A shorter sixth-generation Corvette that was more powerful than ever before and benefited from upgrades in handling, acceleration and braking debuted for 2004. A hatchback coupe went on sale first, and a convertible followed.
Called "the most aerodynamically efficient Corvette ever" by Chevrolet, the current coupe has a 0.286 coefficient of drag. Chief engineer Dave Hill said it's also "more competition-influenced."
A six-speed-automatic transmission that operates via paddle shifters and a new three-spoke steering wheel are available on 2006 models. The new transmission incorporates two electronically controlled automatic modes: Drive and Sport. Dual-stage frontal airbags incorporate passenger-sensing technology.
For 2006, Chevrolet is launching a high-performance Z06 coupe that unleashes a 505-horsepower V-8 engine.
Many familiar styling cues highlight the latest Corvette, but the current generation is the first one since 1962 with fixed headlights. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are standard. Round taillights and integrated exhaust tips appear at the rear. A center bulge on the forward-hinged hood radiates outward. A tapered rear deck is claimed to improve high-speed performance.
Composite body panels sit atop a hydroformed steel frame with aluminum and magnesium components. The independent suspension uses transverse leaf springs. An optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension features magneto-rheological dampers that detect road surfaces. Goodyear Eagle extended-mobility tires are used: P245/40ZR18 up front and P285/35ZR19 at the rear.
Rather than conventional door handles, the Corvette features General Motors' Keyless Access, which unlocks the doors and allows the engine to be started when a key fob.
In this two-seater, the dashboard carries on the Corvette's dual-cockpit theme with a two-tone split. The gauges use white LED technology, which makes them backlit day and night.
A CD player with MP3 capability is standard, but the optional Bose system includes an in-dash six-CD changer. XM Satellite Radio is available. Cargo volume beneath the hatchback lid is 22 cubic feet. Convertibles hold 11 cubic feet, but capacity drops to 5 cubic feet with the top down. A power-operated top, GM's OnStar communication system and a navigation system are optional.
The 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 generates 400 hp at 6,000 rpm and 400 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. A six-speed-manual gearbox is standard, and a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic is optional. The optional Z51 Performance Package includes a six-speed manual for quicker acceleration.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard. A sport seat option includes side-impact airbags.
Corvette owners expect energizing performance, and that's what they get in the 400-hp model. The manual transmission is somewhat notchy, but it produces positive gear changes.
Handling and steering vary according to the suspension. One Corvette with the standard setup actually had a rather heavy steering feel. The Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension felt lighter and more secure. Ride comfort isn't bad on good pavement.
Corvettes with the Z51 Performance Package are noticeably stiff-legged, but they produce the greatest level of confidence. Occupants feel bumps more distinctly, but there's not a great difference from regular models.
Corvettes cope surprisingly well on wet pavement, as long as caution is taken. Visibility isn't a major problem in the coupe, but it's more restricted in the convertible. Engine noise and vibration while idling on some models can be disturbing to people with sensitive ears, but the power plant quiets down while cruising.