With sales of the '09 Corvette hovering at around 16,000 units (down from more than 35,000 in '08), Chevy product planners are adding some spice to the 2010 model lineup in an attempt to lure customers back into the showroom. And when those customers do return, they'll have one more compelling option to check off on the order sheet.
While at the National Corvette Museum for the annual C5/C6 Registry Birthday Bash, the Corvette team announced that the legendary Grand Sport name would return after a 14-year absence. The new model will be sandwiched between the base Corvette and the Z06, combining the former's LS3 powerplant with a number of performance and cosmetic enhancements.
Zora Arkus-Duntov and his team only built five of the original Grand Sports back in 1963, but their performance was stunning on the racetrack. Then, in 1996, a commemorative-edition Grand Sport was offered in coupe and convertible forms. Only 1,000 units were produced, and all were blue with a white stripe and red hash marks.
Unlike the C4 Grand Sport, the new model will be offered in all available colors. That palette once again includes the popular Torch Red, which was discontinued in 2004 but has been revived for 2010. A Grand Sport Heritage Package with front-fender hash marks and Grand Sport seat embroidery is optional. In other model-line news, the Z06 and ZR1 will be available in all paint hues for the very first time, and the optional Linen interior will be replaced by Cashmere.
The Grand Sport will be available with either transmission and will feature a full complement of Z06-style bodywork. The makeover includes front and rear fender flares, a Z06 front bumper and chin spoiler, and a Z06 rear spoiler. The car will also receive Goodyear F1 runflat tires and model-specific wheels (measuring 9.5x18 inches up front and 12x19 inches in the rear) in silver, Competition Gray, or chrome.
A pair of slatted front fenders are unique to the model and include integrated chrome Grand Sport badges on top of each cove. The front brakes feature 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, while the rear units employ a four-piston, 13.5-inch combo. Silver paint for the calipers lends an additional dose of flash.
The Grand Sport option will effectively replace the Z51 Performance Package previously offered on all base Vettes. Accordingly, it comes with more-aggressive shocks, larger stabilizer bars, and firmer springs. All six-speed Grand Sport coupes will also come standard with RPO Z52, which includes a dry-sump lubrication system, a rear-mounted battery, and a differential cooler.
Also new for 2010 is a standard launch-control system for all six-speed cars. It works like this: Simply push the Active Handling button twice, depress the clutch, and floor the throttle. The computer will select the correct starting rpm for each engine (LS3, Z06 or ZR1). When the revs stabilize, just release the clutch, hold on, and shift your way to dragstrip superstardom.
Z06 and ZR1 models will also be equipped with Performance Traction Management, or PTM. By integrating the car's Traction Control, Active Handling, and Selective Ride Control, this system can improve driving consistency on a racetrack. With PTM, you can fully engage the throttle while exiting a corner and let the system optimize acceleration while eliminating wheelspin.
We had a chance to experience the new Grand Sport on some of Bowling Green's back roads, thanks to Corvette Assembly Plant engineer Mark Gardner. The new model handles and stops much like a Z06, with crisp turn-in and a firm-but-supple ride. We can't wait to get our hands on one for an extended testdrive. In the meantime, let's hope the return of this legendary moniker--along with the debut of several exciting new features--gets potential buyers queuing up to sample all the '10 models.