As the sun set over Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, as I was riding along I-75 en route to Sarasota for one of my favorite late-night treats: a milkshake (get your mind out of the gutter), I remember thinking: this is the life. It's a cliché I know, but driving in our usually more pedestrian daily drivers, and in the usual commuting mindset, we often miss out on some simple, yet majestic experiences. I have never been a fan of convertibles, and seldom remove the top on my C6, but it was hard not feeling some sort of metaphysical connection to the Floridian landscape via a top-down adventure in one of the baddest convertibles GM has ever built. This was to be the last hurrah with the ragtop before GM came to pry the keys out of my tightly clenched fist, after a blissful, yet uneventful week. Having a C6 as a daily driver initially spoiled the experience, but just as I felt the keys slipping through my hand I began to really appreciate the GS's glory.
The GS carries a price tag of $55,720 in the coupe and $59,530 in the convertible, some $7-12,000 more than the base C6. However, our model came replete with the 4LT Premium Equipment Group (leather-wrapped interior, Bose seven-speaker sound system, XM radio, etc), Grand Sport Heritage Package (two-tone seats, hash mark stripes on the fenders, etc), chrome wheels, navigation, six-speed automatic, Jetstream Blue Metallic (premium) paint, and the Dual Mode Performance Exhaust. All of the bells and whistles added another $18,205 to the price tag for a grand total of $77,735. Obviously this puts us in Z06 territory, so (quite frankly) this is the car for Corvette-lovers who can afford a Z06 but want a convertible with all of the fixings. And in that regard, this car certainly delivers.
To state the obvious, the Grand Sport is in many ways a scaled-down Z06. In a stripped-down Coupe, the GS is a hard-core racer begging to be driven hard. The manual coupe even comes with a dry-sump oiling system. The big 14-inch, six-piston front and 13.4-inch, four-piston rear brakes provide the incredible stopping power that make it a force at open track days. Meanwhile, the 18x9.5 front and 19x12 wheels allow for meaty 275mm front and 325mm rear rubber to give the sort of grip that the 430-horsepower (436hp with optional exhaust) LS3 commands. These two huge improvements are perhaps the only deficiencies in the base model, which GM also paired with wider fenders, quarters, and a hoodscoop à la the Z06. This easily makes it a fierce competitor in looks and performance to the Porsche 911 and the Boxster/Cayman, BMW Z4 and 6-series, and the Aston Martin Vantage-the cars GM had its sights on from the very beginning.
Like any other C6, our test car was easy to get in and feel instantly comfortable with-from the layout of the controls to the way you sit in the car. The one slight knock on it, as is common with sports cars of this caliber, is the low front bumper that is definitely cause for awareness when parking in front of a curb or pylon. The power-top was easy to figure out and operate, and required no instructions. The interior upgrades, though some will find them unnecessary, added value and quality to the look and feel, which was commensurate with the car's price tag. Though it's a matter of taste, I believe the Heritage Package was worth the extra dough. The hash marks draw attention to the widened fenders, and are reminiscent of the Ron Fellows Edition Z06-perhaps the best-looking Corvette of the last three generations. The sticky Goodyear F1 Supercar tires, though in need of upgrading for serious track duty, were a good pick for the street and actually performed fairly admirably at the dragstrip. We clicked off a 1.94 short time on the way to a 12.31 at 115 mph, a few tenths under GM's estimated 12.6 for the base model.
This e.t., and probably our driving ability, came as a shock to onlookers at the track. It seems to be a stigma that anyone driving a convertible at the track has no idea what they are doing, a misconception quickly clarified as the 6L80E eased its way through the majority of its gears before clicking off the low 12 as unmuffled "race cars" struggled to keep up. As hard as it is to believe a 2010 Jetstream Blue Grand Sport could be considered a sleeper, I have witnesses-don't doubt it! The Dual Mode exhaust definitely plays up this persona, only unleashing the raspier side of the LS3's exhaust note at higher rpm and higher throttle inputs. Perhaps it is just the hot rodder in me, but I would have much preferred an on/off switch as opposed to its computer-controlled and mysteriously timed operation. It seemed the valves only opened right as I was about to let out of the throttle, but then again maybe this is what helped deter the attention of the local law enforcement agents. Though there is a quick and dirty solution (as Z06 owners know)-pull the fuse for the exhaust valves and they stay open.
As with other C6 convertibles I have driven, the chassis feels solid and well tied-together. Even railroad tracks can't induce any rattles or flex common with convertibles. The top is of excellent quality, and the cabin is fairly quiet with it up. I suppose due to the angle of the windshield and aerodynamics, it also wasn't overly windy with the top down. I was hoping to do some highway testing of the wind's effects on a male bouffant to provide a photo illustration, but unfortunately time didn't allow. The ride quality seemed firm enough (comparable to the old Z51), yet not harsh and certainly not as soft as a Cadillac XLR or a base Vette. Despite all of the excellent materials and creature comforts special to our test car, the two things I absolutely fell in love with were the looks of the car-the GS body kit, the paint, stripes, and wheels-and the six-speed transmission. Unlike the 4L60E, of which I am more accustomed to, the 6L80E is seamless in its transitions and never feels like it is lugging the motor. When merging on the highway or passing on local roads it is most apparent (at part throttle) that the trans grabs a more appropriate gear than it would with a simple downshift to Third in a four-speed automatic to stay within its powerband-especially impressive given the 2.73 rear gears. Rev-matched downshifts are another nice feature of this trans, which would certainly be appreciated during spirited street driving, or on a road course or autocross.
Like its predecessor, the 2010 Grand Sport is not only striking to look at, but an impressive performer as well. It is a welcome successor and replacement for the Z51 package, and is much better at distinguishing itself from the base model while better utilizing the same powerplant. Best of all it is versatile-capable of satisfying the hard-core racer, the highway cruiser, and the car show nut depending on what options you select. Power, luxury, looks, and handling ... what more could you ask for?
2010 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible (as tested)
Body: Hydroformed steel frame, aluminum/magnesium structural components, composite panels
Engine: LS3, 6.2L (376 cid)
HP: 436 at 5,900 rpm
TQ: 428 at 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 6L80E, six-speed paddle shift auto
Suspension: Z52 antiroll bars, shocks, composite leaf springs, SLA/double wishbone front and rear
Wheels: 18x9.5 front, 19x12 rear
Tires: Goodyear F1 Supercar 275/35ZR18 front, 325/30ZR19 rear
Brakes: 14-inch six-piston front, 13.4-inch four-piston rear
Curb weight: 3,289 lbs