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2005 Chevrolet Corvette C6
By Matt Michels

Click for detail photo. No other car better symbolizes American tradition, design, and technology better than the Chevrolet Corvette. No European or Japanese automotive engineers would ever dream of building a modern performance car built around a huge push-rod V-8 riding on a leaf-spring suspension. But this is the glory of the Corvette. Chevy takes seemingly outdated technologies and achieves unheard of performance from them.

Because the previous C5 was an all-new design, the new C6 didn't introduce any major rework or modifications. Instead, improvements were concentrated on making it a little more compact, powerful, and easy to handle. Therefore, the new C6 is 2.5cm narrower and 13cm shorter than the C5; but its wheelbase grew by 3cm, reducing front and rear overhangs.

The C6's design became a little more aggressive and muscular than its predecessor, with the biggest change at the front end where the long serving pop-up headlamps were finally replaced with fixed units. As a result, its drag coefficient dropped slightly from 0.29 to 0.28, while improved aerodynamics reduce lift.

The chassis follows the technology used by the C5: backbone chassis made of hydro-formed steel rails with a balsa wood and fiberglass sandwich floorboard used to obtain high rigidity and maintain lightness. The all-alloy engine is mounted up front with 6-speed gearbox mounted at the rear differential. Front and rear weight distribution remained unchanged at 51:49 as did the 1470kg curb weight. Staying true to Corvette tradition, the body is enclosed with reinforced fiberglass panels.

Also like the C5, the new C6 rides on cast aluminum, unequal-length A-arms with transverse carbon composite leaf springs at each corner; but suspension travel has been increased to improve ride comfort and handling thanks to all new components and geometry. Chevy offers 3 different suspension options: standard, the sportier Z51 package, and the Magnetic Ride Control. The Z51 package includes a close ratio gearbox and stronger brakes, while the MRC is the same Delphi-designed suspension found on the new Ferrari 599GTB.

As for the engine, for over 50 years the Corvette has retained the use of push-rod V8s, even though technology advances have made the future of such engines doubtful. But Chevy has stuck by them because overhead-valve V8s may not match the efficiency of dohc V8s, but they are relatively simple, cheap, and lightweight. For example, the C5's LS1 V8 was very compact and lightweight, while its rev limit and efficiency were raised significantly.

Back in 1984, the C4's 5.7-liter V8 pumped out only 230 horsepower. Thirteen years later, the same displacement produced 345 horsepower in the C5. The Z06 raised horsepower even more to 405 without any increase in displacement. For the same period, Porsche 911 Carrera only raised its power from 231hp to 300hp, even though they switched from air-cooled engines to water-cooled, 2 valves to 4 valves per cylinder, and an additional 200cc of displacement. This shows how much GM's push-rods have progressed.

For the C6, GM raised the efficiency from 61 to 67 hp/liter. At the same time, it reduced weight by 7kg. Combined fuel consumption is improved to 22.6 mpg, remarkable for its size and performance figures.

The new LS2 V8 is based on GMs Gen IV small-block family, a development from the previous LS1. The V8 has been bored out to 6.0 liters, given a higher compression ratio (10.1:1 to 10.9:1), enhanced intake and exhaust breathing, and revised cam timing and lift. As a result, its red line has been raised from 6000 rpm to 6500 rpm, taking max output to 400 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and max torque to 400 lb-ft @ 4400rpm.

Four hundred horsepower enables the C6 Corvette to go 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds with a top speed of over 186 mph. These figures are in the same league as the 911 Turbo and Ferrari 360. And this is just the standard Corvette starting around $50,000. The Porsche and Ferrari are more than double that! For this price range, its direct competitors are the Porsche Boxster S and Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, both nowhere near the Corvette in performance.

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Pictures of the Chevrolet Corvette
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Posted March 26, 2006
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