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C6 Chevrolet Corvette: Coupe VS. Convertible - A Tale Of Two Vettes

We Wring Out A Pair Of Supercars That Don't Disappoint.

By Thomas J. Lyman

With the introduction of the C6 Corvette a few years ago, Chevrolet really upped the ante in the world of affordable supercar performance. This is especially true of the ZO6 model, which can hang with the big boys in the upper echelon of performance machines. Additionally, its retail price tag will only make you take out a second mortgage, rather than hawking everything you own, including your first-born child.

For 2007, Chevy didn't exactly reinvent the wheel with the Corvette, but the auto giant definitely refined the rough edges of the previous two model years. As with any new platform, be it automotive or anything else, the first year is usually spent working out the bugs, and trying to make improvements that will give future models better performance over past versions. Improvements can even trickle down from the 24 Hours of LeMans-winning Corvettes, like the decision with the C6 to use non-retractable headlights, something that undoubtedly caused a rusty taste in the back of Corvette purists' mouths (before the C6, the last time a Corvette didn't have the flip-up lights was 1962).

Our first victim in this tale of dueling Vettes is the coupe. It arrived equipped from GM with all the normal things you'd find in a straight-off-the-assembly-line model: the superior LS2 6.0L powerplant (which puts out a claimed 400 hp); GM's active handling system; computer-controlled traction control (which can, thank the gods, be turned off at the touch of a button); and speed-sensitive steering (which applies more force as the speed rises).

Both test cars were also equipped with the optional six-speed automatic, which, since 2006, have had easy-to-operate paddle shifters. However, in most situations, we left the shifting to the auto box, which lets you rev the car to your heart's content. Add to that powertrain the 3LT package, which includes a host of luxury-type items (Bose 7-speaker stereo, XM Satellite Radio, head-up display, and adjustable leather sport seats).

The real amazing part of the powertrain has to be the LS2 364ci V-8, making power that propels the '07 from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. On the Super Chevy-approved dragstrip, Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, the maroon-colored machine turned in a best time of 12.74 at 113 mph in the quarter-mile (that run was made at 3 p.m., with an outside temperature approaching 90 F).

This time was achieved with the transmission doing all the work itself. Attempts to better this e.t. by shifting ourselves with the paddles proved fruitless. On the road course, the paddles work great. They just don't shift quickly enough to make a difference in the quarter-mile. Once in a while you may get lucky and guess the proper shift point and go quicker, but this will be the exception, not the norm. Perhaps for 2008, the engineers will have gotten it perfect.

Also hindering dragstrip performance was Chevy's electronic torque management ninnies. Slapping the throttle to the floor produced nary a hint of wheelspin. You could feel the hesitation as the power came on progressively. This probably cost a few tenths. Our best 60-ft time was a 2.01 (done repeatedly), though our best e.t. came with a 2.03 short time. Still, we remember not too long ago when you needed a limited edition (and horribly expensive) 405-horse ZR-1 to run 12.8 or 12.9. Now the base Corvette coupe will eclipse these times.

Over on the Raceway Park road course, the C6 handled very predictably-with all the traction control assist (we like to refer to them as cheating) mechanisms turned off, the car ran around the track consistently in the 1.26 range, with a best of 1.25.09. (For comparison sake, our 2006 ZO6 test machine ran 1.21.92, with most laps in the low 1.22s.) This is extremely good considering that the car comes from the factory on run-flat tires-skins that are great for cruising, but not the optimal selection for proper corner carving.

That being said, if there's a slight push at corner entry, it's nothing a little trail-braking can't solve. As for a corner exit understeer problem, it's nothing the ample amounts of power-on oversteer can't solve. In reality, this car is just the right balance (for a car that sees mostly street driving) for just about any enthusiast.

Highway cruising is absolutely pure driving nirvana in the Corvette. We had the opportunity to drive the car from the SC headquarters building in Rochelle Park, New Jersey, down to the Super Chevy Show in Richmond, Virginia. For statistical purposes, that's a total distance of about 350 miles-roughly 100 miles of the New Jersey Turnpike, followed by a good stretch of I-95 through the outskirts of Philadelphia, then across the Mason-Dixon line through Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In short, it's not the most, shall we say "friendly" highway driving. However, the Vette made the trek in just 4 hours and 30 minutes, at an average speed of around 75 mph.

Now for the good part of that story. The LS2, which absolutely rockets the Corvette from 70 to 100 mph faster than the speed-sensitive volume of the Bose stereo can catch up (it's probably closer to 1.5 seconds), averaged over 22.5 mpg on the trip. That's carrying a payload of a 175-pound human being, coupled with some luggage in the trunk. Now do the math: 75 mph average (we were going considerably faster than that on some stretches, thanks to our trusty radar detector) + 350 miles = a car that can be driven confidently across long distances and still leave some green in the pocket.

Just a day before the long haul down to Virginia, Editor-in-Chief Campisano saw 32 mpg cruising at 70 mph on the highway. In this day and age where gas mileage is so important to so many, the 2007 Corvette gets such great fuel economy that it doesn't even carry the dreaded Gas Guzzler tax, a levy that people purchasing vehicles such as the Dodge Viper must address at the time of purchase.

(How's this for speed: Another editor left for Newark Airport about an hour before we left the office, and only beat us to Virginia by 30 minutes in an airplane.)

Furthermore, and this is just for music lovers, the Bose 7-speaker stereo is highly recommended. It's like sex coming out of every channel, even with the removable roof panel tucked away in its perfect resting spot under the rear hatch.

Speaking of roofs, the '07 Corvette convertible, which appeared outside the SC offices in spectacular LeMans Blue metallic, is just as exquisite a machine as the coupe. It was equipped with mostly the same adornments as the coupe, but the added sophistication of a mechanical drop-top that goes from fully closed to stow in just under 20 seconds. On more than one occasion, we had enough time to switch from touring monster to cruising convertible in the time we were waiting for the red light to change. One major upgrade that the convertible model we received had was the optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control, which has two settings: Touring or Sport. Each setting adjusts the dampening of the suspension to tackle either the point-and-shoot characteristics of city driving, or the loose-is-fast nature of twisty road negotiation.

While we are typically skeptical about such things, there was a noticeable difference in the ride and handling quality when you switched between the two settings. Most people will never find the limits of the car in the Sport mode, but the Touring setting was remarkably capable as well. Scheduling precluded us from track testing the ragtop, but we hammered it pretty hard on challenging country and mountain roads.

We came away amazed at how little it gave away to the coupe in ultimate road holding. We made a banzai pass or three through our secret undulating mountain pass with the suspension set to Touring and never felt ill at ease (can't say the same for our passenger). Switchbacks, off-camber turns, uphill, downhill-we tried 'em all and came away with a newfound respect for this setting. The car just gripped and split. We'd say that unless you're at an open track event, you'll find the Touring setting plenty entertaining.

For the record, the ride of both '07 Vettes was improved over the similar models we sampled last year. What little harshness there was has been banished.

Again, these cars are definitely improvements on the previous two model years of C6s. The refinements might be subtle, but we can definitely notice them, and look forward to 2008 and beyond, when the reality of the 436hp LS3 and some newer, more powerful version of the ZO6 shows up (Blue Devil, SS, ZO7, whatever you want to call it). We will be waiting with open arms and sweaty palms, chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel of one of Chevrolet's all-time most popular vehicles. And to that end, let's just say that if Zora Arkus-Duntov were still around, he would be very impressed with these two automobiles.

2007 Coupe
Base Price: $44,170
Price as Tested: $55,235
Included:
LS2 6.0L V-8, 400hp
6-speed manual transmission
Traction control
Limited-slip differential
Anti-lock, 4-wheel disc brakes
Theft-deterrent system

Options:
3LT Preferred Equipment Group
Bose Premium 7-speaker stereo
Head-up display
Heated seats
Steering wheel with radio controls
Power telescoping/tilt wheel
Transparent roof panel
Chrome aluminum wheels
Premium tintcoat paint
6-speed paddle-shift automatic
transmission

2007 Convertible
Base Price: $52,085
Price as Tested: $66,290
Included:
LS2 6.0L V-8, 400hp
6-speed manual transmission
Traction control
Limited-slip differential
Anti-lock, 4-wheel disc brakes
Theft-deterrent system
Full folding top with heated rear window glass

Options:
3LT Preferred Equipment Group
Bose Premium 7-speaker stereo
Head-up display
Heated seats
Power telescoping/tilt wheel
Power convertible top
Steering wheel with radio controls
Magnetic selective ride control
(Includes driver-selectable Tour and Sport settings, cross-drilled brake rotors)
6-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission

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By Thomas J. Lyman
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