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Thread: CD Test Drive: 2005 Chevrolet Corvette Z51

  1. #1
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    Default CD Test Drive: 2005 Chevrolet Corvette Z51

    Review and photos by Greg Wilson
    November 12, 2004

    It's hard to believe that, not so long ago, General Motors brass wanted to kill the Corvette because it was a low-volume, expensive-to-produce sports car that didn't bring in much profit. Thank goodness somebody decided to look at the bigger picture. Who could estimate what the Corvette is worth to the Chevrolet brand today as an image car for the rest of the line-up?

    Interestingly, the Corvette's image has not suffered the same humiliating downgrade as some other General Motors vehicles over the years. Around the world, the current Corvette is perceived as a distinctive American sports car that offers good bang for the buck - if not top-level quality - with a character unlike any other Japanese, British, or German sports car. Thankfully, with the new 2005 Corvette, Chevy engineers have improved upon the last generation's attributes rather than trying to imitate foreign sports cars.

    Not everybody likes the Corvette, of course. It's loud, ostentatious, fairly impractical, and to drive it quickly requires more driving skill than most drivers have, or think they have, particularly in inclement weather. The same thing can be said, of course, for many high-powered, high-performance cars where compromise is considered a dirty word.

    Owners of the previous Corvette coupe who step into the new car will find a lot that is familiar, and some pleasant surprises. There's more horsepower of course: 400 horses and 400 foot pounds of torque (up from 350 hp and 360 lb-ft) and an improved Tremec six-speed manual transmission with a new shift lever. The new 6.0 litre V8 has a cylinder head design derived from the high performance Z06 5.7 litre engine with a compression ratio of 10.9:1. This engine gets cranky if you don't feed it Premium fuel.

    Larger tires and wheels (18 inch front/19 inch rear vs 17 front/18 rear) are standard for 2005, and the brakes are bigger and more powerful. And those new exposed Xenon High-Intensity Discharge headlamps under clear covers provide phenomenally good visibility at night.

    Though it's 5 inches (127 mm) shorter and about 1 inch (25 mm) narrower than its predecessor, the 2005 Corvette's new cabin feels roomy
    (for a Corvette), and the car is still wider than most sports cars. Notable upgrades for 2005 include a better-finished interior with more gadgets: a new optional touch-screen and navigation system, a keyless ignition system, and a fancy head-up display that shows the tachometer and even a lateral g-force rating.

    Where current Corvette owners will be most surprised and delighted is how solid and rattle-free the body is. Even with the lightweight, one-piece targa top removed, the windshield frame and body don't wiggle around when riding over potholes and railway crossings. And the highway ride is really quite pleasant, even when the Corvette is equipped with the optional Z51 sports suspension and run-flat tires.
    I'm not going to say the new Corvette is refined - that would be almost out of character for a Corvette - but this is probably the most refined Corvette yet.

    In terms of body structure, the new Corvette retains the previous hydroformed steel rail backbone structure, composite floors and centre tunnel, aluminum cockpit structure, and rear-mounted transmission. A modified fully independent suspension (short/long arm double wishbone front/transverse-mounted composite leaf spring and monotube shock absorber) have been retained but many suspension components and the steering gear have been redesigned. The overall affect is of a refined familiarity.

    The driving experience

    A new keyless ignition fob allows you to open the locked driver's door just by touching the door handle pad (the car receives a signal from the fob), and likewise, once in the driver's seat, you can start the car simply by pressing the start button once your foot is on the clutch. (With the automatic transmission, the driver's foot must be on the brake pedal). This takes a while to get used to - and I often wondered if other people thought I was stealing the Corvette when I walked up to it and just opened the door without unlocking it.

    Fire up the big aluminum 6.0 litre pushrod V8, and the quad pipes resonate the unmistakable burble of a small-block Chevy V8. Put your foot into it, and the car roars like an angry lion - it's not subtle and it's not meant to be. But be warned, the gas pedal needs to be squeezed, not punched, because there is so much torque, you can break the rear tires lose with little effort, particularly when accelerating around a curve. Standard traction control and Active Handling (a computerized stability control system) will automatically brake individual rear wheels as needed to regain traction and stability - but I discovered that it doesn't activate immediately, and it's easy to do some tail-wagging in the wet. I don't even want to think about snow.

    The traction control can be turned off, but if you do this, I'd recommend taking a high-performance driving course first. Those huge sticky tires are great in the dry, but their wide contact patches work against you in the wet. If you think I'm being wimpy, reserve your judgement 'til after you've driven it.

    Lighter by some 16 kg (35 lb), the 2005 Corvette Coupe is "faster than any production Corvette in history," according to GM. Zero to 100 km/h goes by in just 4.2 seconds - or 4.1 seconds with the optional Z51 Performance Package. GM claims a quarter-mile time of 12.6 seconds at 183 km/h. Top speed? 300 km/h.

    Acceleration is so quick and the rev limit so low (it's an overhead valve engine), that it's time shift before you know it, and shifts can be brutal if not executed with care. There is a sensation of being on the back of a wild stallion that needs to be tamed - the problem is remaining calm and level-headed while being catapulted forwards in an alarming manner.

    The six-speed manual is the way to go - don't waste your life by buying the four speed automatic (without a manual mode). The six-speed shifter has a meaty shift knob and a substantial but low-effort shifting feel - just right for a car like this. Clutch pedal effort is light. However, the 6-speed includes GM's notorious 1 to 4 automatic shift function under light throttle, ostensibly to help GM meet U.S. government CAFɠfuel economy regulations. My reaction was to accelerate faster (and use more fuel) so that I could shift manually from first into second gear. I wonder how many other Corvette drivers do this? Another small complaint about the driveline: I noticed some fore-aft lurching when shifting up gears along with some accompanying bumping sounds.

    There are actually two 6-speed Tremec transmissions offered: when equipped with the optional Z51 Performance Package option, the 6-speed has more aggressive gear ratios to improve acceleration, and a lower fifth gear to give better fuel efficiency and a higher top speed than base models. The Z51 optional package ($2,170) includes coolers for the power steering fluid, engine oil and transmission oil, stiffer springs and stabilizer bars, unique shock absorbers, larger brakes with cross-drilled rotors, special Goodyear Eagle F1 SC Extended Mobility Tires with Asymmetric Tread, and the Z51-specific 6-speed manual transmission.

    Despite the low-profile run-flat tires and stiffer Z51 suspension, I found the ride to quite comfortable, not bone-jarring like earlier Corvettes. The 2005 Corvette is also available with cockpit-adjustable Magnetic Selective Ride Control (adjustable shock absorbers), but this feature is not available with the Z51 option.

    On the freeway in sixth gear, the engine cruises at 1600 rpm at 100 km/h, and 1800 rpm at 120 km/h - which explains why highway fuel consumption is so reasonable. Official figures are: City 13.2 L/100 km (21 mpg) (Imperial gallons), and Highway 7.6 L/100 km (37 mpg) (Imperial gallons).

    The turning circle of 39 feet is fairly wide for a rear-drive sports car - I blame those extra-wide front tires. Steering is nicely weighted at all speeds, but tight U-turns create what feels like 'wind-up' and some unusual scraping and moaning sounds. And that black plastic spoiler under the front bumper occasionally scraped the road when coming out of a steep driveway onto the street.

    I'm happy to report that the Corvette offers great visibility in all directions - unlike a lot of sports cars. In particular, the large wrapover rear window provides the driver with a clear view to the next lane when lane-changing. Keep in mind though, the Corvette driver sits very low relative to other cars - never mind SUVs and pickups.

    Improved interior

    The optional perforated leather driver's seat in my Corvette had power adjustable side bolsters, lumbar support, and two-temperature seat heaters - I found it very comfortable, and I liked the 'custom fit'. New backlit gauges with metal trim are bright and easy to read, and the steering wheel manually tilts and electrically telescopes.

    A new head-up display, which can be adjusted for height and brightness (or turned off) includes a digital speedometer and a simulated analogue tachometer. In Track 1 and Track 2 modes, it displays a real-time g-force readout.
    During spirited driving, I observed g-force readings between 0.5 gs and 0.8 gs, but the theoretical maximum is 0.98 gs. I'm not sure what practical use this is, but it's a great conversation starter.

    The standard stereo is an AM/FM with 6-disc in dash CD player, MP3 player, and Bose 7-speaker sound system. My test car had the optional sound system which included a DVD navigation system with a 6.5 inch LCD colour touch screen, and voice recognition. The stereo sounds great, but curiously the radio reception was poor. A CD changer and DVD audio player are found behind the screen which tilts up after pressing a button. I found the navigation system useful, but objected to having to switch between menus on the screen to adjust the radio. This just adds more steps to the process of using the stereo, and it takes your eyes off the road more often. A simple manual radio would be easier.

    The dual zone automatic climate control with driver and passenger temperature controls and simple push-buttons for fan speed and ventilation direction was easy to operate and hardly needed adjusting.

    There are no door handles in the interior, just electric buttons. My first thought was what happens if the battery fails? Would the occupants be trapped? Well, you could remove the targa top, but not if the car were upside down. I did find a manual driver's door release - but it's in the trunk! A contortionist might be able to squeeze out of the driver's seat into the cargo area..

    By the way, the manual transmission must be put into Reverse before leaving the vehicle, according to the owner's manual, in order to avoid draining the battery. If you don't do this, all kinds of warning lights and buzzers go off.

    I tried removing the removeable targa top by myself, and was pleasantly surprised that it could be done without twisting my spine out of joint. From inside, three latches release the top, and after getting out of the car, the panel can be tilted up at the front, and then lifted off easily. It stores in the trunk in secure clips designed for that purpose. The only downside is that luggage cannot be stored in the trunk at the same time. An interesting option is a clear plastic targa top.

    The cargo area is accessible by a lift-up rear window which can be opened with the remote key fob or a button on the lower dash. The carpeted cargo area is shallow, but includes two small bins with lids for securing smaller items. An optional privacy cover is available to hide the trunk's contents which can be seen through the large rear window. My one concern with the cargo area is that loose items can be thrown forward into the passenger compartment under hard braking. I recommend getting the optional cargo net.


    It's difficult to compare the 400 horsepower, composite-bodied $70,000 Corvette to other sports cars, but if you were in the market for something with this calibre of performance you would probably look at a Dodge Viper SRT-10 ($127,000), Cadillac XLR ($110,00), Mercedes-Benz SL500 ($129,500), Jaguar XKR ($108,350), or Lexus SC430 ($86,800). As you can see, the Corvette does offer a lot of bang for the buck.


    More powerful, quieter, more rigid, more comfortable, and better-finished than the previous Corvette coupe, the 2005 Corvette is nevertheless a raucous, hands-on, fun-to-drive sports car that's likely to give you a thrill and a scare at the same time.

    Technical Data: 2005 Chevrolet Corvette coupe

    Base price $67,395
    Options $5,195 (Onstar/1 yr Safe & Sound pkg $995; Navigation system $2,030; Z51 Performance Handling Pkg $2,170)
    Freight $1,100
    A/C tax $100
    Price as tested $73,790

    Type 2-door, 2-passenger sports car
    Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-driv
    Engine 6.0 litre V8, OHV, 16 valves
    Horsepower 400 @ 6000 rpm
    Torque 400 ft-lb @ 4400 rpm
    Transmission 6-speed manual Tremec T56 (optional 4-speed automatic)
    Tires Goodyear Eagle F1 SC Extended Mobility Asymmetric Tread; front: P245/40ZR18; rear: P285/35ZR19

    Curb weight 1442 kg (3179 lb.)
    Wheelbase 2686 mm (106.0 in.)
    Length 4435 mm (175.0 in.)
    Width 1844 mm (73.0 in.)
    Height 1246 mm (49.0 in.)
    Cargo capacity 634 litres (22.0 cu. ft.)

    Fuel consumption City: 13.2 L/100 km (21 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
    Hwy: 7.6 L/100 km (37 mpg) (Imperial gallons)
    Fuel type Premium unleaded gasoline 93 octane recommended
    Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
    Assembly location Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA

    Current Cars:
    1970 Chevy Blazer, 2wd
    1972 Chevy Super Cheyenne C10 Pickup 402 big block, 700R4
    2004 GMC 2500HD 8.1L daily, hard to park, loves gas

    Past Cars:
    2003 BMW X5 4.6IS Doushmobile, moneypit
    2015 Ford Fiesta ST | Cobb Stage 1, catless downpipe
    2008 Corvette Z06 - 11.39 at 123.8mph
    2002 Corvette Z06 - 12.10 at 116.5mph
    2005 Jeep Wrangler LJ
    1993 5L Mustang - 12.59 at 108
    1989 5L Mustang
    1990 Jeep Cherokee
    1991 Acura Integra RS 403Honda

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    ferrari enzo.....lol jk
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    id rather get a 05 shelby mustang for that price tho
    but .......dammmm thas one sexy machine

  3. #3
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    Mar 2004
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    GMC Acadia
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    Mmmm... camel toe...
    Originally posted by VIZSLA
    Seems that running qualifying in three heats worked so well we're now running the race in three parts too.
    1, On the track
    2, In the steward's box
    3, In Paris

  4. #4
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    May 2002
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    '07 Ranger FX4 Level II
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    i thought this car would be identical to the XLR, i had lots of fun in the xlr... then i got in a c6 (about 10 months later) and i was in awe.. everything i though was flawed in the c5's has been fixed, mostly the interior, and some small glitches in the sport handing mode.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Originally posted by rage2

    Just because you're older... doesn't mean you need older women. Nothing wrong with an 18 year old here and there!

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