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2011 Chevrolet Corvette Overview

As we rapidly approach the Corvette's 60th anniversary, Chevrolet has decided to pull out all the stops to ensure that America's favorite sports car offers something for everyone. With the cancellation of the Dodge Viper, the 2011 Corvette is unchallenged as the standard bearer of American performance, providing a top-notch driving experience at a relatively low price. This year's addition of the special edition Z06 Carbon breathes new life into the so-called C6 platform.

For 2011 the Corvette is offered in four distinct flavors. The base model is the volume leader and features the famous GM small-block V8 in either a two-door coupe or convertible body style. The step-up Corvette Grand Sport (also offered as a convertible) offers a wider body, bigger brakes, and a specially tuned suspension. The penultimate Z06 trim is offered only as a coupe and gets the Grand Sport's body upgrades plus a muscular 7.0-liter V8. The towering Corvette ZR1 gets an incredible supercharged engine that develops more than 600 hp and allows the Vette to compete with the elite of the supercar set.

With all Corvette variants buyers get the iconic styling that has distinguished the C6 as one of the best-looking American cars of its generation. The swoopy fiberglass bodywork gets progressively more aggressive with each trim level, adding lips, vents and bulges intended to cope with the increased level of performance on offer. Of particular note are the Grand Sport's special side vents and paint stripes and the Z06 Carbon's unique woven fiber inserts and spoilers. The ZR1's carbon-fiber hood even gets a see-through window that allows passersby to glimpse the ultimate Vette's powerful engine.

Base and Grand Sport Corvette coupes feature a standard removable roof panel, or targa top, that pops off easily and stows in the trunk. The Corvette convertible offers a full open-air experience via a folding cloth top with optional power operation. Both the Z06 and ZR1 models have a fixed roof, owing to the structural demands placed on those cars by their additional power. In any variant the C6 chassis is commendably stiff, and even the convertible evinces only a modicum of cowl shake over bumps.

In its simplest guise the 2011 Corvette's 6.2-liter V8 develops 430 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque. Known internally as the LS3, the base motor features an aluminum block and heads but relies on a somewhat outmoded overhead valve (pushrod) arrangement. Despite its elderly design the LS3 still launches the 2011 Corvette out of the starting blocks with authority, storming from 0-60 in under 4.5 seconds on its way to 190 mph. The Grand Sport variant features an upgraded LS3 with dry-sump oiling (only on manual transmission versions) that ensures constant lubrication regardless of the car's position.

The LS3 is paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a conventional automatic, also offering six ratios. The manual 'box, a time-tested Tremec 6060 unit, features a relatively precise action and easy clutch take-up, though the continued inclusion of a first-to-fourth skip-shift is rather maddening. The automatic transmission, though joyless, is supremely competent in the tradition of all GM slushboxes, offering manual control via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Stepping up to the Z06 Corvette nets buyers a bored-and-stroked version of the small-block, displacing 7.0 liters and featuring dry-sump lubrication. The hand-built Z06 motor, called the LS7, cranks out a stellar 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. The extra power makes the Z06 frighteningly fast; it storms from 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. In keeping with its performance image, the Z06 is available only with the manual gearbox.

The top-dog Corvette ZR1 gets a supercharged version of the base 6.2-liter V8, now dubbed the LS9. With a Roots-type blower and stronger internals, the LS9 makes an amazing 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. The ZR1 gets a beefed-up six-speed manual, plus a special dual-disc clutch designed to handle the engine's prodigious torque. As the most powerful Corvette ever made, the ZR1 is able to keep pace with such exalted company as the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, performing the 0-60 trick in just 3.2 seconds on its way to an 11.2-second quarter mile. Top speed is an incredible 205 mph.

For 2011 an exciting new program allows Z06 and ZR1 buyers to actually assemble their car's own engine. For the rather princely sum of $5,800, the Engine Build Experience option allows future owners to travel to GM's specialized manufacturing facility in Wixom, Michigan, to assemble their car's motor under the trained eye of a master technician.

While the seemingly endless variety of powerplants might give the impression that the 2011 Vette is all motor, a look at the chassis specifications reveals a dedicated focus on handling and all-around performance. All Corvettes get an independent suspension featuring control arms front and rear. The standard 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels are available in a variety of finishes, while the ZR1's larger 19-inch front and 20-inch rear rims are clad in a fetching sterling silver paint. Optional MagnaRide shock absorbers (standard on the Grand Sport, Z06 and ZR1) are filled with a special magnetic fluid that varies the spring rate according to road conditions.

Though it lacks the tactile feel of, say, a Porsche 911, the 2011 Corvette attacks corners with razor-sharp steering and abundant grip. While base Vettes provide a commendably supple ride, the Grand Sport, Z06 and ZR1 models are rather highly strung and don't react well to rough pavement. All Corvettes get strong disc brakes, but the Z06 trim benefits from upgraded 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers. The ZR1 ups the ante even further with 15.5-inch carbon-ceramic brakes from Brembo that provide extraordinary fade resistance and stopping power.

Under the skin the 2011 Corvette still suffers from the poorly executed interior that has plagued America's favorite sports car for decades. While the Vette's street presence and performance are up to international standards, its low-rent interior is decidedly not. Most of the blame lies in the flat, formless seats that seem designed to accommodate the bulging waistlines so common to the stereotypical Corvette owner. While the ZR1's optional sport seats improve things slightly, they're available only as part of a $10,000 option package. The standard dashboard is hastily finished, and the center console is clad in rock-hard plastics. An optional Premium Equipment Package improves matters with a liberal dose of French-stitched leather on the dash and doors, yet it costs more than $7,000 and does nothing to improve the cheaply rendered switchgear.

For 2011 the base Corvette coupe starts at under $50,000, the convertible adds about $4,000, and the Grand Sport package costs another $5,000 or so. At about $75,000 the Z06 entails a substantial commitment to performance by prospective buyers, while the ZR1 rings the bell at very close to $110,000. While those prices might seem high in a vacuum, they're quite reasonable compared to the competition. The Z06, for example, nearly matches the performance of Porsche's 911 Turbo while costing about $60,000 less. Though it might lack the Porsche's Swabian refinement and luxurious interior, the Corvette's swaggering, all-American personality gives a clue as to why it remains an icon nearly 60 years after it was introduced.

Updated by Anonymous

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