2013 Chevrolet Corvette

October 9, 2012

It wasn't the postal worker, the cabbie or the diaper-bag-toting mom whose approving hollers surprised me. I heard all three (among a slew of others). I'd spent the better part of a week in a white Corvette 427 convertible — a sort of last hurrah before GM unveils a redesigned 'Vette for 2014. But it was the last observer, staring out the window of a passing SUV, who gave me pause. Or paws, as it were.

It was a dog .

Maybe he was eyeing every car, but I'd like to think he had eyes only for the 'Vette. Everyone loves the Chevy icon.

The surprisingly livable 2013 Chevrolet Corvette marks a fitting end to GM's sixth-generation icon: Enjoy the attention, grab a gear and let 'er rip — all shortcomings are forgiven.

Until now, Chevrolet had restricted its monster V-8 — 7.0 liters, 505 horsepower — to the Z06 version of the Corvette coupe, equipping the droptop Corvette with a normally aspirated , 6.2-liter V-8 that made 430 hp (436 hp with an exhaust package). It was serious power, but it meant the convertible took third place in the lineup to the 505-hp Z06 and the $112,575 Corvette ZR1, which has a 638-hp, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8.

GM addressed that for 2013 with the Corvette 427, which combines the Z06's drivetrain with a droptop roof. Compare the variants here, or stack up the 2013 and 2012 Corvette here. I tested a Corvette 427, whose name comes from the engine's 427 cubic inches (i.e., 7.0 liters) of displacement .

Still Sleek … Outside, at Least

The current-generation Corvette, the C6, debuted all the way back in January 2004. Eight-and-a-half years later, it still turns heads (canine and human). Our test car — white with black racing stripes — drew stares from passers-by young and old. That's a feat: Around Cars.com's Chicago offices, we've gone practically unnoticed in Porsche 911s and Rolls-Royce Ghosts.

Part of the attention is thanks to the Corvette's substantial profile. Casting a larger footprint than similarly priced droptops from Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the Chevy is hard to ignore. Like the Z06, ZR1 and Grand Sport edition of the base Corvette, the 427 has wider fenders than the regular model — to accommodate a 3.3-inch wider track — making the car 3 inches wider than Chevy's full-size Impala sedan. It also makes for trickier parking than you'd think and allows pavement divots to make city driving an adventure. Any change in pavement presented a threat to the 427's low-riding chin spoiler, which is included on the 427 and ZR1. It's optional elsewhere.

You won't want to let your admirers peek inside. The current Corvette never had a sharp interior, even when new, and it's since been leapfrogged many times over. With old-school buttons, leather-wrapped surfaces that look more like plastic, and clumsy electronic door latches, the best aspect is the trunk, which measures 22 cubic feet in the coupe, comparable to a compact hatchback. Even our convertible had a usable 11 cubic feet with the top up.

Still a Performer

Stay light on the gas, and the 427 hums like a commuter sedan, plus a bit of exhaust rumble and a touch of hood shake at stoplights. The 7.0-liter's vast low-end reserves make for usable top-gear acceleration from 1,500 rpm on, but when you throw the stick shift down a few gears and drop the hammer, the Corvette slingshots forward. Crank the electronic stability system into its higher-threshold competitive mode, and the rear tires have a tough time keeping up; even the high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport rubber can't contain the car's 470 pounds-feet of torque. The tail unravels quickly, but it's easy to reel back in — a product of the sticky tires and balanced chassis . The 'Vette goes as sideways as your right foot wants it to, but the cornering dynamics are pretty neutral: The nose sticks and body roll stays minimal.

Our tester had an adaptive suspension that Chevrolet calls Magnetic Ride Control. The system's Sport and Touring settings made little difference in ride comfort, which is quite livable considering what this is. The low-assist steering requires effort to turn at low speeds, but it settles in for correction-free highway driving.

The 427, Z06 and ZR1 come only with a six-speed manual. It's a solid unit, though the weighty clutch will wear on you in traffic. Sharp throttle inputs make for lag-free rev-matches — a welcome characteristic given how many powerful cars sap the fun with accelerator lag. The normally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 is the only Corvette engine that comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 427 and Z06 get 15/24 mpg in EPA city/highway ratings, while the regular 'Vette gets up to 16/26 mpg with the stick shift. The ZR1 ekes out just 14/21 mpg. Chevrolet requires premium fuel for the 427, Z06 and ZR1, while the regular Corvette merely prefers premium for maximum output.

Performance at any level impresses. Our friends at PBS' "MotorWeek" hit 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds in an automatic Corvette convertible, ripping through a quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds. At the other end, a ZR1 hit 60 in 3.5 seconds, scorching the quarter-mile in a stupid-fast 11.3 seconds. We've driven the ZR1, and it brings a kick-in-the-ass sort of power that requires a racetrack to fully appreciate. Driving the ZR1 on public roads is like watching Phil Mickelson play mini-golf.

Safety, Features & Pricing

Being a low-volume sports car, the Corvette lacks crash-test ratings. Standard safety features include front and seat-mounted side airbags, plus the required antilock brakes and electronic stability system . Click hereto see a full list.

Standard features include power-adjustable leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and 18-inch front and 19-inch rear alloy wheels. The base CD stereo includes steering-wheel audio controls but only an auxiliary MP3 player jack. Higher trims add USB/iPod capability, Bose audio, a navigation system and Bluetooth phone connectivity (without audio streaming). Options include 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels, heated seats and a leather-wrapped dashboard.

The Corvette has a wide price range. The base coupe starts around $50,000, while a loaded ZR1 can top $140,000 when you include supercar extras like a customer-selectable VIN ($5,000) and a guided trip to GM's Performance Build Center in Wixom, Mich., to join 22 GM employees as they assemble your car's V-8 ($5,800, plus airfare).

Corvette in the Market

Chevrolet will unveil a seventh-generation Corvette, the C7, for 2014. No doubt it will address the dreadful interior and dated electronics. But even in the C6's twilight years, the car holds unmistakable appeal. Indeed, GM sold more than 7,000 through the first half of 2012. That's more than the Porsche 911, and it handily beats the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, Nissan GT-R and Jaguar XK combined . Among niche sports cars, the 'Vette holds a sort of mass appeal. Pitfalls notwithstanding, it's easy to see why.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The current Corvette debuted in January 2004, but it still turns heads. That was especially true in our convertible, whose $1,095 60th Anniversary Package includes white paint and a ZR1-style ground spoiler. A second option package (which requires the first) adds racing stripes, but it runs a steep $850.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

Why a power top isn't standard on a $75,000-plus convertible is beyond me. The one on our Corvette 427 came in an option package. It stores beneath a painted tonneau cover that powers into place over the folded top, but you'll have to loosen a manual latch before putting the top down and latch it after putting the top up. What's more, it doesn't work when the car is moving.

Photo Courtesy of Chevrolet

The base Corvette (above) has clean lines, while the ZR1 (2) comes awash in carbon fiber. Its roof, lower lip spoiler, hood and side skirts are made from the lightweight material. The raised hood incorporates a window that shows the engine. A ZL1-style front lip spoiler is optional on the coupe.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The Corvette's 60th anniversary badging commemorates the nameplate's 1953 inception. An additional 60th Anniversary Design Package adds badging across the seats and wheels, among other things.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The Corvette 427 gets the same drivetrain as its hardtop Z06 sibling: a 7.0-liter V-8 (shown) that makes 505 hp and 470 pounds-feet of torque. Other Corvettes can have a normally aspirated or supercharged 6.2-liter V-8.

Photo Courtesy of Chevrolet

The Corvette 427, Z06 and ZR1 have a six-speed manual (1). The base 'Vette also offers a six-speed automatic (2). The Grand Sport version has unique gearing in either transmission.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

GM is long overdue to banish the Corvette's electronic door releases, which swap handles for electronic releases in the door nooks and plastic buttons inside. Should something go awry, manual releases are on the floor. It's a weird, unnatural process, and uninitiated passengers fumble through it.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

Sporting dual dashboard cowls — a longtime Corvette treatment — the 'Vette's interior was barely competitive in 2005, an era when GM was still trying to right its quality ship. The Corvette's interior is only worse by today's standards. Six-way power seats, leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control are standard.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

In case the stereo and climate controls don't look dated enough for you, the optional navigation system is a relic. The graphics are clumsy, and it draws map data off DVDs rather than an internal hard drive.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

From the switches for the power windows and retractable top to the steering-wheel buttons, it's obvious that today's Corvette has yesterday's interior. (Or last decade's, as it were.) A leather-wrapped dashboard is optional, but the cowhide feels low-quality, almost like vinyl.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

Six-way power front seats are standard, but the reclining adjustment is manual. Perforated leather and bolstered sport seats are optional. So is a power-telescoping steering wheel; the wheel in base trims only tilts.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

Interior storage is tight. Nooks behind the front seats can fit a few things, but the shallow center console and small glove compartment fit very little.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The soft-top takes about a third of the trunk's volume, but there's still a decent 7.5 cubic feet with it down (shown). The Corvette coupe (not shown), meanwhile, has a massive 22 cubic feet of cargo room.

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