The Chevrolet Corvette muscle car is a stalwart racehorse on the racing scene and the dream car of millions of enthusiasts. From teenagers to boomers, the 'Vette stirs the surge of adrenaline that comes with open roads, open throttles and the roar of hundreds of horsepower.
For 2012, a big model selection and new additions define the Corvette lineup. Each of the models has a different personality, but the 2-seaters are designed to thrill the driver and rider with head-turning looks.
Chevy's flagship sports car is offered in coupe and convertible and four trim lines. The price range starts just under $50,000 and stretches into the $60,000 range.
The 2012 Corvette stable also includes the high-performance Z06, a high-performance model starting at $75,600. The Z06 is a racing-inspired version of the hard-top coupe and shares design elements with the Grand Sport. This supercar is built on an aluminum frame, with carbon panels, a special suspension and other elements that make it track-ready, but still highway-friendly.
At the top of the Corvette line is the ZR1, a hot-ticket machine starting at $112,600. This Corvette -- which is for serious speed freaks -- has a supercharged motor that makes it the fastest and most powerful car Chevy has ever offered. The engine has 638 horsepower and can reach speeds of up to 205 mph.
Under the hood is where the magic happens. On Corvette and Grand Sport models the 6.2-liter V-8 makes 430 horsepower and 424 lb.-ft. of torque.
The Z06 versions are powered by a massive 7.0-liter motor pounding out 505 horses and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available on these thoroughbreds.
We recently drove the 2012 Corvette Z06 and the new 60th Anniversary Special edition from Nashville to the National Corvette Museum, in Bowling Green, Ky., located across the street from GM's assembly plant dedicated exclusively to build the Corvette.
The Z06 emits a throaty growl when you depress the throttle and has so much range in its six gears that you can cruise in fourth gear up to three-digit speeds. Notable are the sport-tuned ride, with tight steering and a suspension response that elicits a "pocket-rocket" feel when dodging through traffic on the highway and taking corners at speed. We appreciated the smooth-shifting transmission that took care of motivating the performance engine.
The Corvette 60th Anniversary special edition's ride was enhanced by the top-down, wind-in-the-hair experience of convertible motoring. While getting the Corvette's lid tucked away is not completely automatic, once the cloth top is released by the twist of a toggle and pushed rearward by hand, mechanics take over, lifting a panel in the back end, leaving you ensconced in a serenely seductive cockpit with "cool blue" trim touches and gauge cluster lighting that is befitting of a high-end sports car.
Both Corvette and Grand Sport models have short/long arm double wishbone front and rear suspension with monotube shock absorbers. Big disc brakes front and rear have power assist and ABS; on Grand Sport versions, the brake components include six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, as well as cross-drilled rotors. The Z06 models have the same suspension and brake components.
The exterior design of the Corvette family is both classic and modern -- what you'd expect to see from a Chevy muscle machine, but updated for curb appeal and performance. The nose-prominent, skulking front end is capped by surprisingly delicate-styled headlamps that appear like narrowed eyes at the start of a race.
Coupes feature a low-slung roof that slopes back toward a trapezoidal rear window that gives a futuristic look to the familiar squared-off rear end that is punctuated with its trademark dual-circle taillamps. The roof is a one-piece, removable design.
Convertible models have a cloth top that tucks into the rear well as neat as a pin. Grand Sport and high-performance versions, including the Z06, feature wide grille-mounted and hood-mounted intakes; deep scoops define the sides.
2012 CHEVROLET CORVETTE Z06
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 2-passenger RWD hatchback coupe
BASE PRICE____________________ $75,600
ENGINE TYPE__________________ OHV V-8 w/SFI
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 505 at 6300 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 470 at 4800 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed manual
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 175.6 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) __ 39 ft.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,199 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 18.0 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 15 mpg city, 24 mpg highway