Corvettes are, in essence, American Ferraris. This is not a new assertion, and it is both good and bad. The Corvette — in any trim level, really — will rip off faces at a drag strip and carve twisty roads like a scalpel, but not with that refined European feeling; its styling is incredibly aggressive, but not Pininfarina-beautiful. It is half (or way less than half) the cost of luxury sports cars from overseas and feels a bit as though it was built in a garage. It is an American version of what Europe does very, very well — a rough craft brew instead of a bold Tuscan red. This is both good and bad.
Affordable, stateside performance is good for very, very obvious reasons. Blisteringly quick and brutally styled, the Corvette Grand Sport is a carbon-fiber-trimmed rocket continuing in the tradition of the ’63 Grand Sport, whose lightweight components were intended for track use. This is somewhat shameful for an enthusiast to admit, but I never once truly buried my foot in the Grand Sport’s accelerator because it is too fast for Upstate New York roads. To enjoy myself as best as possible, I kept the eight-speed automatic in third or fourth gear for my 150-mile jaunt, ensuring a steroidal, frenetic drive feel the whole time. Its widened stance was still squirrely in a laugh-inducing sort of way; the car will peel out from a dead stop (especially in front of police stations I didn’t notice); it feels as tightly wound as a pre-siege trebuchet. Fully loaded — and I do mean fully — the Grand Sport I drove dialed in at under $94,050 (it starts at $66,490). The Ferrari 488, which functions as a relatively appropriate automotive analog, starts around $275,000.
2018 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Transmission: eight-speed automatic (seven-speed manual available)
Torque: 465 lb-ft
0–60: 3.6 seconds
Price: $94,050 (as tested)
That’s worth repeating: the Grand Sport will keep prancing horses and their ilk sweating all day long on probably any track for less than one third the price. (The base ‘Vette starts at $55K, by the way.) That’s why Corvettes are so prevalent: There’s almost nothing in America that really comes close to this intersection of performance, wild looks and accessibility. Short of the ultra-limited Ford GT, little that we Yankees produce combines a high-tech magnetic suspension, fancy-ass materials and Brembo carbon ceramic brake rotors to this extreme. (Some Camaros and Mustangs can be had with similarly aggressive abilities, but none are as consistently capable as the Corvette lineage.) It’s a crazy driving experience and it can be a lot of fun. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t a bit lacking.
The biggest issue for me is that it just doesn’t sound like it should. Instead of pops and snarls that scare children, the engine brake from a high RPM and the exhaust overrun is more tuba-fart than firecracker. Race through low gears toward terminal velocity and you’re rewarded with a half-wheezy, intake-heavy mechanical sound, not a bellowing baritone roar. The interior is a bit disappointing, too, if only because it isn’t impressive in any way. More driving-simulator arcade game than real-world sports car, the driver-centric dash is cool, but that’s about all there is to write home about. So very few people even gave the Grand Sport the time of day, let alone a second look — this is just not a super remarkable car. Maybe that’s what you’re into; I can’t argue with that. But as an overall sports-car package, the Grand Sport is about final racing results and not about top-down experience.
If you can get in the seat of a Grand Sport at a track, give it a go. Maybe you’ll be convinced; maybe I would be too. But I really don’t think I would be. So, should you get a Ferrari instead? If you’re shopping for Corvettes, that’s likely not your option. Instead of Italy, I’d aim north and see what Porsche’s up to these days, starting with the Cayman S. Or take a dip in Jaguar’s F-Type SVR. Both, price-wise, are in the same neighborhood as the Grand Sport and, simply, better cars — just as capable, more prestigious and offer better experiences overall.