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1999 Corvette Convertible

by John Heilig

Chevrolet Full Line factory footage (22:43) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

ENGINE:                  5.7-liter V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       345 hp @ 5,600 rpm/350 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Six-speed maual
FUEL ECONOMY:            18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 16.7 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               104.5 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 179.7 x 73.6 x 47.7 in.
WEIGHT:                  3,245 lbs.
FUEL TANK:               19.1 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        13.9/11.1 cubic feet (top up/down)
TIRES:                   P245/45ZR-17 (front)/ P275/40ZR-18 (rear)
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                         water temperature, oil pressure, 
                         battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power locks, power seats, 
                         AM/FM stereo with casette and in-dash CD,
                         cruise control, low tire pressure warning, 
                         ABS, traction control, air bags.
STICKER:                 $48,384

The measure of a car's effectiveness, at least in my neighborhood and on Sunday afternoons, is how many golf bags you can fit in the trunk. We've had an assortment of vehicles in our driveway, and many don't hold the required minimum of two golf bags.

I'm here to report that the Corvette Convertible passes the critical golf bag test with flying colors, and the color was "Arrest Me" red. The car holds those bags, shoes and a couple of straw hats, even with the top down.

And that's one of the things that I found so impressive about this new Corvette. I was impressed with the Coupe and its carrying capacity; I'm impressed with the Convertible and the amount of stuff it can hold.

I'm also impressed with the overall civility of the Corvette. Sure, it has a 345 hp engine that will propel it quickly to 150 mph. Sure, it has the brakes to pull it down from speeds that high safely. Sure, it's a two-seater sleek sports car that has been redesigned to give it smoother lines than in the past. Sure, it has a race-bred suspension that can handle any corner comfortably. But the Corvette is also a car that you can use to head to the local grocery store for the week's rations, and know there's enough space in the trunk to carry them home.

The suspension is a compliant one, in that it will keep the car flat even when you're cornering at speeds that can scare you, but it also won't jar your kidneys to the point of pain on bumpy roads.

The redesigned Corvette, while it's still "America's sports car," and while it's still a great sports car, it's probably most impressive because it's a good "normal" car. You can take the Corvette to the store and not feel like a fool. You can drive around town or commute in the new Corvette and not feel that you're committing an unpardonable sin with a pure sports car. I wouldn't drive a Ferrari over my commuting route, for example, but the Corvette felt perfectly natural. The only challenge was having to stare up at the number of trucks that share my road.

While Chevrolet designers have continued the tradition with the new Corvette Convertible and have designed a good sports car, they have also designed a compliant sports car that will be the kind of car you don't mind getting in every day. It's fun to drive, which is what sports cars are supposed to be, it's a little overpowered which a sports car doesn't have to be, and it's also a great personal car for two people.

The driver faces a full complement of gauges in a sculptured display. In addition, the Corvette has a full complement of power accessories and an excellent entertainment center.

The top is not powered. You must unlatch one clip at the center of the windshield, push a button to open the rear hatch, then finagle the top into the hatch. The top is easy to work, taking about 10 seconds to do the whole job. Trunk space, while reduced, is still usable because there's no hard bottom to the hatch reducing trunk volume. In addition, you can still stow objects behind the seat in front of the stowed top. When the top is up you have full access to the trunk.

With the Corvette, there is a significant amount of tire noise on concrete highways that you don't get on asphalt highways. Granted, there is a significant amount of tire in the back, but the noise does transmit back into the passenger compartment.

All in all, the Corvette Convertible was a great ride. At $48,000, it isn't cheap, but it does offer more fun than you should be allowed to have. And while it's not in the same league as the Mazda Miata in some ways, in others, the two are bosom buddies.