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The Corvette Grand Sport is a hot rod that’s not too hot to handle

The Corvette Grand Sport is a hot rod that's not too hot to handle

The latest Corvette Grand Sport offers the perfect sports car experience, in moderation.

Corvette is in the business of performance and has backed it up for decades. Once in a blue moon, Corvette celebrates its heritage by giving us the Grand Sport — a model that started out as a skunkworks project behind GMs back to make a standard ‘Vette race-ready. The Grand Sport title embodies that performance spirit, arguably better than the top-of-the-line Z06, and this celebrated iteration returns for 2017.

Corvette’s latest Grand Sport builds upon the already fantastic C7 Stingray and fine-tunes it to be the best expression of what it means to drive a Corvette. It houses a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine that gins up 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. Power is pushed to the rear wheels by way of either an 8-speed automatic or a 7-speed manual gearbox.

The Goldilocks dilemma

Remember the days when young children could wander the forests alone, casually committing B&E and making themselves at home while critiquing every aspect of an unwitting family’s standard of living? Such is the tale of Goldilocks, which applies to our car preferences in more ways than you’d think. Enthusiasts yell a lot, and want the most powerful, race-ready edition of a car, but most people would hate a back-breakingly stiff suspension and a supercharged, gas-guzzling behemoth of an engine.

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Conversely, if there’s a better version of a car out there, some owners of the cheaper base version tend to get FOMO. Corvette’s latest Stingray is no slouch, giving you significantly plenty bang for your buck, but the Gran Sport is more fine tuned and potent, lacking the volatility of the Z06. It has the same engine, and no superchargers, but gains performance from tired-and-true tinkering.

Track suited

The Corvette Grand Sport selectively raided the Z06 parts bin, borrowing just the parts that would improve it and leaving out everything else. For instance, it’s optional stage 2 aero package omits the parts that would keep the more powerful Z06 planted on the track, but would increase the drag on the Grand Sport. In general, it sports a wide front and rear facia, unique fender inserts, and high body color quarter ducts. There are a multitude of color combinations available as well, most of which will thrill the Hot Wheel enthusiast in us all, but there are some subtle combos that make the Grand Sport look less like an Indy 500 pace car.

My equilibrium gave up way before the Grand Sport did during large, sweeping turns.

The inside carries over the tight but driver-focused Stingray interior, with a few hints here and there to remind you that you’re in a special edition. Touches like custom floor mats, metal badging by the drive select, and other tiny easter eggs are hidden throughout.

Tight as it may be, the Interior is far from useless and plenty comfortable. An 8-inch Chevrolet MyLink touch screen is the source of the car’s available apps for navigation, phone settings, and entertainment. Along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the MyLink system also offers 4G LTE-based Wi-FI, making the ‘Vette one of the fastest hotspots around.

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This is all also home to the PDR, or the performance data recorder, that records a collection of telemetry when it’s time to cut the Grand Sport loose. Braving the hot Georgia sun, I took the Grad Sport to Atlanta Motorsports Park to let all that racing heritage strut its stuff.

G-wizardry

It was hard to even breathe while standing on steaming hot tarmac, so I could only imagine how the car would fare. The naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 would have its work cut out for it. Nevertheless, the Grand Sport never felt sluggish or overwhelmed by the heat, thanks to the cooling system gleaned from the Z06. Out of the pit, the Grand Sport puts 460 horsepower to the rear and 465 pound-feet of torque.

Power is delivered either through Chevrolet’s latest 8-speed automatic, or the 7-speed manual. I drive the latter, making full use of the active rev-matching during downshifts, allowing me to focus on the task at hand. For those who’s eyes just rolled back in their heads because they saw “active rev matching,” you can put your mind at ease knowing that your heel-toe talents won’t go to waste: the system is turned off easily (and often accidentally) with a flick of a wheel-mounted paddle.

Off the line, this ‘Vette can go from 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds, fittingly dead center of the Stingray’s flat 4.0 and the Z06’s sub-3.0 second launch speed.

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A lot of that is due to improvements to the aerodynamics. There’s a lightweight build underneath, but the Grand sport is about 100 pounds heavier than the standard C7. The track-honed aero is supported by Grand Sport-specific stabilizer bars and suspension springs, as well. Magnetic ride control is standard, so when off the road, the ride is as stiff as can be to hug the turns.

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All this works in tandem beautifully. With the car in track mode, my equilibrium gave up way before the Grand Sport did in large, sweeping turns. Little by little, I learned to trust the available downforce more with each lap of this highly tight and technical course. The result was the ability to build up tons of speed in the final carousel, flinging me onto the straights at over 120 miles per hour.

Beyond that, the Grand Sport I’m in is fitted with the optional Z07 package, which further upgrades the standard Brembo brake package with carbon ceramic-matrix discs, which boast a 60 to 0 stopping distance of under 100 ft. I’m happy to have them at the hairpin awaiting me at the end of the straightaway, allowing me to eke out a touch more speed while standing on them before I dove into the turn. The Z07 package fits the car with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which replace the Pilot Super Sport summer tires it would wear by default.

Conclusion

Corvette’s latest car was met with cautious optimism. Its drastic stylistic departure worried long-standing ‘Vette enthusiasts, but those concerns were quickly alleviated once the refinement that lay underneath was experienced. Furthermore, at $56,445, there was a lot of performance to be had with a relatively affordable price. Same goes with the Grand Sport, which starts at $66,445 – a mere $10k increase.

“Mere” being relative, of course. The price is comfortable for ‘Vette heads who don’t mind spending a little more for some improvements over the base Stingray, but aren’t looking to spend upward of $80,000 on the Z06.

The latest Corvette Grand Sport is the sports car experience devoured in moderation: Comfortable for road driving, but not race-car stiff when on the track. It is nimble when pushed, but with enough power to perform without the fear of it becoming an uncontrollable beast. Everything about this ‘Vette is just right.

Highs

  • Well balanced power with agility
  • Transitions easily from long road driving to track attacks
  • comfortable, driver-focused cabin
  • Incredible amounts of grip

Lows

  • Some color combos are too crazy