The number of times that the Grand Sport moniker has appeared on the Corvette is common knowledge for aficionados of one of the world’s longest-running nameplates (the answer is three if you’re a Ford or Mopar guy...) but if you ask them which is the best of the lot, hands will instinctively reach for chins. It’s a difficult question to answer because there is plenty of love for the original 1963 racecar (only five were made but their impact on the future of Chevrolet racing was huge), the 1996 C4 (1,000 were built to mark the end of the fourth-generation Corvette production) and last but not least the 2010 C6 which was so good that it accounted for more than half of ’Vette sales in the last year of the generation’s production. It kept the Bowling Green plant running.
However, it’s this fourth coming of the Grand Sport which I believe will live long in the memory because it continues the racing spirit of its predecessors with 460 horsepower, features advanced aerodynamics and an available 1.2g of cornering capability. This is a serious piece of kit.
The best of the Corvette parts bin has been raided for the latest iteration which sits between the Stingray Z51 and the track-focused Z06. The C7-based Chevy uses the wide body chassis and tyres of the latter and is powered by the former’s dry sumped naturally aspirated V8 with the dual-mode exhaust system as standard (it’s optional on the base Stingray). It also gets revised stabiliser bars, bespoke springs, an electronic limited-slip differential, the trademark Grand Sport Cup wheels, wide-mouth black Z06 grille along with a similarly-styled rear spoiler and with the newfound grip to go with the ample grunt, the GS offers racy looks and an exceptionally thrilling ride. It’s a performance machine that will tear up the track and in spite of its supercar-baiting aesthetics (and power) at just Dh265,000 it won’t break the bank. This is a winner alright.
Our Torch Red tester comes with the Z07 package which adds Brembo carbon ceramic brakes to provide improved stopping power – and that’s a good job too what with 630Nm of torque on tap and its ability to sprint from 0-100kph in just 3.5 seconds.
It’s reassuring to know that you can rein in all that grunt but nothing I have driven in recent memory has induced a smile as big as this ’Vette. The moment the 6.2-litre V8 rumbles into life you know instantly that driving this is going to be a heart-pounding experience. On the move, the GS feels tight, controlled and ever so purposeful – and that’s before you switch it to Sport or Race mode. Do so and it sharpens up the throttle, gearbox and steering and transforms into an entirely different animal. It certainly sits on a par with Italian exotics in the thrill stakes and for a third of the price. It handles with aplomb – the magnetorheological dampers allow you to push it to the edge of the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres’ grip – and it corners totally flat.
For those who would be keen to take this to the track and try to shave seconds off your lap record, you’d want to opt for this eight-speed automatic over the rev-matched seven-speed manual because it swaps the cogs faster than you’ll be able to (it has a 2.73:1 final-drive ratio in place of the 2.41:1), meaning it is extremely quick; nail the throttle and the rear of the ’Vette fires sideways (I’ve no doubt it’d do a full 360 in the wet, but even on a dry road it’s hilariously easy to break the rear tyres loose) but in Touring mode it can be docile enough to cruise down the boulevard – and for extra show off points the targa top has to be stowed in the boot.
Barring some squeaks here and there the cabin is impressive and features some fine materials including aluminium, leather, and suede. It packs some decent tech too such as a head-up display, 8.0in infotaintment system (with reversing camera and “curb view” camera) the Chevy MyLink and both Apple CarPlay and Android capability. It even has three USB ports and wireless and plug-in connectivity for mobile phones.
This Grand Sport is not just some tarted-up compromise – it is the most track-focused offering since the trim made its debut in 1963. This is a talented, race-bred street car that packs the performance of many six-figure supercars.
With rumours of the 2019 model becoming mid-engine, this traditional front-engine rear-wheel drive two-seater might just become something of a collectors’ item. Introduced in 1953, the Corvette has outlasted many of its rivals and it’s easy to see why with variants that are as brilliant as this.