Metro Weekly

Need for Speed

2005 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

One of the hidden truths about writing reviews, be they about cars or movies or architecture, is that the most difficult things to write about are the things you love the most. Words come easy when warning people about the craptastic among us. Words come harder when spreading the joy.

So know this: the new Corvette pretty much left me speechless. Every time I slid behind the wheel I could feel a Joker grin spreading across my face, while my inner Butt-head just laughed and said, “Cool.”

Actually, you may begin to grin just looking at the redesigned body that continues the Corvette’s tradition of styling distinction, yet discards some of the more leaden aspects of the past decades. If you’re a fan of the Corvette, then there’s little to be disappointed in with the latest evolution, and plenty to be excited about.

Specifically, this sixth generation ‘Vette has slimmed down, showing off a narrower stance and shorter profile. The trademark swoops and flares still dominate the design, but the end result is more refined than the iconic sports car has looked since about 1980.

The pop-up headlamps that have defined the car’s design since the early sixties have given way to new exposed lamps. Heresy to some, but it gives the car a more openly aggressive look — it’s wide-eyed and ready to go.

Ready to go is an understatement. The Corvette is ready to rock, rumble, or whatever else you might want to do with the standard 6-liter, 400 horsepower V-8 engine. Press the button to start the engine — the keyless entry and ignition system is a nifty feature — and you’ll hear a sound of beauty. Even at an idle, the low rumble of the engine speaks to the power waiting under the hood to be unleashed. You’ll be grinning before you even put your foot on the clutch.

And you should be putting your foot to the clutch — I’m in the camp that believes you can never know the real joy of driving a high-performance car without taking charge of the gears. The Corvette’s six-speed transmission features short, quick throws (though a little rough). My only complaint is the skip-shift: When you break about 15 mph in first gear, the computer takes over and forces you to shift directly into fourth gear. Nominally a fuel-conserving “feature,” what the skip-shift actually engenders is frustration. Besides, you’re paying around 50 grand for an American sports car, not a Prius.

But that lapse will be pretty much forgiven the first time you punch the accelerator to pass a car on the open highway, and you find out the Corvette accelerates from 50 to 70 just the same as it does from zero to 20. Which is to say, whiplash fast. It’s powerful enough that you really need to ease yourself into driving it — without some close attention you can be well beyond legal speeds before you know it.

Drivers get some protection from themselves with a traction control system that redirects power as necessary to keep the beast from sliding out of corners and such — although as with any traction system, it won’t save a driver from rampant foolishness.

Inside you’ll find a comfortable and inviting two-seat cabin, although if you’re looking for luxury you won’t find it here. And that’s fine, as luxury isn’t the point — performance is. The seats are excellent and hold you firmly in place. The dash and instrument panels are nicely designed, while the touch screen stereo and navigation adds a modern techno touch (although my big fingers kept hitting the wrong buttons when trying to fiddle with the volume).

The Corvette comes in a convertible model, but the coupe’s removable hardtop is surprisingly easy to remove and store in the hatch. With the top on, the rear storage has enough room for a couple large pieces of luggage. It’s even big enough to make a run to the grocery store.

Believe me, when you get the chance to drive a Corvette, you take it everywhere you can.

The Corvette is what driving is all about. And by offering more power and performance than most European sports cars for about half the price, it really is an American dream.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.