New Car/Review

Corvette Hardtop

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 @ 5600 rpm/350 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Six-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:            18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 21.7 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               104.5 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 179.7 x 73.6 x 47.9 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3174 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY:           19.1 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        13.3  cu. ft.
TIRES:                   P245/45ZR17/P275/40ZR18 (F/R)
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, 
                         water temperature, digital clock, 
                         oil pressure, battery voltage.

EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, 
                         power mirrors, power seats, cruise control,
                         air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with 
                         in-dash CD player, anti-lock four-wheel 
                         disc brakes, dual front air bags, 
                         side air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $40,622

It has been my impression for quite a while that Chevrolet produces one of the most civilized sports cars in the Corvette. The Corvette Hardtop is the latest version of the new Corvette, introduced a year ago. This is the first permanent hardtop version Corvette has had in a while, as opposed to the fastback coupe and the convertible.

Corvettes, as I said before, are civilized. Sure, you can get rowdy with a Corvette. With four million horsepower under the hood and these wide tires front and rear, you can do things with a Corvette you wouldnít even think of doing in other sports cars.

Acceleration, for example, was 0-60 in something like six seconds or less. It has a speedometer that goes up to 200 mph and can honestly use at least three-quarters of the gauge. The Corvette is a real performance car. If you want it to be.

Corvette is also civilized. It has power windows, a good sound system, power door locks, great comfortable seats, a great HVAC system, dual air bags and comfort to go along with the six-speed manual gearbox. Itís possible to drive the Corvette as a daily commuter and not feel youíre making the biggest mistake of your life. Other cars that deliver this kind of performance I wouldnít want to take out on some of the roads I use for commuting. The Corvette is very docile.

In fact, on one of the days we drove the Corvette we had a torrential downpour, and it was a challenge for the hour-and-a-half ride to the client. At times the water was flowing across the road like a fast stream and there was deep flooding in some areas. If the rain had been snow, weíd still be digging out. I was impressed with how well the Corvette handled these tough conditions. There were times when we lit up the traction control light, simply because I tried to accelerate too quickly, but in general there were no problems. We pulled into the clientís parking lot and we hadnít drowned along the way. The Corvette was able to handle the tough rainy weather.

I had thought the Hardtop might be close on a long ride and might lead to a feeling of confinement. But the interior of the Corvette is large enough and thereís enough glass around that the closeness isnít bad. Of course, it can be even less unpleasant if youíre riding in the car with a beautiful person, but she was busy that day.

Corvette isnít all power either. It has an excellent compliant suspension that permits fast cornering but softens poor roads without jarring your kidneys loose.

Thatís what I mean when I say the Corvette is a civilized car. One nice feature about the latest generation Corvette is that it has a trunk. In the hardtop you can pop the trunk lid from inside the car. The area that is called the trunk is also the back section of the passenger compartment, so you can reach back there and get to some things you have back there with intelligent packing.

In all phases, the Corvette Hardtop is one of few civilized hot cars on the highway today. At a price of "only" $40,622, itís competing against other pretenders such as the German trio of BMW, Porsche and Mercedes. These other cars may have more panache but they canít cut the mustard against Americaís sports car.