The hot Corvette news for 2017 is the reintroduction of the Grand Sport model that has been added to the 2017 lineup. The last Grand Sport model left the Bowling Green Assembly Plant in 2013.
In our October issue, we covered the details of this new Corvette in our NCM Birthday Bash story. We provided you with its base equipment, options, color choices and pricing. What was missing was an on the road/track evaluation. When our story was prepared, no cars were available to thrash, so we could not give you our opinion.
That all changed when we were presented with the Golden Ticket to attend a first drive at the Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) in Dawsonville, Georgia. The stunning 2.0-mile road course and the surrounding country two-lane roads were the perfect setting to evaluate this new offering. This is the third time the Grand Sport has been added to Corvette’s lineup (1996, 2010 and 2017). Grand Sport is a legendary icon for Corvette enthusiasts. In 1962, at the height of a GM corporate racing ban Corvette’s Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov started secretly building 125 “lightweight” (2,000-pound) Corvette coupes. Unfortunately, GM executives discovered his project and they ordered that the five completed cars be destroyed. Undaunted, he found a way to save them and all five are safely in private collections. A classic, original Grand Sport owned by Bill Tower in Plant City, Florida, was displayed at AMP event. Throughout the event Bill’s Grand Sport attracted endless questions from the visiting press.
Our day began at our hotel in Sandy Spring, Georgia. We were provided with either a convertible or coupe to make the 1-hour drive north to AMP. It was a beautiful day so we chose an Arctic White convertible for the trip. Our car looked exactly like a Z06 on the outside, bulging fenders, large tires and aerodynamic aids on the front, side and rear of the car. It is an aggressive look that we think will be a hit with Corvette customers. On the road the Grand Sport drives exactly like a regular Z51-equipped convertible, taut, stable, but a comfortable ride. It was a great way to get familiar with this new offering. The familiar LT1 engine was responsive and provided plenty of torque for passing on two-lane roads. We quickly arrived at AMP. This private facility has ample parking and multiple closed garages for members to store their race cars and equipment. The 2.0-mile track is filled with tight corners and massive elevation changes. It was designed by a Formula 1 track architect. Quick laps around this track require massive brakes, compliant suspension and sticky tires. It is a perfect challenge for a 2017 Z07-equipped Grand Sport.
We were met by our hosts Tadge Juechter (Corvette Chief Engineer), Kirk Bennion (Corvette Exterior Design Manager) and Michelle Malcho (Manager Chevrolet Car Communications). In addition, numerous communication and engineering support staff were on hand to provide assistance. Each generation Grand Sport was on display for us to inspect, including an original 1962-3 Grand Sport owned by Bill Tower. The media spent a lot of time inspecting this classic Corvette. We were given an overview of the new Grand Sport and then divided into track or road tour groups. We were assigned to take a 75-minute, 58-mile road tour. We selected a Watkins Glen Gray eight-speed automatic coupe for our trip. The route was on a winding two-lane road that was also filled with tight corners and numerous elevation changes. This demanding route allowed us to enjoy the wide tires and tight Grand Sport suspension and tested the brakes on the downhill sweepers. Our halfway point was Talking Rock State Park where we took a few photos before finishing our trip back to AMP. The new Grand Sport is a capable street car with loads of grip and stout performance from its 460hp LT1 engine.
Our experience with the new eight-speed automatic transmission from past Corvettes we have tested is that it is a joy to drive on the street. Now, the question how would it perform on the track? To find out we rode shotgun with GM Development Engineer Jason Kolk. Jason has taken multiple laps around AMP in the Grand Sport so we felt comfortable witnessing him getting the maximum out of this new Corvette. For safety’s sake we wore a HANS device (Head and Neck Support) and a helmet before starting our laps. We left the long pit exit road with four Grand Sports pacing behind us. Jason used a two-way radio to talk the other drivers around this tricky 16-corner track. When the orientation was over Jason put the hammer down. We immediately noticed how intuitive the automatic was at picking the right gear entering or exiting a corner. When we exited Turn 10, the track falls downhill and ends with a sharp right-hand corner. It was a perfect place to gauge braking performance, tire grip and handling. Later, the PDR (Performance Data Recorder) showed 1.25 g’s at this corner! The Grand Sport never bottomed out and it stuck like glue in the toughest of corners. This new Corvette will provide owners with the best of worlds, competent street performance and track capability that exceeds most driver’s skills. Juechter and his group of engineers have put together a great package that is worthy of the name Grand Sport. For more information about this exciting new offering go to www.chevrolet.com.