2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Manual
As Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter sees it, the new Grand Sport is “the purist’s Corvette.” You won’t hear us argue that point, but we think his description of the basic Stingray is even more apt for this model: “the essential Corvette.” It brings to mind greatest-hits albums that showcase a given artist’s best work in one tidy package—and that’s what this car is at its core, combining as it does the Stingray’s LT1 small-block V-8 with the Z06’s brash bodywork and ludicrously capable chassis hardware. (The Z06 is “the ultimate Corvette,” so think of that one as the comprehensive box set.)
In the Grand Sport, the 6.2-liter V-8 is equipped as standard with the Stingray’s available dry-sump lubrication system—the better to keep the engine’s internals slippery during high-g cornering and braking—and deep-throated dual-mode exhaust. It makes 460 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, which, if you take a moment to examine the specifications panel accompanying this story, you’ll see is quite sufficient. The Grand Sport accelerates to 60 mph from rest in 3.8 seconds, 0.1 second quicker than our top time for a 460-horse Stingray with the same seven-speed manual transmission, and through the quarter-mile in a blistering 12.2 seconds.
We’ve previously published our first drive of the Grand Sport, and you can dive deep into its equipment and sundry changes there. Our test car had the $7995 Z07 package, which nabs the same carbon-ceramic brakes and gummy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 ZP tires fitted to the Z06, as well as the aggressive $2995 Stage 2 aerodynamics package with all manner of angry-looking splitters, spoilers, and vanes to augment the mile-wide fenders. What you won’t find on the GS options list is the adjustable clear piece for the spoiler of the Z06’s Stage 3 aero kit, as it was determined to generate too much drag for the Grand Sport’s power level. Still, the Grand Sport dug into our skidpad for 1.18 g’s worth of grip and hauled itself to a stop from 70 mph in a retina-stretching 129 feet.
In addition to our test track, we also had the chance to experience all that grip—oh, the glorious grip—and stopping power at Atlanta Motorsports Park, a tight, technical, and undulating 1.8-mile road course draped over the northern Georgia hills. There, the Grand Sport’s eye-popping performance numbers became tangible, as we lapped to the soundtrack of a thunderous bass riff blatting from the quad tailpipes. The car is easy to drive fast, as its deep affection for traction allows you to steadily progress to the limit without fear of breaking loose, and the chassis and P285/30ZR-19 front and P335/25ZR-20 rear Cup 2 rubber clearly communicate exactly how much grip remains at both ends. In addition, all Grand Sports are equipped with the electronically controlled limited-slip differential that’s optional on Stingrays.
As in other Corvettes, the steering could use some more feel, but turn-in is crisp—to say the least—and the effort builds gradually without ever being overly heavy, while the carbon-ceramic brakes offer tons of feel and bite and none of the drawbacks (noise, lessened power when cold) of some other manufacturer’s systems. Juechter and his team have created a car that’s super-approachable and never hairy, even when using the more lenient settings of the Performance Traction Management system. At least in Z07 spec with those glorious tires, it’s hard to use too much throttle in the Grand Sport, lacking as it does the additional 190 horsepower of the Z06. This isn’t to say it won’t rotate, particularly in fast sweepers, but it does so gently and you only have to breathe off the throttle to tuck the car back in line.
Yet for all the wonderful things about the Z07 package, you will want it for only two reasons: You plan to track the car regularly, in which case it’s a must-buy, or you just can’t live without the full-bore junior-Z06 aesthetic. That’s because it basically adds nothing for the street, where the Grand Sport drives much like a regular Stingray, offering quiet composure, a comfortable and supple ride from the standard adjustable magnetorheological dampers, and the same functional interior.
In fact, you don’t really need much of what our test car included. To its base price of $66,445—$10K more than a starter Stingray—our coupe added the 3LT Premium package (heated/ventilated seats, the performance data recorder, head-up display, and navigation, among scads of other creature comforts, as well as leather slathered everywhere), the Competition seats, and a whole pile of cosmetic upgrades. Add all of this to the $10,990 in chassis upgrades mentioned earlier, and our Grand Sport stickered for $95,040. That’s a ton of coin that puts the car into Z06 territory—and sorry, but for 95 grand, we’re skipping the greatest hits and heading straight for the big poppa Z06 (which costs $89,390 in 3LZ trim).
But go easy on the options—like, skip almost all of them, considering that the Grand Sport can be spec’d into six-figure territory—and you’d still have a car sporting most of the handling capability and visual menace of the Z06 without the actual menace of being tempted to exploit said capability on the street. For non-track-rat types, we’d say that our test car’s only requisite option is the $795 Heritage package, which allows you to order fender hash marks in one of six colors, because what’s a Grand Sport without fender hash marks? We think the marks should be standard, but at least your 800 bucks also gets hashes etched into the center-console grab handle’s aluminum trim and a set of floor mats with the original 1963 Grand Sport racer embroidered on them. So there’s that.
Judiciously equipped—which means different things depending on how you’ll use it—the Grand Sport is actually something better than a greatest-hits album. It’s really more like a late-career masterpiece from an artist that’s sure of its capabilities and what it wants to be. Assuming this is one of the last major works of the C7 era, we can’t wait to experience C8.