The 2017 Chevrolet Corvette is a singular thing. It and the Ohio-made Acura NSX are currently the only production two-seater performance machines being built in the United States. But no one thinks of the NSX as an American car, and no one thinks of the Corvette as anything but the epitome of American automotive culture. Every Vette is powered by a big, overhead valve V8 that would be dismissed by German engineers as an archaic lump. It's covered in a plastic body that Italian designers would wave off as vulgar. And the Corvette is made in Kentucky, where fried chicken is about the only thing as American as this sports car.
Introduced for the 2014 model year, the current Corvette has been dubbed the "C7," which is shorthand for the seventh generation of the car since its introduction way back in 1953. It's similarly engineered to the C5 and C6 generation machines that came before it, which means it runs a separate backbone-style frame with the engine feeding a "torque tube" that leads to either a rear-mounted seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. With the engine up front and the transmission out back, that results in a sweetly balanced car with almost ideal weight distribution.
Power for the Corvette comes from two members of GM's latest "LT" series of classic small-block V8. The "regular" Vette uses the LT1 which displaces 6.2 liters and is rated at 455 horsepower or 460 hp when optioned with the performance exhaust system. The super-studly Z06 model that rests at the top of the range is powered by the supercharged, 6.2-liter V8 ripping out 650 hp.
What's new for 2017 is the return of Grand Sport model that blends most of the Z06's fortified handling and chassis talents with the standard LT1 engine. It's a brilliant mix of the easygoing LT1, with more grip than most mortals can endure. It's great on track and on a mountain backroad, yet it's also an easygoing cruiser that, with its magnetic adjustable shocks, rides as smoothly as the Disneyland monorail.
Every model of the Corvette is available as either a removable-roof coupe or soft-top convertible. And the options list is long to optimize the Corvette for everything from dealing with the Leisure World speed bumps to the purist of track machine.
Chevrolet isn't obsessed with the Corvette's fuel economy and most buyers won't be either. But, anyhow, a base car with the eight-speed automatic delivers an EPA-rated 19 mpg combined (15 city/26 highway). The blown and lunatic Z06 with the automatic goes 16 mpg combined (13 city/23 highway). Driven very conservatively — which kind of misses the point of the Corvette — 30 mpg is achievable on the freeway.
Making sense of the dizzying variety of Corvette options and possibilities takes research. And Edmunds is the research tool all Americans need.