There aren't many things to find fault with on a C5. Even the standard-geared automatic convertible (the heaviest and least "sporting" Fifth-Gen.) will handily blow the doors off nearly anything else on the road. The handling ranges from very good with base suspension and run-flats, to slightly beyond superb in a Z06. Yeah, they could (should?) be even faster, and some of the small bits and pieces show the car's common ancestry with other Chevrolet products, but there really isn't much to carp about. Except for......the blankety-blank, expletives-deleted CAGS (Computer-Aided Gear Selection), more commonly cursed at as the skip shift.
This abomination was concocted by GM engineers and first installed in the '89 six-speed Corvette along with the ZF gearbox.
Today it is still part and parcel of every manual transmission Corvette. Its intent was--and still is--to make it easier for stick shift Corvettes to meet or exceed federally mandated emissions and CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements.
The CAGS forces the transmission to go from First directly into Fourth during relatively light-throttle, low-speed driving--exactly the sort of conditions you'd experience in normal stop-and-go, rush hour commutes. You can beat the skip shift by short shifting from First to Second before the car reaches 15 mph (just barely rolling) or always wind up to at least 20 mph before making that First-to-Second shift. But if you try to make a First-to-Second shift between 15 and 20 mph, at the same time that an idiot light in the tach glows with a message reading "1 TO 4 SHIFT," the lever goes directly into Fourth and your usually potent C5 acts like you'd just driven into a wall of pillows.
A solenoid that is mounted on the transmission case and tied into the car's PCM (Powertrain Control Module) controls the CAGS True, you can simply unplug the solenoid from the harness. That will bypass the skip shift function--and can (not always, but quite possibly) make the PCM go totally bonkers. Or you can do what we did on Tony Correia's six-speed '99 ragtop.
Tony had whined a little about the skip shift, but not a lot--until after he and I had installed a Hurst short-throw shifter in the C5 (see Shifty Business Part Two...Hursts So Good in the November '02 issue). Then, suddenly, the shifting was a lot more fun and the skip shift seemed a lot more intrusive. He was so pleased with the shifter that he went back to the Hurst catalog and ordered their newly-released C5 Skip Shift Eliminator Kit, PN 155 0120. (There are some other skip shift eliminators available, we haven't had the opportunity to try any others but assume they all work in a similar fashion. None that we've seen cost more than around $30 plus tax and/or shipping.)
This is about as simple an item to install as you could imagine. It'll take more time to disconnect the battery ground, or jack up the car and rest it safely on jackstands than to install the Skip Shift Eliminator.
In less than 15 minutes, from start to finish, we ditched the hated skip shift feature, without causing any miscues to the PCM. Tony can now shift his C5 six-speed from gear to gear, at any speed he wants--no short shifting or holding in First to over 20 mph in slow traffic, and no more swearing at the car when it tries to control the way its driver wants to drive. The "1 TO 4 SHIFT" idiot light still comes on, but who cares! The CAGS Skip Shift Eliminator Kit is a simple fix, and an already great driving car is now even better.