Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Overview

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The Best Performance Value Story Ever Told

Given all that Chevrolet Corvette can do in the way of acceleration, handling and braking, it's not hard to see why the car is held in such high esteem. When you consider that some of the Corvette's closest rivals cost nearly double its asking price, it becomes apparent Chevrolet has done more than build a great car; they've pulled off a minor miracle. If the Corvette failed in even just one of the aforementioned categories, you could dismiss its ridiculously low $45,000 base price as a way of making up for the car's shortcomings; but the Corvette excels in every category in which it's placed. Cleary, the strong sales of America's longest running two-seater sports car are owed to more than just the Corvette's emotional appeal; now celebrating its 50th anniversary in production, Chevrolet's Corvette truly is the best performance bargain on the market.

With the Corvette, you don't have to worry about multiple models or trim levels; choices are limited to a coupe, a hardtop and a convertible. The super-performance-oriented Z06 model is available only as hardtop, which makes sense given the car's lighter weight. To keep things from getting confusing, remember that the coupe has a glass hatchback that extends rearward while the hardtop has a rear window that closely follows the outline of the Corvette's rear pillar. For pure practicality, the hatchback is a better daily driver, but the promise of the Z06's engine and suspension modifications make the hardtop the choice of most hardcore drivers. The convertible Corvette uses the same trunk configuration as the hardtop and stows its power top beneath a molded fiberglass tonneau cover.

At the heart of the Corvette beats the much-loved 5.7-liter V8. A staple of the Corvette line since the mid 1970's, this engine—also known as the 350—continues to amaze critics and fans alike; its ability to adapt and integrate 21st century technology seems almost limitless. The coupe and convertible get a 350 horsepower variation of the 5.7-liter known as the LS1. Though it is still an OHV engine with only two valvles per cylinder, the LS1 delivers exactly the kind of performance Corvette owners have come to expect and does so with a smooth refinement that defies logic. The LS6, which is standard in the Z06 Corvette, receives modifications to its intake, computer timing and compression that push the overall output to an astounding 405 horsepower.

What does it feel like unleashing all that power on a long stretch of desolate highways? Remember the first time you ever got onto a really big roller coaster and crested the near-vertical plunge toward earth? That's what it feels like behind the wheel of a Corvette. Drop the accelerator to the floor and the car responds with an instantaneous burst of power rocketing you to 60-mph in under four seconds; keep your foot down, and the Corvette will propel you to a most-illegal top speed of 170-mph (Z06 model.) If that's a bit much for your blood, you might want to consider a lesser car because stepping down to the LS1 may slow things down a bit, but it in no way cheapens the ride. With the coupe and convertible, you'll have your choice of a four-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission; the Z06 is available only with the six-speed manual. A note about the Corvette's manual transmission: there is a built-in shift controller that will move shifter from first to fourth if you change gears at speeds under 3000 rpm. The shift control is designed to maximize fuel efficiency while also reducing emission. Once over 3000 rpm, the six-speed shifts normally to whatever gear you direct it.

Straight-line acceleration is only part of the Corvette's story; its ability to tackle turns and stop on a dime make up the remaining chapters. This year, Chevrolet has improved upon an already great suspension by adding its Magnetic Selective Ride Control. MSRC controls wheel and body motion via a magnetic fluid that fills the shock absorbers. Powerful magnets control the flow of the fluid and thus control the dampening by making the shocks firmer or softer; a microprocessor continually monitors the car's motion and makes constant adjustments. During our brief time on the test track, we could feel the system at work; it's a very unobtrusive setup that gradually firms up the ride as you push the car harder and harder through the turns. In the previous models, you would need to make throttle and steering adjustments as the car began to lean, but with the new setup, the onset of body roll and lean is much less pronounced, almost as if you and the car were moving in slow motion but your responses were being executed in real time.

The Corvette also outdoes itself in one other area that is not performance related: comfort. Though the interior is a bit heavy with plastic, the overall feeling inside the Corvette's cockpit is one of security and control. The driver has easy access to all switches and the radio and HVAC are within short reach. A wealth of information is provided by the large faced gauges that reside deep within the instrument cluster, including temperature, oil pressure and volts. You'll find the Corvette's standard equipment list is fairly generous for a sports car, and what you don't find there, you can order from an even longer optional equipment list.

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