First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Automatic

November 16, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ HOME

When the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport was introduced, we sent Andy Pilgrim, a man with more than 30 years of professional racing experience under his belt, to test what Chevrolet called its most track-focused C7 Corvette yet. He proceeded to dominate Chevy’s own shoe, Oliver Gavin, by a full second in a car he’d never driven before, on a cold track he’d never been to before, with cold tires no less. Yep, that’s our guy. Pilgrim’s verdict? The car is one strong package (understatement alert). So when Chevy offered us a chance to sample its new sports car on the street, you can believe we said yes.

I put “sports car” in quotation marks because — especially with the optional Z07 package with carbon-ceramic brakes, a downforce-inducing, carbon-fiber aero package, and barely road-legal Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires — the Grand Sport is pushing up near “supercar” territory.

In the canyons high above downtown Los Angeles, it quickly became apparent to me that it takes a racing driver like Pilgrim and a racetrack to truly experience the Grand Sport at or near its dynamic limits. He said as much during the road portion of his drive in the car: “Driving the Corvette Grand Sport on any road with this much power, grip, and chassis balance means it probably views us with disdain, rolling its eyes at our feeble attempts to explore its limits.” Yes, my attempts were feeble, but you can’t blame a guy for trying.

2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport top view detail

2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport top view detail

Getting after it in the canyons with the Grand Sport is a little easier than in the Z06, from which it takes many performance parts. In large part, this is due to the significant difference in power. The Grand Sport utilizes the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter LT1 found in the base C7. It puts out 460 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque and produces more linear — and more manageable — power than the Z06’s 650-hp supercharged LT4. This particular car came with the eight-speed automatic, satisfactory on up- and downshifts, yet, I longed to row the gears myself.

And what of the brake pedal? Actuation on the optional carbon-ceramic brakes is superb. It will certainly take time for your eyes (and your internal organs) to get themselves back into the proper alignment after a quick stop. Chevy says the Grand Sport will haul down from 60 mph to 0 in less than 100 feet. Totally believable.

The snug sport seat sits low in the chassis and gives you the sense that, under heavy load, your butt is going to scratch the pavement. Dial in the electric power steering’s selectable weight to your taste, turn the sticky, suede-covered steering wheel and everything feels predictable, helping to build your confidence with each successive twist and turn in the road — as you’d expect from such a talented piece of machinery.

When you first hop in, everything feels solidly built and nice to the touch, and the aluminum, leather, and suede that coat the cockpit make for a great first impression. But your smile may fade a bit once you hit the starter button and hit the gas. I noticed various squeaks and vibrations reverberating in the cabin during my drive. Not just over the rough stuff, either; even on a recently repaved mountain road this Grand Sport at least exhibited an excessive amount of rattling. To be fair, this is a press car, and you can bet it’s been ridden hard and put away sopping wet.

Minor build quality shortcoming aside, the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is a talented, race-bred street car built for public consumption, with an overall performance envelope many six-figure “supercars” would be hard pressed to match.

2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $66,445/$92,645 (base/as tested)
Engine: 6.2L OHV 16-valve V-8/460 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 465 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine RWD coupe
EPA Mileage: 16/25 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
Wheelbase: 106.7 in
L x W x H: 176.9 x 77.4 x 48.6 in
Weight: 3,428 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.6 sec (est)
Top Speed: 185 mph (est)

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