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  • 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible

    Posted on November 26th, 2010 ninarussin

    Stylish roadster celebrates Corvette’s racing heritage

    By Nina Russin

    Chevrolet Corvette GS Convertible

    Fifty-eight years after its introduction, the Chevrolet Corvette remains an icon of American ingenuity: beautiful, fast, and relatively affordable.  The 2011 Corvette Grand Sport convertible, named for an experimental group of race cars built in 1962, raises the bar for everything in its segment.

    Unlike the Porsche 911, BMW Z4 and Aston Martin V-8 Vantage it competes against, the Corvette Grand Sport doesn’t carry a luxury nameplate. Base sticker price is $58,600: thirty-thousand dollars less than the 911.

    Its anti-blue blood image has won the Corvette legions of devotees world-wide. If Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had four wheels and an engine, the result would look and sound a lot like a Corvette.

    Legendary race cars

    The original Corvette Grand Sport combined Larry Shinoda’s visionary design with Zora Arkus Duntov’s engineering genius. Bunky Knudson, who had come to Chevrolet from Pontiac a year earlier, gave the project the green stamp as the division’s general manager.

    A custom-built fiberglass body was slightly wider around the wheels than the 1963 production Sting Ray. Under the hood was a 377 cubic inch engine rated at 550 horsepower, with 500 foot-pounds of torque. Curb weight was less than 2000 pounds; top speed, 200 miles-per-hour. Only 125 of the cars were built. General Motors quashed the project due to AMA restrictions which barred the Grand Sport from competition.

    Engineered for performance on and off the track

    Chevrolet Corvette GS Convertible

    The 2011 Corvette Grand Sport has the same widened stance as its namesake. Enlarged front and rear fenders make room for massive 18-inch rims in front and 19-inch wheels in the back, with Z06-size brakes and functional brake ducts.

    Unlike the current Z06 Corvette, the Grand Sport is available as a convertible. Giving drop-top aficionados a high-performance option made the Grand Sport an instant success when it rolled out in 2010. Seventy percent of Corvette convertible sales last year were Grand Sports.

    New for 2011 is an optional six-speed automatic transmission. Formula-style shift paddles enable the driver to flick through the gears on challenging roads. The option is an alternative to the Grand Sport’s six-speed manual gearbox. Since the Z06 Corvette comes only with a manual transmission, the Grand Sport is a more practical alternative to buyers who use their cars for urban commuting.

    Base price is $58,600. A premium package on the test car adds a premium Bose sound system, power telescoping steering wheel, heated seats, a six-way power passenger seat, Bluetooth interface and a power convertible top ($9700). The Grand sport design package costs $1795, including fender stripes and special upholstery.

    Other options on the test car include navigation ($1795), the six-speed paddle shift automatic transmission ($1250), dual exhausts ($1195), blue metallic tint coat ($850) and pedal covers ($270). Price as tested is $75,805, including the $950 delivery charge.

    Sure-footed performance

    Power for the Grand sport comes from Chevrolet’s LS3 V-8 engine. The aluminum block produces 430 horsepower and 424 foot-pounds of torque, propelling the Corvette from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in four seconds. The dual exhaust option enhances airflow through the engine, adding six more horsepower and four foot-pounds of torque.

    A 51/49 front-to-rear weight balance gives the Corvette exceptional handling. Curb weight is a scant 3289 pounds. Engineers managed to keep the Grand Sport convertible lighter than the coupe without sacrificing torsional rigidity.

    The six speed automatic transmission is a beautiful piece of work. In fully-automatic mode it matches shift points to the driver’s style for seamless power delivery. The paddle shifters on the steering wheel are easy to reach and operate. The driver can up and downshift using a single paddle, leaving the other hand free to manage additional controls.

    The Corvette’s 105.7-inch wheelbase gives it excellent maneuverability in the corners. A 37.7-foot turning radius makes U-turns a possibility on wider roads.

    The four-wheel independent suspension consists of double wishbones with monotube shocks on both axles. It is incredible refined, offering a compliant ride over bumpy roads, while keeping the chassis dead flat during emergency maneuvers and aggressive cornering.

    Buyer can upgrade the suspension to magnetic ride control, which uses rheological fluid to pick up changes in road and driving conditions and make real-time damping adjustments.

    I found the standard suspension to be more than adequate on the roads around Phoenix. Buyers who face rougher road surfaces such as those in the upper Midwest might want to consider the upgrade.

    Brakes consist of 14-inch rotors up front with six-piston calipers and 13.4-inch rotors in the rear with four-piston calipers. They stop the car on a dime. The functional air ducts keep the brakes cool and functional during long days at the race track.

    Visibility around the car is surprisingly good with the top in place, thanks to well-executed side mirrors and a wide rear glass. The Corvette convertible lacks the frightening rear blind spots some soft-top cars suffer from. The soft top insulates the interior against wind and engine noise, enabling the two front passengers to converse with ease.

    I have mixed feelings about the power top, simply because Corvette engineers stood by their manual top mandate for so many years. Their reason for not adding power controls was because the mechanism adds weight.

    On the flip side, I can understand the challenge of selling a car to luxury buyers without a power folding top. The convenience outweighs performance benefits for the target audience; hence the decision to offer the option.

    Driver-focused cockpit

    Photo by Joe Sage

    Sitting behind the wheel reminds me of the first time I drove a Corvette. Because the driver and passenger sit low in the frame, the Corvette feels like no other car to drive. While the Corvette’s front end is considerably shorter than it was in the Stingray era, one is still awestruck by the car’s vast expanse of hood, and the roar of the engine underneath.

    Designers did a nice job of integrating high-tech features such as the standard keyless entry and start with heritage styling cues. Redundant controls on the steering wheel are kept to a minimum. The Corvette logo in the steering wheel hub links the new model to generations of Corvettes past.

    Over the past ten years, designers have reduced the size and severity of seat bolsters, enhancing access and egress. The emergency brake, once located to the left of the driver’s seat, is now to the right of the center console for similar reasons.

    Controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. A central screen displays maps for the optional navigation system and audio selections.

    The two-passenger interior has limited storage space. A shelf behind the seats is large enough for a purse, small pack or small packages. The trunk is roomy enough for a small piece of luggage.

    Standard safety

    All models come with keyless entry and push button start, front and side airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control. Run flat tires can go up to 50 miles at reduced speeds, eliminating the need for a spare.

    Chevrolet builds the Corvette at its dedicated assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

    Likes: A world-class sports car with a significantly more affordable price tag than many of its competitors. The Grand Sport package enhances performance with a wider track, bigger brakes and styling that hearkens back to classic models from the 1960s.

    Dislikes: None

    Quick facts:

    Make: Chevrolet
    Model: Corvette Grand Sport Convertible
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $58.600
    As tested: $75,805
    Horsepower: 436 Hp @ 5900 rpm
    Torque: 428 lbs.-ft. @ 4600 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 4 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 15/25 mpg city/highway*
    Comments: Premium fuel is recommended, though not required.


    4 responses to “2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible”

    1. Great article; only you can write with such visuall discription. Nina, you are still at the top of your game, It’s time you write a book!


    2. Thanks Frank. Coming from a life-long Corvette expert and enthusiast, that’s a huge complement.

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