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.