It Looks Good on Paper and Pretty Good on the Test Track, Too
“You did what?” I asked a friend who bought a Corvette with an automatic transmission. I know he had some excuse (traffic, knee, he’s a bad person), but I don’t remember it. Who on earth would buy an automatic Corvette when there’s a perfectly good row-your-own available? For less money, too. Here’s the crazy part: Only 23 percent of the Corvettes sold in 2016 were manuals. SMH, as the kids say, though I guess I do live in a silicon dioxide/ceramic tower—I barely ever see automatic Corvettes, let alone consider purchasing one. All this is a fancy preamble to explain that we tested a 2017 Corvette Grand Sport with an eight-speed automatic transmission. But fear not; We also tested a manual Grand Sport. We’re good like that.
For those not familiar with concept, the Grand Sport is to Corvette what GTS is to Porsche. Think about the 911 GTS, for example. You take most of the popular performance options from the Carrera S, throw in the wide body kit from the Turbo, and price it so that aftermarket mods would cost about twice as much. Meet the Grand Sport. You start with the Stingray version of the C7 with the Z51 option. Z51 means the snarling 460-horsepower, 465-lb-ft 6.2-liter V-8 has a dry oil sump. This pays off in the corners.
Let’s get to it. In a straight line, the Grand Sport with the seven-speed manual (which also comes with the Z51’s shorter gears) hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and runs across one quarter mile of tarmac in 12.2 seconds at 116.1 mph (186.8 km/h). That’s pretty good, though it should be noted that the slightly less powerful (455 hp, 455 lb-ft of torque) Camaro SS 1LE hits 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and does the quarter-mile dash in 12.4 seconds at 114.2 mph (183.8 km/h). The GS manual weighs 3,464 pounds (1571.2 kg), whereas the Camaro clocks in at 3,735 pounds (1694.2 kg). But start turning the wheel, and the Grand Sport records a maximum lateral acceleration number of 1.18 g. That’s the best we’ve ever recorded from a production vehicle. That 1LE Camaro pulls a 1.09, which is pretty good. But again, the Grand Sport has the most grip of any production car on earth.
The row-your-own GS does pretty well in the figure eight, too. By that I mean 22.3 seconds. Where does that time sit in our performance pantheon? Fourth place, all time, behind the Porsche 918 Spyder, Corvette Z06, and Dodge Viper ACR in Track mode. The Corvette Grand Sport can boast about being the quickest sub-$100,000 USD car around our figure eight. Braking from 60 to 0 mph is phenomenal, as well, happening in 90 feet. That’s the third-best stopping distance we’ve ever tested, though the second-best car. Huh? Well, the ACR owns both the top two spots, stopping shorter in both Street and Track configurations, 87 versus 88 feet. I should also point out that that three other cars are tied with the GS’s 90-foot stop of braking, and all of them are Corvettes. One more data point for you: The Grand Sport manual recently competed against a Porsche Carrera S and beat the German car by 0.8 second around Big Willow. The Corvette’s time of 1:26:28 makes it the ninth-quickest car Randy Pobst has ever lapped for us there. Every single car that beats the Grand Sport packs at least an additional 100 horsepower, if not much (Aventador), much (918 Spyder) more.
What about the slushbox? I’ve personally yet to drive a vehicle outfitted with GM’s 8L90 transmission where said eight-speed auto wasn’t the weakest link in the vehicle. Be it Z06 or CTS-V, the 8L90 just comes off as not so polished. The other issue is that I get to hone my feelings by driving all sorts of competitors, and, for the most part, they all have smarter, quicker-shifting transmissions. The same holds true with the Grand Sport. It’s not a terrible transmission, but it’s also clearly not up to snuff with, say, the PDK system you’d find in a Porsche 911. However, the weight increase going from manual to automatic is minimal: 3,464 pounds rises to just 3,479 pounds (1578.1 kg).
The eight-speed does help acceleration. Zero to 60 mph drops to 3.6 seconds, and the quarter-mile time falls to 12.0 seconds at 116.6 mph (187.7 km/h). The rest of the performance numbers drop off a touch. Braking increases by a negligible 1 foot to 91 feet from 60 mph (1 km/h). The figure-eight number increases to 22.9 seconds, only the fifth-best we’ve ever tested. Why the fall off? Part of the 0.6-second increase might be due to different gearing, but I suspect it’s related to grip. The automatic Grand Sport pulled 1.14 g of lateral acceleration, which is the sixth-best number we’ve ever recorded. Actually, the gap is probably a combination of the two factors.
So there you have it. The Grand Sport has recently been the best-selling Corvette model, and we absolutely see why, numerically at least. For $92,060 USD in the case of the manual or $92,385 USD for the automatic, the Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport delivers world-class performance without forcing you to sell your firstborn. You might still have to rent them out occasionally, but that’s none of our business. If handling is your primary motivator, you definitely want to go ahead with the manual. Numbers don’t lie.
|2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport (Manual)||2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport (Automatic)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$92,060||$92,385|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||6.2L/460-hp/465-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8||6.2L/460-hp/465-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed manual||8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,464 lb (50/50%)||3,479 lb (48/52%)|
|WHEELBASE||106.7 in||106.7 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||176.9 x 77.4 x 48.6 in||176.9 x 77.4 x 48.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.9 sec||3.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||12.2 sec @ 116.1 mph||12.0 sec @ 116.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||90 ft||91 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.18 g (avg)||1.14 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||22.3 sec @ 0.96 g (avg)||22.9 sec @ 0.93 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/25/19 mpg||15/26/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||211/135 kW-hrs/100 miles||225/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.02 lb/mile||1.05 lb/mile|