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Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

By Tom Hagin


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 44,999
Price As Tested                                    $ 48,478
Engine Type                OHV 16-valve 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                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3279 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  19.1 gallons
Tires  (F/R)          (F) P245/45ZR17 (R) P275/40ZR18 (EMT)
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 85 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            17/25/20          

0-60 MPH                                        5.5 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                         14.0 seconds @ 104.0 mph
Top-speed                                           165 mph

* Sequential fuel injection

The Chevrolet Corvette C5 was all-new back in 1997 and was a radical departure from the previous version. This week we test the most sensuous of them all, the convertible, which remains unchanged for 2000.

OUTSIDE - There's quite a bit of nostalgia and heritage built into the new Corvette. It uses the traditional long hood/short rear deck styling theme, a motif that's been adhered to since the '50s. With earlier 'Vettes, those without a top suffered from steering wheel shake and body flex, tradeoffs for top-down motoring. The new convertible is solid and stiff, with no rattles, shakes or deep tremors emanating from within. Chevrolet says it's almost as stiff as the hardtop version. Dropping the top is easy: unlatch the windshield header clamps, flip the top back slightly, press a button to release the hard tonneau cover, then drop the top into a well that's just forward of the trunk. It's not powered, but it's simple. Five-spoke alloy wheels are standard; 17-inch up front and 18-inch on the rear. And since the tires are run-flats, there is no spare needed.

INSIDE - The interior of the Corvette is like an airplane's cockpit. The seats are deeply bolstered and covered in standard leather upholstery. Six-footers who have climbed aboard the last generation 'Vette know that its tall side sills made getting inside a chore. The new model doesn't have those tall sills, so entrance is much easier than before. The dash is filled with useful gauges, white-on-black for a sporting look, and new this year is an optional Head-Up-Display, or HUD. This system displays the dashboard gauges onto the base of the windshield, where they're easily seen. The soft top is insulated and neatly lined with material, and does an admirable job of muting wind noise. It also incorporates a glass rear window with a defroster. Standard Corvette Convertible features include air conditioning, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors (which are also heated), keyless entry, a six-way power driver's seat and a Bose-brand stereo.

ON THE ROAD - A 345-horse/350 pound-feet of torque, all-aluminum 5.7 liter V8 engine is what makes the Corvette move. Chevrolet's powertrain group was challenged to develop an engine for the C5 that would not only make the car extremely fast, but relatively fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly. Engineers chose to build the LS1, an engine that shares no parts with the last version. Its structure is stiffer now, thanks to its deep-skirted engine block design, and the oil pan is part of the engine's structure. Both features help reduce vibrations. It's also 88 pounds lighter than the iron block version and to balance the scales, the transmission is now located at the rear axle, giving the new 'Vette a nearly 50/50 weight ratio front to rear. On Convertibles, a four-speed automatic transmission is standard, while a six-speed manual is an option. Also optional is an Active Handling System, or AHS. This system works with the traction control and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) to maintain stability. Traction control is standard.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Four-wheel independent suspension is found on all models, of course. Both the front and rear use a double wishbone setup and the front upper A-arms are made of lightweight forged aluminum. Three suspension settings can be ordered: standard, race-ready Z51 and F45, a system that offers the choice of three settings for a variety of ride characteristics. All this is connected to a unique chassis, where "hydroformed" steel side rails mate to a boxed section center gearbox tunnel to create a stiff, unwavering structure. Chevrolet calls its rack-and-pinion steering Magnasteer, a variable power system that gives smooth transition from high effort to low effort for more road feel. Large ventilated four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS, traction control and side-impact beams are standard, Active Handling is optional.

OPTIONS -Seat memory package: $150; sport seats: $625; power passenger seat: $305; floor mats: $25; dual zone A/C: $365; AHS: $500; performance axle ratio: $100; fog lamps: $69; Twilight Sentinel: $60; CD changer: $600; uplevel stereo: $100.