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Discussion Starter #1
You need to log in to get this one so I'll be incredibly cheeky and post the text here. All rights held by the UKs Dail Telegraph newspaper and the mods can delete it if they're worried re copyright:

Here's the link if you want to register. The 'vette is the lead story.

The review:

Little red Corvette
(Filed: 31/07/2004)

America's greatest sports car is turning its sights on Europe. As Peter Hall discovered, Chevrolet's new C6 Corvette is more compact, more powerful and more refined - and an absolute bargain

"I ran a C4 as everyday transport about 15 years ago. It was a great car..."
Cor 'Vette: the 186mph C6 offers great sound and keyless start

We were at the opening of the new Cadillac Experience Centre in Dusseldorf for the European relaunch of two of America's most iconic brands, and I was about to tell the vice-president of General Motors my favourite Corvette stories.

The ones that proved its practicality, about how the boot could swallow a complete small-block Chevrolet engine and four jerrycans of fuel, or about the morning I carried a professional caterer girlfriend and a pre-prepared feast for 80 people to a posh wedding reception in London (and maybe even the one about the night before, when her ex-boyfriend had burst into her flat and stamped on the beautiful salmon centerpiece and ended up in hospital).

And how the glass-fibre bodywork survived without a scratch when a zombie flesh eater walked up the bonnet one night at the Elephant and Castle.

And how the seats were the most comfortable I've ever encountered before or since, and how it cost less than £100 to service, and how, despite hard use on road and track, it only ever failed to proceed once, when the little plastic safety switch under the clutch pedal failed, and how it was brilliant fun on snow, and how awesome its sound system was, and how it was never broken into despite someone's attempt to drill the locks in a station car park, and how the company accountants eventually sold it for £4,000 because they thought that a car with 50,000 miles on the clock was virtually worthless even though it was good for 250,000 and really only just run-in, and how if I'd known they were going to give it away I'd have bought it myself because I absolutely loved that car...

Bob Lutz wasn't impressed. "Forget that," he said, with a contemptuous wave of his hand. "Have you driven a C5?" "Yes, I drove one from London to the Nürburgring and back a while ago," I said, glancing at the magnificent C5 racer parked a few feet away, the very car that won the GT class at Le Mans in June. "It was even better."

"Well, when you drive the C6, the C5 will seem like a piece of ****."

That the new Corvette was intended to be a big improvement over the outgoing model was already clear as I perused the press pack on the flight to Germany, where I was to drive the only example in Europe. Anticipation was high, not least because the drive had been postponed twice by GM's European agents.

We had warned them not to give the car to BBC Top Gear first because they'd wreck it, and sure enough, as a result of their antics (see tomorrow night's programme) the car went back to the workshop in Dusseldorf with a stripped clutch, four bald tyres and damaged bodywork. I was impatient to get behind the wheel at last, but I was also prepared to be disappointed.

Sure, it had a new and even bigger engine, an aluminium-alloy, six-litre pushrod V8 developing 400bhp and a whopping 400lb ft of torque, offering 0-62mph in just 4·2 seconds and a top speed of 186mph - true supercar territory. But talk of increased refinement and traction control systems suggested that the simple, elemental appeal of America's one true sports car might have been diluted for the modern world. And then there were the press photos, which gave the impression that the traditionally dramatic styling had been eroded.

In the composite flesh, that impression persists. According to chief engineer Dave Hill, the stylists' aim was to create something that was recognisably a Corvette "from 100 yards", and they have certainly succeeded; save pop-up headlamps, absent for the first time since 1962, all the old visual cues are there: the flat rear deck, the round tail lamps, the glassy rear hatch and laid-back cockpit, the sharky extractor vents aft of the sharply defined front wings, the bonnet bulge, the aggressive snout; there's even an egg-crate grille, albeit invisible from most angles.

But what has really altered the car's physical presence is a reduction in overall size; although the wheelbase has been increased by an inch, it is an inch narrower and crucially five inches shorter than its predecessor thanks to reduced front and rear overhangs.

Roofless fun: a convertible is due next year

In fact the new C6 is the same length as a Porsche 911 - compact even by European standards - and only fractionally more than three inches wider. This is most obvious at the front; the characteristically long bonnet has been chopped, with the result that the rear half of the car looks uncomfortably massive from some angles.

It's as if Jeremy Clarkson had revealed a previously unsuspected degree of insecurity and emerged from plastic surgery with Michael Jackson's nose. Maybe GM lost its nerve in its attempt to make its all-American hero a European contender. It certainly wants a lot more European sales - 2,000 per year - than it achieved with the C5.

The designers might boast of "tighter, more athletic dimensions", but a heavyweight boxer could still find a comfortable driving position in the neat and well-finished cockpit. It's as spacious as ever, and provides a surprising amount of storage space (including "high-performance cupholders").

Air conditioning is standard, as you might expect, and the centre console incorporates a satellite navigation and audio system screen. Access is via wide-opening, keyless doors; the car recognises the fob in your pocket (which carries a conventional key for emergency use) and unlocks itself as you approach; the only drawback with this system, of course, is that the doors unlock themselves when you go back to check that they're locked...

Starting is by a button next to the steering column and you are required to push the clutch all the way to the floor as a safety precaution; leaving the gearlever in reverse when you switch off is an additional security measure that shuts down all unnecessary electrical circuits and minimises battery drain.

The rear hatch, meanwhile, is unlocked by a button on the facia (or remotely by the key fob) and opens to reveal a vast load area. This is compromised if you wish to stash away the one-piece roof panel (an easy three-catch-and-lift job, although if that's a struggle there is also a convertible version) but sufficient room remains underneath it for several squashy bags and there is additional storage space concealed beneath the floor; as the Goodyear tyres incorporate 200-mile run-flat technology, there is no spare wheel.

It is surprising that no cover is fitted to hide your luggage from prying eyes, however, and more anchorage points for loose items would be useful.

The seats are not as wonderful as those I remember from 15 years ago, but they provide good support, with 12-way electrical adjustment, and the steering wheel offers variable reach and rake. My immediate impression was of sitting on the car rather than in it - perhaps a consequence of that diminished nose - but a comfortable driving position was easy to find.

That said, I spent some time unsuccessfully trying to gain a clear view of the green-illuminated head-up display projected on to the bottom of windscreen, and found that the only way I could see the whole thing was to recline the seat to a less than ideal, straight-arm driving position.

I later discovered that the height of the display was adjustable, but it was no great loss as the comprehensive and permanently back-lit analogue instruments are perfectly clear. For what it's worth, the head-up display offers two modes: Street includes a range of information such as speed, turn indicators and audio settings (plus gear selection on the automatic model), while Track includes speed, revs, engine gauges and lateral g in corners.

The latter in particular might inspire some of the most boring pub conversations in automotive history; the fact that you normally generate about 0·5g while negotiating a suburban roundabout is of little interest to anyone I know, and the only way to guarantee beating your mates at this particular game is to run head-on into a tree at 186mph.

Not that any sane driver is likely to do so in the C6. Despite the irresistible thrill of unleashing 400 horses and roaring towards the horizon with a thunderous exhaust note that makes the Ford GT tested last week sound like a Scalextric car, the massive tyres (245/40ZR on the 18x8·5in front rims, 285/35ZR on the 19x10in rears) offer prodigious roadholding.

However, this is not a boring machine of the type described by James May, because there is ultimately more power than grip. And, happily, the anti-lock brakes and switchable traction control and active handling systems have been designed with the sporting driver in mind.

Bob Lutz likened such active safety measures to a rectangle superimposed on a vehicle: "Mercedes-Benz and BMW draw it well within the parameters of the car. Ours is within a couple of millimetres of its capabilities, so the driver can really enjoy it, as long as he's safe."

What this means in practice is that the systems intervene later and more discreetly than many high-performance cars, braking individual wheels or reducing torque only when excessive wheelspin is detected; the definition of excessive is generous, so you can unstick the tyres in a standing start or a tight turn without feeling that your enthusiasm is being curbed. In that sense, it is reminiscent of Ferrari's adjustable system.

The completely revised suspension, still based on a high-tech composite transverse leaf spring at the rear, may be adjusted via the optional (£1,800) Magnetic Selective Ride Control, first seen on last year's 50th Anniversary Corvette and claimed to be the world's fastest-reacting system.

It reads the road surface and adjusts itself accordingly by means of dampers that employ magneto-rheological fluid rather than mechanical valves; the driver is also given a choice of Tour and Sport settings.

A stiffer, track-orientated set up is offered with the Z51 Performance Package, which also includes racier gear ratios, coolers for transmission and power steering and bigger, cross-drilled brake discs (13·4in front/13in rear, as opposed to the standard 12·8in/12in items, which are the same diameter as those on the C5 but two pounds heavier at the front for greater durability and reduced heat and fade).

All in all, then, the new Corvette is a pretty sophisticated mix, but the proof of the pudding is in the mile-eating. Setting out from the Dusseldorf dealership, it immediately felt at home, easy to drive and surprisingly wieldy in heavy traffic, giving the impression of being bigger on the inside than on the outside.

The ride quality (with Magnetic Selective Ride switched on) was supple over most surfaces and although its underlying firmness was revealed by the way the car would crash into unexpected potholes with a bang, there was surprisingly little shock transmitted to the cabin.

Heading out of the city on to the autobahn, the flexibility offered by all that torque was delightfully relaxing - at a very laid-back 2,000rpm in top gear you're travelling at almost 90mph - but the temptation to floor the throttle was ever present.

Stuck in the heavily populated area between Dusseldorf and Cologne, the traffic density rarely allowed such freedom and despite massive acceleration my best attempt to hit maximum speed was cut short at a measly 130mph by a wandering hatchback. A

ll I can say is that the C6 felt supremely stable, comfortable and more than willing to reach 180-plus with nonchalant ease. Wind and tyre noise were also remarkably subdued.

Peeling off on to lesser roads in search of corners was scarcely less frustrating; this part of Germany is not ideal driving country. Nevertheless, the Corvette proved itself to be an effective B-road tool, gobbling up the short straights between pretty villages and displaying a very satisfying agility on the few twisty bits.

The steering is meaty, accurate and quick, and with such enormous reserves of grip at both ends it was necessary to really chuck the car into roundabouts and tight, traffic-calming chicanes to go beyond neutral handling for a taste of electronically limited oversteer.

On these smooth surfaces, the ride was predictably excellent, so I look forward to trying it on a typically bumpy British lane; I suspect it would be less of a white-knuckle ride than a Porsche 911 GT3, for example, even though its performance is very similar.

One of the most attractive aspects of the Corvette is that this performance is delivered in such deceptively lazy fashion. It can cover great distances in relaxing style and having so much torque means that gear changing is rarely necessary; despite a shortened travel, the six-speed shift is not lightning quick, particularly between fourth and fifth, but it is fingertip light.

The brakes are very strong indeed, and offer good feel. Perhaps most noticeable of all is the feedback offered by the chassis; it was possible to sense the road surface through the front and the rear wheels, a degree of communication that is sadly lacking in the Ford GT.

But will it be well received in Britain? Bob Lutz conceded that engineering a right-hand drive conversion would be "tough" - although it is being investigated - but in any case left-hand drive is less of a disadvantage than is often supposed, especially on congested roads, and wise road positioning (holding back for nearside views, for example) combined with effortless performance can overcome most overtaking problems. You get used to it, and on the open road it hardly matters.

In fact, it has some advantages: it is easy to park close to the kerb and you can simply open the door and step out on to the pavement rather than taking your chances with passing traffic.

The Corvette is also a good deal more practical than many of its rivals, certainly more reliable than some and, with an urban fuel consumption estimated at 23mpg, slightly less thirsty despite all that cubic capacity (for which there really is no substitute; if you are concerned about fuel economy, you shouldn't be looking at a supercar anyway).

Its one outstanding advantage, however, is price. This will be confirmed in September, but is expected to be about two per cent higher than the outgoing C5; based on current German prices, that means about £41,500 for the coupé automatic, rising to about £46,500 for the convertible manual; the car tested here would be £44,500.

With its competition in terms of performance (Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari 360 Modena and Porsche 911) costing more than twice as much and only a couple of TVRs available for less - as they should be, given their relative lack of refinement - the Corvette therefore represents an awful lot of car for the money. I'd certainly think twice about paying another 40 grand for right-hand drive.

Along with the September price announcement, GM is expected to unveil its plans for Cadillac and Corvette sale and distribution centres in the UK. If there's any common sense in the world of high performance cars, they should be busy places. The queue starts here.

Chevrolet Corvette

Price/availability: To be confirmed; coupé from about £41,500, convertible from about £45,500. On sale September 2004 and first quarter of 2005 respectively.

Engine/transmission: 5,970cc pushrod V8, SOHC, two valves per cylinder; 400bhp at 6,000rpm, 400lb ft of torque at 4,400rpm. Six-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive. Performance: top speed 186mph, 0-62mph in 4·2sec. EU fuel consumption n/a; estimates converted from US gallons to imperial are 23mpg city (auto 22mpg), 34mpg highway (auto 30mpg), 28mpg combined (auto 25mpg). CO2 emissions n/a.

We like: Storming performance, agility, entertaining yet safe handling, comfort and refinement, reputation for durability, unbeatable price (compare alternatives, below). An awful lot of car for the money.

We don't like: Styling slightly unbalanced by shorter bonnet, no cover over rear luggage deck, supercar thirst. Left-hand drive might deter some.

Alternatives: Lamborghini Gallardo, from £117,000. Ferrari 360 Modena, from £103,275. Aston Martin DB9, from £103,000. Porsche 911 Turbo, from £90,360. Honda NSX, from £60,013. Maserati 4200GT, from £56,650. Mercedes-Benz SLK AMG 55, from £49,570. Noble M12, from £48,500. TVR Tuscan, from £40,048.

Very positive I think you'll agree.

Top Gear had the C6 on Sunday's programme and all they could moan about was the interior plastic quality and the fact that it had leaf springs (yawn). Clarkson then went on to show how flexible the rear panel was over the lights, completely failing to realise that the whole panel is impact absorbing anyway The car they were supplied with has the Magnetic Active Ride system yet they seemed not to have noticed as they complained that the ride quality was poor, yet it was the same car the Telegraph were given and they were complimentary.

They did a drag race betwen the C6, NSX, 911 Carrera 2 and TVR 350C. Now, on face value, the 350C walked it with the NSX beating the C6 to the tape (911 was nowhere) but watching it back a few times, there are shots of the C6 neck and neck with the TVR included momentarily, with no signs of the NSX, and shots of the C6 and NSX crossing the line together, the NSX having also jumped the start by a good 0.5 secs ('vette took off last) which means to say that they've edited the whole thing together to suit themselves.

Some people on Pistonheads forum were there and apparently the drag race was filmed numerous times, and also with a C6 that the crew had already ruined the clutch, damaged the bodywork and stripped the tyres of tread

It still put in an excellent lap time on their track, beating the 350C, the new Exige, the 911 GT3 and only narrowly missing out on the Evo FQ330 and Gallardos times. They even had to admit that the chassis was excellent.

Top Gear really needs better presenters IMHO. Preferably someone as opinionated as Clarkson but who actually knows what they're talking about rather than reading a preprepared script

687 Posts
It's interesting to see that this guy is so anti-Top Gear, considering that James May, one of the hosts, also has a weekly column for the same site.

Be aware that as much as Top Gear seems to have a bias against the Corvette, it's quoted above that the writer used to drive a C4 everyday.

637 Posts
Dan said:
It's interesting to see that this guy is so anti-Top Gear, considering that James May, one of the hosts, also has a weekly column for the same site.

Be aware that as much as Top Gear seems to have a bias against the Corvette, it's quoted above that the writer used to drive a C4 everyday.
I guess we'll all have to try the C6 for ourselves. Anyone wanna fly me over there to a test track?

Please :)


758 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
John Stimson said:
Joe, is the section in boldface your own commentary?
No, its what I cut and pasted. I put the last few parts in bold because that was the part that was about the review.

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