What's New for 2008
The 2008 Chevrolet Corvette receives more power, additional standard features (including OnStar, satellite radio and auto-dimming mirrors) and refinements to the steering, transmissions and interior. A 427 Limited Edition Z06 joins the 'Vette family midway through the model year.
With performance that rivals $200,000 exotics, the current-generation Chevrolet Corvette is -- at one-fourth to one-third the cost -- the buy of a lifetime for many sports car enthusiasts. In keeping with tradition, there are a variety of Corvettes offered, including the base removable-top coupe, a convertible and the ferocious Z06, a fixed-roof coupe that boasts a track-ready suspension and a 7.0-liter V8 that thumps out a tire-melting 505 horsepower. And the 2008 Chevrolet Corvette only gets better thanks to more power, additional refinement and more standard features.
The power part comes from a revised, 6.2-liter engine for the base Vettes. It cranks out 430 hp, a gain of 30 more horses than last year. There's also a new optional exhaust that raises horsepower by another 6. Other hardware changes include revised transmissions for quicker and easier shift quality and an improved steering rack for better feel. And in hopes of fending off criticism once and for all about the car's plasticky interior, Chevy has introduced a new (and pricey) interior package this year that places high-quality, two-tone leather upholstery on the dash, seats and doors.
If all the 2008 Corvette offered was acceleration, braking and handling equal to high-dollar exotics, it would still be the darling of car buffs everywhere. But a surprising level of utility comes along for the ride, too. The Corvette offers a user-friendly cockpit, a massive amount of luggage space and a ride quality that's comfortable enough for daily commuting and long freeway slogs.
Our quibbles with the 2008 Chevrolet Corvette are few. Although the base interior is better than years past, it's still somewhat plain and has too much plastic trim for a car in this price range. Nor can the Corvette match the nimble handling of European models like the BMW M coupe and roadster. But for the majority of shoppers in this segment, those items will likely be minor issues. For the money, it doesn't get any better than the Corvette.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Officially, the 2008 Chevrolet Corvette is shown as coming in two body styles: a coupe and a convertible. But in reality, there are three: the removable-top coupe, fixed-roof coupe and convertible. The standard Corvette coupe features a removable roof panel, whereas the Corvette Z06 coupe's roof looks the same, but is fixed in place for improved rigidity. The convertible should appeal to true roadster enthusiasts and, like Corvette roadsters before it, features a hideaway top.
Standard on the coupe and drop top are xenon headlamps, keyless entry and startup, full power accessories, satellite radio, a CD player and audio input jack, OnStar telematics, auto-dimming mirrors all around, leather seating, a six-way power driver seat and dual-zone automatic climate control. The Z06 includes most of the standard Corvette coupe's features but gains a more powerful V8, a lighter frame, larger wheels and tires, a more stiffly tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and special sport seats. The 427 Limited Edition Z06 -- an allusion to the 427-cubic-inch power plant this car shares with the "base" Z06 -- adds special paint and graphics and comes standard with an exclusive titanium-hued leather interior.
Option highlights (many of which are grouped in packages) for the standard coupe and convertible include a custom two-tone leather interior (with leather covering the dash top, console top and armrests), a navigation system, a transparent roof panel for the coupe, a head-up display, driver-seat memory and a seven-speaker Bose audio system. There are also suspension options: the Magnetic Ride Control suspension (which automatically firms up and softens the suspension according to how the car is being driven) and the Z51 performance handling package (which adds extra cooling, stiffer suspension calibrations, bigger brakes with cross-drilled rotors, specific tires and shorter gearing for the six-speed manual). Options for the Z06 are similar minus the transparent roof panel and suspension options.
Powertrains and Performance
Both the base coupe and convertible Corvettes feature a 6.2-liter V8 that makes an impressive 430 hp and 424 pound-feet of torque. An optional performance exhaust adds another 6 hp. The Z06 boasts an exotic-class 505 hp and 470 lb-ft from its 7.0-liter V8. All Corvettes have a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while a six-speed paddle-shift automatic is a no-cost option for the base coupe and convertible. The manual gearbox features new linkage for more positive action while the automatic has been recalibrated to furnish quicker response to the paddle shifters.
Regardless of which Corvette you choose, you'll get stunning performance. We spurred the base Corvette coupe from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds en route to a blistering 12.8-second quarter-mile at 114.8 mph, and Chevrolet claims that it won't stop until it hits 190 mph. Fuel economy is relatively impressive too, with 2008 EPA estimates of 16 mpg city/26 mpg highway for a manual-transmission Corvette. The Z06 is even quicker -- and at 15 mpg city/24 highway, there's only a slight penalty at the pump.
Antilock disc brakes are standard, as is a superb stability control system known as Active Handling. The latter provides noninvasive assistance and allows the expert driver a performance driving mode that gives more leeway while still maintaining a safety net. Side-impact airbags are optional, but head curtain airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Ever since the debut of the previous-generation Corvette, Chevrolet has made big strides in terms of interior fit and finish, which are now very good, though perhaps still one step behind class leaders. Large gauges, simple controls (even on the optional navigation system), usable cupholders and massive cargo capacity (22 cubic feet in coupes and 11 cubes in the convertible) make the Vette a sports car that's easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
A tidal wave of endless power from either snarling V8 along with tight handling results in a sports car that never ceases to put a smile on your face. Any of the three suspension packages will deliver a compliant ride along with white-knuckled handling capabilities, while this year's improved steering provides greater road feel. In short, the 2008 Chevrolet Corvette can serve equally well as a comfortable touring car or world-class performance machine, while the Z06 version is simply a monster on the street that is still docile enough to serve as one's daily driver.