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2021 Chevrolet Corvette Road Test and Review

Ron Sessions
by Ron Sessions
February 2, 2021
7 min. Reading Time
2021 Chevrolet Corvette ・  Photo by Ron Sessions

2021 Chevrolet Corvette ・ Photo by Ron Sessions

The latest iteration of the all-new eighth-generation Corvette features a power-folding retractable hardtop, the first in the near 70-year history of Chevrolet’s 2-seat sports car. The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible is two cars in one — an open-air roadster for the perfect drive on the perfect day and a quiet, secure hardtop the rest of the time. It joins the existing Coupe model and reestablishes the 2-seater’s link to its wind-in-the-hair roadster heritage dating back to the very first 1953 model. Depending on the trim, the new Convertible is a $7,000 or $7,500 upcharge over the Coupe.

Including the $1,095 destination charge, the 2021 Corvette Stingray Convertible lineup consists of $67,495 1LT, $74,295 2LT and $78,945 3LT trims. The optional Z51 package, which includes a low-restriction, dual-mode exhaust, larger brakes, performance-tuned suspension, a shorter final-drive ratio, summer tires, an electronic limited-slip differential, a heavy-duty cooling system, and a rear spoiler, is $5,000 extra.

The primary competitor to the new Corvette Convertible is the Porsche 911 Cabrio.

Corvette Convertible Choreography

Sure, the Corvette Coupe has a targa top roof panel that can be unlatched, carefully lifted off, and stowed away. But the Corvette Convertible makes it so easy. Using a button on the Convertible’s driver’s door armrest, the fully automatic top can be raised or lowered in just 16 seconds, even on the fly at speeds up to 30 mph. Depressing that button, the side windows motor down, and using six electric motors, the rear tonneau panel in front of the rear trunk opens, the folding hardtop splits in two, the two roof sections stack like pancakes in a compartment just above the engine, and the tonneau panel, complete with neat-looking headrest fairings, folds flush with the body.

The Convertible model is just 101 lbs heavier than the Coupe and has no real effect on performance or handling. The only downside from an enthusiast’s point of view is that the beautifully detailed LT2 V8 engine remains hidden. Unlike the Corvette Coupe, the Convertible’s V8 is sealed in its own compartment to prevent thermal damage to the folding top sections and the roof’s elaborate folding mechanism. Some disassembly is required to gain access to the engine.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Jump in, the Driving's Great

There’s no doubt who’s the boss in this open-air cabin. The midship's engine location behind the passenger compartment means the cabin moves forward more than a foot. With an explosion of shapes and colors, the new Corvette Convertible’s cabin looks like it made the journey from concept to production without compromise. From the squared-off, racing-inspired tilt/telescope steering wheel with large shift paddles and large, 12-inch configurable color driver display with a trio of selectable gauge cluster layouts and modes to the wraparound control layout and angled center console, this is a “wow” interior with striking design. Materials and craftsmanship inside are far superior to usual Chevrolet fare. 3LT trim adds leather coverings to the instrument panel and door trim as well as faux-suede atop the dash.

The front passenger, however, is a bit “walled” in by the large center spine delineating the driver and passenger areas, with crimped knee and elbow room on the left side and encumbered access to the infotainment touchscreen.

A pair of USB ports is hidden away inside the covered bin for the dual cup holders in the console.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Shifter and Drive Modes

By now, you may know that the 2021 Corvette is not available with a manual transmission. In fact, there’s no traditional shift lever at all, even with the standard and only available 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. That function is provided by a set of console-mounted buttons. The Corvette also comes standard with steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual shift control.

Also at the driver’s right fingertips is the driving mode controller. It looks much like the remote infotainment controller found in many luxury suvs and allows the driver to customize as many as 12 performance metrics such as engine sound, suspension settings and brake response on the center screen. Selectable modes include baseline Tour, as well as Weather, Sport, Track, and a mix-and-match MyMode. Another selection dubbed Z Mode is accessed via a steering wheel button and allows further fine tuning for track use.

North of the mode controller are buttons for the available front suspension lift feature that can raise the nose up to 2 inches to clear curbs and the curb-height front camera. The latter not only helps avoid obstacles but is also a key component of the performance data recorder which can deliver 1080p video of your drive including acceleration, braking, gearshifts, and more for later viewing.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Wall of Buttons

One of the more controversial design features of the new Corvette is this “wall of buttons” Chevy says is inspired by fighter jets. By my count, there are 17 hard buttons for seat heating, seat cooling, and climate control functions aligned in a single file and built into a partition that divides the driver and passenger areas of the interior. The layout does clean up the area directly in front of the driver and avoids the need for extensive touchscreen menus, but it takes a bit of eyes-off-the-road time to figure out what each of the tiny buttons does, so it’s best to memorize the button layout before fiddling around with adjustments on the fly.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Infotainment 3 Plus System

Standard with all Convertible trims is Chevrolet’s Infotainment 3 Plus system. At 8 inches, its touchscreen display is on the small side, but it’s close enough to the driver and conveniently angled for easy use and minimal distraction. Type fonts and screen tiles are relatively large, and the high-definition screen offers good contrast, handy for quick viewing when glare from top-down motoring might wash out lesser displays. There’s even an analog volume knob and hard “home” button for quick adjustments as well as the usual steering wheel and voice controls. New for 2021, standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring eliminate the messy rat’s nest of jumbled USB cables trailing off to connected devices. On 2LT and 3LT trims, voice-activated navigation with 3D capability is standard as is a performance data recorder.

Phone pairing is a breeze — simply place the phone next to the NFC logo above the volume button. A wireless charging sleeve located between the seatbacks on 2LT and 3LT trims is a little hard to reach while seated. The Convertible comes with a standard 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

1LT models come standard with a 10-speaker Bose audio system, while 2LT and 3LT trims are upgrded to a 14-speaker premium Bose sound system.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Buckle Up

There are three choices available. A leather-clad GT1 seat is standard fare in 1LT and 2LT trims, with a GT2 seat covered in softer Nappa leather and carbon-fiber detailing included with the 3LT trim. The optional Competition Sport seat offers more aggressive bolstering and durable textile in high-wear areas. All are power-operated.

The harder-bolstered Competition Sport seat may be a bit too intense for most Corvette buyers, with the base GT1 and uplevel GT2 seats offering a more balanced mix of support and comfort for daily use. 2LT and 3LT trims also have seat heating and ventilation, nice additions for al fresco motoring in less-than-optimal ambient temperatures, as well as adjustable lumbar and lateral bolsters plus memory functions.

Standard in all 2021 Corvettes is a new Buckle to Drive feature. Considerably less intrusive than the much-maligned seat-belt interlock systems of the early 1970s, this technology, when activated, keeps an unbelted driver from shifting out of Park for as much as 20 seconds after the engine starts. This safety feature can be turned off, if desired, but is a handy reminder to buckle up before venturing out when polite messages and chimes might be otherwise drowned out by the rushing air and music of the engine.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Taking it With You

The nice thing about the Convertible is when you want to go open-air motoring, the folding hardtop stows neatly away out of sight and takes up zero of the car’s valuable trunk space, unlike the Coupe’s lift-off targa top roof panel that needs to be stowed in the trunk (stealing trunk space) or in the garage (not available if the weather turns sour while you’re out and about).

And even though the Convertible’s folding top has its own stowage space above the engine, the droptop offers the same 7.2 cubic feet of rear trunk space as the Coupe. The Convertible also maintains the same 5-plus cubic feet of front trunk space the Coupe has, so it’s a go for two sets of golf clubs in the back and an airport roller suitcase and small computer bag stashed away from engine heat in the nose.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Hidden Small-Block V8

The Corvette Convertible’s potent LT2 V8 may be tucked away out of sight, but the talkative powerplant makes its presence known in a big way. It’s especially visceral with the dual-mode, low-restriction “shock and awe” exhaust that comes with the Z51 package. Aside from routine oil changes and air filter replacement, there isn’t a lot of need for regular visits under the hood, except that it’s a time-honored tradition honed over a half century with Chevy small-block V8 enthusiasts.

The performance of the Coupe and Convertible versions of the new Stingray are about the same. The 6.2-liter LT2 V8 in Z51 trim with the low-restriction exhaust and 495 horsepower can storm from rest to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds. Non-Z51 examples require a few tenths more to achieve the 60 mph mark. EPA estimates are 15 mpg city/27 mpg highway/19 mpg combined. An 18.5-gallon fuel tank allows for more than 350 miles of driving range between fill-ups. I saw an average 17.8 mpg on the Z51-equipped car’s trip computer during a week of enthusiastic around-town and back-roads driving. An 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission wide-ratio gearing delivers quick, seamless shifts, and effortless cruising.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Driving Dynamics

Dynamically, everything you liked about the Stingray Coupe carries forward brilliantly in the Convertible. For one, the open-top body feels as tight and roadworthy as the Coupe’s. Sitting 16.5 inches closer to the front wheels than in the previous-generation convertible, there’s an immediate and short-coupled response to steering inputs that feels organic. With the Z51 package, meaty 245/35ZR19 front/305/30ZR20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer performance tires deliver prodigious grip with finesse. The 2021 Corvette’s rear weight bias not only helps the car turn on a dime but also delivers outstanding traction. The car just hooks up and goes. When it comes time to stop, an electronic power brake booster provides instant top-of-pedal response, and the 4-wheel Brembo disc brakes deliver easy-to-modulate, track-worthy deceleration without fade. The new Corvette Convertible drives smaller and more precise than previous iterations and by virtue of its dynamic excellence, makes anyone a better driver.

New for 2021, the optional magnetorheological shocks of the Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 system can be fitted to any Corvette model, not just ones with the Z51 performance package. The 4.0 system can adjust the viscosity of the shock absorber fluid in 10-15 milliseconds, which basically means the car can think faster than the driver.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions

Down the Road

The new Corvette Convertible is, of course, a driver’s car as evidenced by its driver-centric cabin. Standard safety gear includes four airbags, a rearview camera mirror (that takes the place of a conventional optical rearview mirror), rear park assist, and an HD backup camera. 2LT and 3LT trims bring a standard color head-up display and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring; the latter two additions are because vision to the rear quarters, especially with the top up, is not good.

Although conventional cruise control is standard, other driver-assistive aids such as lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and an overhead 360-degree camera are largely absent. That said, considering the younger, more affluent and tech-savvy buyers the mid-engine car will attract, it’s likely the Corvette is a candidate for GM’s hands-free Super Cruise system thus far kept exclusive to Cadillac.

The 2021 Corvette Convertible will be one of the keepers among driving enthusiasts going forward. Quibbles with an invisible engine and partitioned cabin aside, the 2-seat drop top is immensely entertaining with its exotic car looks, synaptic handling, and popping, burbling small-block V8 soundtrack.

 Photo by Ron Sessions

Photo by Ron Sessions


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