Fifty grand isn't exactly pocket change, but the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the best performance values on the market today. This fifth-generation Corvette, called the C5, delivers a combination of acceleration and handling performance matched only by the Dodge Viper, Porsche 911 Carrera and various exotics, all of which are far more expensive. Sports cars in the C5 price range, such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK, BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxster offer an entirely different driving experience and performance characteristics.
More power is on tap for the entire Corvette lineup this year. Most of this power comes in the form of more torque at lower rpm; and torque is what makes the Corvette go like stink. Even bigger news for 2001 is the introduction of the Z06, a powerful new model based on last year's hardtop.
Corvette is available in coupe, convertible and hardtop body styles. Coupe ($40,280) and Convertible ($46,805) use the 350-horsepower 5.7-liter V8; it meets California's Low Emissions Vehicle standards and offers an additional 5 horsepower over last year. The engine in the Z06 Hardtop ($48,055) displaces the same 5.7 liters, but produces 385 horsepower thanks to substantial re-engineering.
The C5 Coupe features a body-colored removable roof panel as standard equipment; it comes in translucent plastic as an option. But the Z06's top is fixed, a design chosen by engineers because that structure is stiffer. The Coupe's rear window opens like a hatchback, while the Z06 and the convertible have actual trunks.
Coupe and convertible come standard with automatic transmission, air conditioning, a tilt steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, active keyless remote, cruise control, leather seats, AM/FM/cassette, and power windows and locks. An options package ($2700 coupe, $2600 convertible) includes a six-way power driver's seat; power telescoping steering column; Twilight Sentinel, providing delayed shutoff of the headlights to help you find your way to your front door; illuminated visor vanity mirrors; and a head-up display that projects key instrument readouts onto the windshield. The head-up display works well at night, but is difficult to see in daylight.
The six-speed manual transmission is an $815 option. Also optional is the Z51 Performance Handling Package, including primarily larger stabilizer bars, for $350. The more exotic suspension option, for $1695, is called Selective Real Time Damping suspension (F45). It has three selectable modes - Tour, Sport and Performance - each with its own set of calibrations. F45 senses road conditions and vehicle speed then modulates the damping efforts of the shocks to keep the car riding and handling smoothly on a variety of road surfaces.
The Z06, meanwhile, gets entirely different stuff, standard. See below.