2018 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport Review: Already Special, No Stickers Required
– Los Angeles, California
Chevrolet will soon sell you a Corvette with 755 horsepower, which is, frankly, insane. Even the 650-hp Z06 is sort of unnecessary for most people, most of the time. That’s why a lot of us auto scribes believe the Grand Sport is the real sweet spot of the Corvette range. It borrows aerodynamic and suspension components from the track-focused Z06, but uses the Stingray’s naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8, with a still-impressive 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque.
For 2018, there’s a new Carbon 65 package available for both Grand Sport and Z06 models, only 650 of which will be available worldwide. It’s a decidedly tacky trim-and-tape job – and an expensive one, too. But if a new special edition provides an occasion for spending more time with my favorite Corvette, I’ll happily oblige. The Carbon 65 stickers don’t ruin what is, without question, one of the finest sports cars money can buy today.
The sound and the fury. No engine in the world can match the aural character of an American V8, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Corvette. But it isn’t just a treat for the ears. This may be the “base” engine tune, but you can feel every one of the 460 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque egging you on, commanding you to break the back end loose around a corner, light up the rear tires, and rev high in each gear just to hear that sweet, sweet muscle car sound.
Precision driver. The C7 Corvette is far more than a straight-line muscle car, and the Grand Sport tune highlights this ability to impress on technical roads. Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires stick to warm pavement like glue, there’s accurate and direct response from the steering, with plenty of communication sent through the driver’s hands. Remember, this is a Corvette that’ll easily pull 1.05 g while cornering.
Get the stick. I’m not about to hate on the Corvette’s optional eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s really quite good, and changes gears quicker than I can. But there’s something really satisfying about the seven-speed manual transmission tested here – there’s great weight to the shifter, a progressive clutch, and a rev-matching function can be turned on and off with the flick of a paddle. (That said, I think it’s super lame that Chevy just repurposes the automatic car’s shift paddles as rev match on/off switches. A manual car with obvious shift paddles just feels wrong.)
Outrageous looks. Aside from Grand Sport-specific hash marks on the front fenders (which are optional) and a badge or two, this looks the part of a Z06. The base Stingray is the prettiest Corvette to my eyes, but I also think the Grand Sport looks super hot without being overwrought. (For comparison, I think the ZR1 looks horrible.) It’s an aero treatment that doesn’t run any of the ‘Vette’s intrinsic beauty. Win-win.
Skip the special edition. The Carbon 65 pack includes special fender stripes, huge door graphics, black wheels, blue brake calipers, carbon fiber trim on the aero kit, blue stitching inside, glossy carbon fiber trim inside the cabin, competition sport seats, and of course, a numbered plaque. But it costs $15,000, and the only useful bit from that list – the seats – can be had as a standalone option for $1,995. Just do that.
More track than street. Even in racy Grand Sport guise, I have to believe a majority of Corvette owners won’t ever take their cars to a track. This car is incredibly well equipped to tear up a road course, or impress the hell out of you on a canyon road, but when pressed into commuter mode, the harder suspension setup, Super Sport tires, and nearly nonexistent ground clearance make it tough to use as a daily driver, even with GM’s sophisticated MagneRide suspension mitigating a lot of small road imperfections. If you want an everyday Corvette, go with the base Stingray.
A missed opportunity inside. The Corvette isn’t just a flagship for Chevrolet, it’s a halo car for all of General Motors. That comes through in the striking design and impressive powertrain, but the cabin leaves a lot to be desired. This is one of GM’s nicer interiors… but that isn’t saying much. Parts bin switchgear, poor quality leather, last-generation infotainment, and cheap plastics all leave a lot to be desired. It’s passable in the base, $55,000 Stingray, but remember, this Carbon 65 Grand Sport is nearly $100,000 as-tested.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com / Chevrolet