Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

First Drive: 2017 Corvette Grand Sport on the Street and the Track

Walt Thurn Aug 3, 2016 0 Comment(s)
View Full Gallery

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.


2017 Corvette Grand Sport First Look 2/19

The Atlanta Motorsport Park has a large conference room on the second floor. When we arrived we were greeted with this Z25 Grand Sport Collector Edition. Bill Tower’s #005 Grand Sport can be seen in the background along with a 1996 Grand Sport coupe.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport First Look 3/19

This trio of Grand Sports was on hand to provide us with a good history lesson about the heritage of this significant Corvette brand name. On the far left was a 2012 Heritage Edition Grand Sport convertible. In the middle was a 1996 Grand Sport coupe and next to it was the real McCoy, one of five original 1962-3 Grand Sports.


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.

3 2017 Corvette Grand Sport Hood 4/19

One half of the program allowed us to take a 53-mile drive in a Grand Sport of our choice. The pre-determined route was filled with tight turns and elevation changes. We chose this Watkins Glen Gray coupe fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Front View 5/19

The surrounding areas during our drive were filled with historic churches. We decided to photograph our Grand Sport in front of this late 1800’s church.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport First Look 6/19

Halfway through our road trip we stopped at Talking Rock Park. We were able to photograph this classic Admiral Blue convertible sitting in front of this old caboose.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport First Look 7/19

Our road trip coupe was fitted with option code RUR Satin Black with red stripe lightweight cup wheels. Option code 75A Torch Red Hash that was on this coupe complements this wheel package.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport First Look 8/19

The Sterling Blue Metallic paint on this Grand Sport coupe is a new color for 2017.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport First Look 9/19

Bill Tower brought his original Grand Sport (#005) out for a photo shoot and it is shown being dried off after a large downpour. This was the first time since 1965 that it has been wet. It competed in the 1965 12 Hours of Sebring that was hit with a torrential rainstorm. The Grand Sport cabin filled with water and the driver had to open the door to let the water out. It finished 14th overall and 2nd in class.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport First Look 10/19

The Watkins Glen Gray Collector’s edition is striking with its Tension Blue Hash stripes and interior accents. Each will have a unique VIN sequence starting with 300001. The original Grand Sport makes a perfect backdrop for this new Corvette.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Floor Mats 11/19

The VYW Grand Sport floor mats are dealer installed. Two Grand Sport coupes were converted into roadsters. The roadster on the floor mat is owned by the Simeone museum in Philadelphia and it is VIN #002.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Red White 12/19

When we returned from our road trip we were able to choose from a line of Z07-equipped Corvettes to use for a track evaluation. We decided to try this eight-speed automatic coupe to learn how robust this transmission is on the track.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Interior 13/19

The journalists were required to do slow pace laps behind our Chevrolet test driver to learn the course. Each Corvette had a two-way radio so everyone could hear the correct instructions.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Racetrack 14/19

We just exited Turn 11 and are climbing up the hill to Turn 12, which has a blind sweeper to the left. The Carbon Ceramic brakes never faded after eight very hard laps around this tight 2.0-mile racetrack.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Racetrack 15/19

Each of us was given a SD card to record our laps in Corvette’s PDR (Performance Data Recorder). The eight-speed automatic is climbing to 130 mph before slowing to 40 mph to exit Turn 1.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Red Side View 16/19

Throughout our drive the Z07-equipped automatic coupe never stepped out of line. It handled the corners with very little drama and this package has an amazing amount of grip. It was less than 1-second a lap slower than the C6 ZR1 at the Milford test track. This car has perfect balance.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Front View 17/19

Three of the new 2017 colors can be seen in this photo. In the front is the Watkins Glen Gray, Sterling Blue Metallic is shown on the convertible and Racing Yellow is on the coupe.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Yellow 18/19

Rumors of wild and crazy journalists abusing Corvettes is not true. This burnout was performed by a Chevrolet Engineer to demonstrate the Grand Sport’s power.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Amp Racetrack 19/19

As the sun set at AMP we had to share this great photo of the new Grand Sport at speed on the AMP racetrack.

MORE PHOTOS

VIEW FULL GALLERY
X

COMMENTS

Connect With Us

Get Latest News and Articles. Newsletter Sign Up

sponsored links

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS
TO TOP