The Grand Sport name has long played a prominent role in Corvette history, but if you're in the know, you'll recognize that this C7 Grand Sport is something proper. As formidable as its Z06 big brother truly is, to call this Corvette it a ‘Z06 lite’ is perhaps accurate.
While the Grand Sport is nearly a literal interpretation of a Z06 less its supercharger, it may be the best Corvette in the range. More focused than the Stingray and less hardcore than the track scorching Z06, the Grand Sport possesses a balance the other Corvettes lack.
Much of the Grand Sport’s core technology is lifted directly from the Z06, which got its inspiration from the C7.R Le Mans-winning racer, like the lightweight construction of the chassis. Nowhere is it more obvious than in the aerodynamic package, as there’s not a single inlet, wing, or vent that does not serve a purpose.
The heart of the Grand Sport is Chevy’s ubiquitous, naturally aspirated 6.2-litre LT1, producing a relatively modest 343kW at 6000RPM and it’s particularly rewarding when you wind out the gears to uncover all of that power. There’s nothing quite like the glorious wail of a small block.
Peak torque of 630Nm occurs at a surprising high 4800RPM, but the LT1 is never short of twist. With the seven-speed manual, the US government-mandated first-to-fourth gear skip shift mechanism serves to demonstrate that you can indeed crawl this Corvette at low speeds in tall gears.
The quicker setup is specifying the optional GM-built eight-speed automatic, which Corvette is keen to tell everyone that it shifts nearly as fast as a dual clutch box. Truth is, it feels as quick as Porsche’s best PDKs and it will pull rev-matched downshifts to boot.
As superb as the auto box is, the manual is the transmission of choice. With its wonderfully mechanical feel, heft of the shifter, and well-defined gates, it’s the choice of drivers looking for maximum engagement. Combined with the free-revving V8, running through the gears is bliss, and heel-and-toe downshifts quickly become second nature.
The Grand Sport’s secret to putting down power is the electronically controlled limited slip differential. It’s fully open under braking for stability and, under power, uses inputs from the Corvette’s systems to determine the optimal amount of lock up at any given moment. It operates seamlessly and without any compromises.
Similarly, the Magnetic Selective Ride Control dampers adjust 1,000 times per second, entirely imperceptibly to the driver and passenger. Not all of the important parts are lifted from the Z06, mind you. For example, the Grand Sport uses bespoke spring rates and anti roll bars. And, yes, the Grand Sport still uses the traditional Corvette leaf springs.
The C7’s cockpit is largely unchanged from its introduction a few short years ago, and the Alcantara trimmed steering wheel and shifter lends a functional feel to the driver’s interface. However, the overall interior design is already dated and hard, unfriendly plastics abound through the cabin.
Like all Corvettes, the Grand Sport has an ideal seating position and excellent sight lines, but more impressive are the well-matched control weights between the steering, clutch, brake pedal, and shifter.
Optional Competition Sports Seats are recommended for their lateral support and are surprisingly comfortable for longer drives, but their large seatbacks intrude into the already cramped cabin. Under the hatch, cargo space is an enormous 425 litres.
Our tester was nearly fully equipped, or shall we say, optimally equipped, with all performance options save the automatic, which meant it was fitted with the excellent Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres and massive Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. Braking is simply top notch from control, feedback, and this Grand Sport scoffs at the notion of brake fade.
The Michelin tyres are near slicks and have no rain-evacuating tread to speak of, but Corvette says this package is worth 1.2Gs of lateral grip on the skidpad. That sort of limit is what we’re accustomed to finding on purebred race cars, not street legal supercars.
Steering feel and feedback has never been strength of Corvette, but the C7 is light years ahead of its predecessors. Still, relative to even a bog standard 911, the Grand Sport steering gives the driver little information, but its saving graces are its precision and responsiveness.
The Corvette Grand Sport is one of those cars that's far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s very approachable and inspires confidence for drivers of all skill levels. Experienced drivers will enjoy its accessible performance envelope and for those less skilled, there’s no need to worry that it’ll surprise you.
While it leans toward the hard core end of the sports car range, the Corvette Grand Sport is one of those special do-everything coupes with enough performance to embarrass some venerable European supercars.
An exceptionally well-rounded package
Twentieth century interior design and finishes
ENGINE 6161cc V8, SOHC, 16v, naturally aspirated
POWER 343kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE 630Nm @ 4600rpm
0-100km/h 3.7sec (estimated)