What's New for 2010
The 2010 Chevrolet Corvette receives launch control on all manual-transmission models, a Grand Sport variant that effectively replaces the old Z51 performance package, a Performance Traction Management system for the ZR1, a Cashmere interior color option for the Z06 and standard side airbags.
The 2010 Chevrolet Corvette is one of those cars whose reputation precedes it, and in this case the reputation unfortunately involves silver-haired Vegas types, gold chains, chrome wheels and automatic transmissions. But truth be told, the only thing about the 'Vette that fits with this picture is its lackluster interior.
Trust us: Driving is believing when it comes to this American icon. Even a short stint behind the wheel will revolutionize your thinking. The Corvette is silly fast in any form, it sticks to the road and it's more pleasant as a daily driver than anything this capable has a right to be.
For 2010 there are even more reasons to sing the Chevy Corvette's praises. Launch control is now standard on all manual-transmission models, a feature that will come in handy for taking the guesswork out of eking out the best acceleration times. The new Grand Sport edition -- an improvement on the discontinued Z51 performance package -- pairs the base engine with unique exterior styling cues; a sport-tuned suspension; Z06-size wheels, tires and brakes; more aggressive gearing; and a dry-sump oiling system for models fitted with the manual transmission.
For the ZR1, Chevy has added a sophisticated Performance Traction Management system that allows drivers to select from five modes (Wet, Dry, Sport with Active Handling, Sport without Active Handling, Race) that optimize power delivery for specific conditions.
One Corvette feature that hasn't changed is its power ratings, which range from the ridiculous to the completely absurd. Even the base 6.2-liter V8 cranks out 430 horsepower. But the Corvette does have some competition that didn't exist even a couple years ago. BMW's sweet-handling M3, for instance, has a starting price that's not too far above the Vette's and provides a far nicer interior. Ford's Shelby GT500 is also much improved this year.
As for the more expensive Corvettes, one shopping for the Z06 could also consider the Nissan GT-R and Porsche's improved range of 2010 cars, including the Boxster S, Cayman S and base 911. The ZR1, meanwhile, is only a few grand shy of one of our favorite sports cars ever, the sublime Porsche 911 GT3.
Still, the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette is undeniably a lot of car for the money, and its honking V8 will bring a smile to its owner's face at every push of the engine start button. Dye your hair silver and don a gold chain if you must -- test-driving a Corvette is worth the effort.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Chevrolet Corvette is a two-seater that's available as a coupe with a removable roof panel (base and GS only), a fixed-roof coupe or a convertible. Trim levels include the base Corvette (1LT), Grand Sport (GS), Z06 and ZR1. Like previous Corvette roadsters, the current convertible features a hideaway top, and for 2010 it features a Z06-style rear spoiler.
Standard on the 1LT coupe and convertible are 18-inch front alloy wheels and 19-inch rears, xenon headlamps, cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, full power accessories, OnStar, leather seating, a six-way power driver seat, a manual tilt steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control. The standard seven-speaker audio system includes a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, steering-wheel-mounted controls and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 2LT Package adds Bluetooth and perforated power leather sport seats with power-adjustable lumbar support and side bolsters. The convertible gets a power-operated top with the 2LT package. More equipment can be found on the 3LT, including a head-up display, a power telescoping steering column with manual tilting, heated seats, driver memory settings and a Bose audio system. The top-level Corvette 4LT is similar to the 3LT but adds an exclusive two-tone leather interior (with leather covering the dash top, the console storage cover and the more thickly padded armrests).
The GS is available as a coupe or convertible with the same four equipment packages but adds a sport-tuned suspension that replaces last year's Z51 suspension option; front fender stripes and vents; wider front and rear fenders; a Z06-style front splitter and tall rear spoiler; unique alloy wheels; Z06-size brakes and tires; specific manual-transmission gear ratios and a specific rear axle ratio on automatic-equipped models.
The coupe-only Z06 largely mirrors the base and GS models in terms of feature availability, but gains a race-inspired 7.0-liter V8, a fixed roof, more muscular rear fenders and other bodywork, a lighter frame and body panels, a stiffer suspension, big brakes, special seats and a unique tan-colored interior dubbed "Cashmere."
The top-of-the line ZR1 boasts a supercharged V8, even larger wheels (19-inch front, 20-inch rear), carbon-ceramic brakes, an exclusive suspension with adaptive dampers, and additional lightweight body panels, including a carbon-fiber roof panel and a carbon-fiber hood with a clear polycarbonate "window" that reveals the engine's intercooler.
Major stand-alone options, depending on the model, include a navigation system, a transparent roof panel for the coupe, a two-tone interior, a six-CD changer (not available with navigation), a dual-mode exhaust system and different wheels. For base Corvettes there is also an optional Magnetic Ride Control suspension that automatically stiffens and relaxes the suspension according to how the car is being driven.
Powertrains and Performance
Both the base and GS feature a 6.2-liter V8 that cranks out 430 hp and 424 pound-feet of torque. The optional dual-mode exhaust adds another 6 hp and 4 lb-ft. The Z06 boasts an exotic-class 505 hp and 470 lb-ft from its 7.0-liter V8, while the ZR1 has an otherworldly 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque pumping from its supercharged 6.2-liter V8. All 2010 Chevrolet Corvettes have a six-speed manual gearbox with launch control as standard, while a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is a no-cost option for the base and GS models.
Regardless of which Corvette you choose, you'll get stunning performance. In our testing, a base coupe went from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The Z06 will knock that down to 3.9 seconds. The ZR1 isn't much quicker to 60 mph (3.8 seconds) due to traction limitations but has a much quicker quarter-mile time.
EPA fuel economy estimates stand at a laudable 16 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for a manual-transmission Corvette. Opting for the automatic drops these numbers by 1 mpg. The Z06 checks in at 15/24/18 mpg, and the ZR1 garners a still-respectable 14/20/16 rating.
Antilock disc brakes and side airbags are standard, as is the "Active Handling" stability control system, which provides noninvasive assistance and includes a "competitive" driving mode that gives the expert driver more leeway while still maintaining a safety net. The ZR1 gets the even more sophisticated Performance Traction Management system described above. Side curtain airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Chevrolet has improved the current-generation Corvette's fit and finish since its debut, but overall interior quality still leaves something to be desired. Step out of an M3 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and into a 'Vette and you'll likely notice disappointing trim pieces and controls.
The front seats are comfortable, but we've found them to be flimsy and deficient in terms of side bolstering. This issue isn't horrible in the base Corvette's price range, but up where the Z06 and ZR1 play, it becomes more relevant. On the bright side, the Vette's large gauges and remarkable cargo capacity (22 cubic feet in coupes and 11 cubes in the convertible) make it a sports car that's easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
The 2010 Chevrolet Corvette's roaring V8s provide endless grins. The base car is extremely fast; the Z06, terrifyingly so. As for the ZR1, any car whose speed at the end of the quarter-mile approaches 130 mph is just in a different league -- the ballyhooed Nissan GT-R trails the ZR1 by a full 10 mph here. Top to bottom, the Corvette stable has enough broad-shouldered eight-cylinder force to satisfy even the most depraved speed fiend. Nor does this hamper drivability, as all Corvette models are pretty easy and comfortable to drive around town.
Aspersions are sometimes cast on the base Corvette's and Z06's steering feel, but few cars are more capable on a racetrack in the hands of an experienced driver. Moreover, if you really value delicate communication with your tires, the ZR1's extreme internal makeover has yielded just that. The Vette's brakes are strong and fade-free, especially the ZR1's carbon-ceramic binders, and grip from the enormous tires is, well, enormous. However, we'll dock the Chevy Corvette a point or two for its bulky feel in tight corners, a surprising shortcoming given its low curb weight (even the ZR1 weighs in at just 3,333 pounds).