2018 Corvette Grand Sport: Blazing Hot and Super Cool for the Track and the Highway
By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
This year Corvette marks 65 years of production, and 55 years ago, Corvette gave birth to the historic Corvette Grand Sport (GS), a light-weight, factory-built speed machine built to compete on domestic and foreign race tracks. Only five hand-assembled cars were built, and they were all driven by racing Hall of Famers including A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske, Jim Hall, Bob Bondurant, Dick Guldstrand and Dick Thompson.
The originals raced with various engines, but the most common among the plants used was the GS engine, an all-aluminum 377ci small-block V-8 with four Weber side-draft carburetors, combining to stampede out 550 horses. The classic was brought back in 1996 with a limited-edition Grand Sport -- only 1000 1996 Grand Sports were built -- offering a 330hp LT4 V-8 engine that produced 340 lb-ft of torque.
Reborn again in 2010, Grand Sport continues in its Corvette Gen-7 (C7) configuration in Coupe and Convertible versions that utilize a lightweight architecture, track-honed aerodynamics package, and a naturally aspirated engine. Architecturally, Grand Sport borrows from Stingray design cues with a touch of Z06, including the front grille and wider rear fenders, which give it an aggressive stance and a wide track. The front and rear wheels are offset, measuring 19 by 10 inches up front with bigger and wider 20-by-12-inch wheels in the rear, covered in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires for solid traction.
Building on its 2017 packages, Grand Sport updates for 2018 with such new features as a higher-resolution rear view (back-up) camera; a new distinctive Carbon 65 Edition exterior package; enhanced Head-Up Display rotation setting; standard HD digital radio; Spice Red convertible top; Ceramic brakes offered as stand-alone option; available Performance Data Recorder/Cosworth Toolbox that offers four additional data channels: individual wheel speeds, individual suspension displacements, yaw rate and intake and ambient air temperatures; and several upscale exterior and interior cosmetic upgrades.
Looking nostalgically sharp and aerodynamically refined, the GS measures a sculpted 176.9 inches long, a wide-body road-hugging 77.4 inches wide, and stable 48.7 inches high on a 106.7-inch wheelbase. Iconically, it personifies Corvette from every angle.
The 2018 Grand Sport lives up to its performance legacy. Weighing in at 3487 lbs. for the Convertible, GS has power to launch with its cast aluminum LT1 6.2-liter V-8 VVT with direct injection and Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation). The engine roars out 460hp and 465 lb-ft of torque and can be mated to either a 7-speed manual with Active Rev Match or an 8-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. The automatic is heavy and adds $1725 to the cost, and the manual is much more fun, so we went with the stick.
With its precise seven-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Matching, my test GS, which was tuned only as a dealership drive-off is tuned, raced through the sprint in 3.9 seconds en route to a tire-smoking 12.3-second quarter-mile (hand-timed).
The GS hugged the pavement during quick-maneuvers, with StabiliTrak electronic stability control, and variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering with electric power assist that responded well to provide a low-to-the pavement, accurate driving experience, and its short/long arm (SLA) double-wishbone front suspension with cast aluminum control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring, monotube shocks mated to an SLA rear with the same set-up delivered track-worthy road feel and highway-comfortable passenger pampering.
EPA-estimated at 16 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway for a manual shift, my pedal-mashing, tire-smoking tests yielded an average of 16.3 mpg.
Inside, my Grand Sport Convertible cockpit was cozy and secure. With the top down, wind-in-your hair excitement embodies Corvette, and with the top closed, the driver and passenger are surrounded by leather, electronics and comfortable seating, with headroom a comfy 38 inches, legroom a vast 43 inches and shoulder and hip room an indulgent 55 and 54 inches.
For base Corvettes, the 2018 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe starts at $56,590, and the Grand Sport, offered in 1LT, 2LT and 3LT trims, starts with the base Coupe (1LT) beginning at $66,590, and the base Convertible priced at $70,590 (both including $1095 in destination and freight charges). The Convertible is assembled in rear-wheel-drive with a 9-speaker Bose® audio system, three seat color options and two 8-inch HD color displays for the 1LT. The 2LT trim starts at $75,045 and adds console and door panels in interior color, lumbar/wing adjust, heated/vented seats, seat emblems and more. My test ride was the top trim 3LT. Priced at $80,335, my GS 3LT added a custom leather-wrapped interior, sueded microfiber upper interior trim, Performance Data Recorder (optional on 1LT/2LT) and Napa leather seating surfaces. Premium paint can cost $995, but my test ride was in Arctic White and a Blue Convertible Top at no extra charge. A Blue Center Hood and Trunk Stripe (for an additional $995) and Torch Red hash marks played well together and required Premium floor mats with Grand Sport logo, and GS Heritage package for $1790. Adrenaline Red perforated Napa leather seats were onboard for an exciting cockpit look, and we could have added a carbon fiber rear spoiler for $2520 or other carbon fiber aesthetics as well as a plethora of cosmetic decals and enhancements, but my GS was cool enough as it was and the net price-as-tested was $82,715.
You can see the 2018 Corvette Grand Sport and more than 5,000 Corvettes that cross the 65-year history of America’s sports car, at the world’s largest Corvette event – 2018 Corvettes at Carlisle, August 23-25 at the Carlisle (PA) Fairgrounds. The event represents all generations of “America’s Classic Sports Car,” and includes burnouts, autocross competition, a huge swap meet and a parade through downtown Carlisle. And there are fun events lined up for the entire family.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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