 cc
Horsepower                                   345 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               350 @ 4400 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  104.5"/73.6"/179.7"
Transmission                               Six-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3274 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  19.1 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                        245/45ZR17 - 275/40ZR18
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/28/21
0-60 MPH                                        5.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                      14.5 seconds @ 106 mph
Top speed                                           170 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

This May, the 82nd Indy 500 will use a new Corvette Convertible as its official Pace Car. It will be driven by pro golfer Greg "The Shark" Norman, and is essentially stock, except for wild yellow paint, wheels and interior, and a set of strobe lights behind each seat.

The 'Vette ragtop is new this year, and follows the launch of the all-new C5 Corvette hardtop, the first redesign of Chevy's flagship sports car since 1984, and the fifth in the storied car's history.

OUTSIDE - It must have been difficult for Chevrolet's design team to take a time-tested design like the previous generation Corvette and toss it away. For the new model, the team used a clean sheet of paper, keeping nothing from the old car. Its low snout houses a set of concealed headlamps, and thanks to a compact powertrain design, the hood is lower than before, and slopes gently up to a steeply raked windshield. The new Corvette's chassis is so strong and stiff that no structural modifications were needed to make the coupe model into a convertible. The top is manually operated, but it's light and easy to position into the hard-covered well behind the seats. Extra-wide, 40-series tires and aluminum wheels come as standard equipment.

INSIDE - Besides the shape of the car, the first thing Corvette enthusiasts notice is the dramatic increase in interior room. The absence of the carpeted frame rails that protruded upward from the door opening of the last generation model makes climbing inside the new car much easier than before. Also, since GM has moved the transmission to the rear, there is more foot room because the gearbox's bell housing doesn't intrude into interior space. A set of supportive bucket seats are covered in leather, with optional sport seats available that include numerous power adjustments. Large, ergonomically-correct buttons and knobs allow for simple settings of the ventilation and audio systems, while the power windows are controlled by soft-touch switches. Its 252-watt Bose-brand stereo system was made just for the Corvette.

ON THE ROAD - The all-new engine is still a 5.7 liter V8 that uses traditional pushrods and one camshaft under the intake manifold, but now, it's all-aluminum and produces 345 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. It a radical departure from the old version's 340-horse, cast iron block/aluminum head V8 that traced its roots back to 1955. But just as before, when the throttle is fully opened, a pulse-quickening roar coincides with a furious rush of power. And since all C5 convertibles are '98 models, they profit from the second-year technical improvements made to the hardtop version. These include a retuned exhaust system, along with a quieter fuel pump and engine accessory drive components. Corvette buyers can opt for an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission, or a six-speed manual that will skip directly from first to fourth gear when the car is driven mildly around town. Both gearboxes are located in the rear, which gives a near-perfect 51/49 percent front/rear weight balance as well as more interior room.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Unique "hydroformed" chassis parts, along with welded bumper beams and a closed drivetrain tunnel allowed GM engineers to make the latest Corvette the stiffest model ever. Designed from the start to be strong enough to support a vehicle without a roof, its frame has the necessary strength and torsional stiffness to avoid squeaks and rattles. Ragtop 'Vettes can be ordered with optional equipment like that of the hardtop, which includes three-way adjustable F45 shocks or the stiffer Z51 competition suspension. New this year are changes to its suspension geometry to improve straight-line tracking, and a recalibration of the shock absorbers. Traction control, which reduces wheelspin on slippery pavement, is standard, as is a four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS). This teams with a set of monstrous ventilated disc brakes to give unbelievable braking power.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side-impact beams, ABS and traction control are all standard.

MAJOR OPTIONS - Manual transmission $815; suspension package $1,695; adjustable sport leather seats $625.