2019 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport review: Still an amazing performance bargain
The Grand Sport name has always been special in the world of Corvette. Originally sold to the public for racing homologation purposes in the 1960s, the Grand Sport eventually became a trim level that offered additional performance in different ways across the generations.
Now in its seventh generation, the Corvette has adapted the Grand Sport name to act as a sort of middle ground. Using the driveline of the standard Corvette Stingray, but borrowing the beefier body and chassis of the Z06, it offers track-car handling without a crazy amount of power that, let's be honest, is all but useless in most street settings. The Grand Sport was, and still is, the best of both worlds.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
The Grand Sport is a right looker. It has the Z06's wide body, and the basic shape of the seventh-generation Corvette is sharp in general. The interior mostly does away with the whole "every Corvette's cabin is trash" meme. It's not as wild as the Z06 or ZR1, but it still stands out. Again, the best of both worlds.
But my tester is different. Mine wears over $7,000 in aesthetic upgrades, and most of them are... not good. That black vinyl stripe from hood to spoiler? $995. All that love-it-or-hate-it carbon fiber on the dashboard and steering wheel? $1,595. The carbon fiber exterior trim that's guaranteed to scrape on any driveway with a slope? $3,995. Before you know it, your $65,495 base price balloons to a disturbing $94,300, which is this Grand Sport's as-tested price.
The only extraneous bits I'd keep are the colored hashes on the fender, which throw back to previous Grand Sports, and the package isn't too expensive at $795. But it's not anything a bargain hunter can't get cut at a local aftermarket shop for half the price.
The Grand Sport relies on the standard Corvette motor: General Motors' 6.2-liter LT1 V8 putting out 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. It's a screamer in conjunction with the standard active exhaust, which I leave in Track mode (its loudest) because there are few things more satisfying than the crisp bark of a cold-starting V8 in the morning, or the howl that accompanies a surprisingly quick run up to its 6,500-rpm redline.
Chevrolet's seven-speed manual transmission is a peach. The clutch is a little heavy, but the bite point arrives with plenty of feeling and the shifter itself is satisfying whether I'm shifting lazily or with some vigor. I appreciate the Grand Sport's rev-matching downshifts, though the system defaults to off with every push of the start button -- not good for me, but probably good for the more fleet of foot. Some of us at Roadshow disagree with the use of the automatic-transmission model's shift paddles for this function, but it doesn't really bother me.
All Grand Sports come with Chevrolet's excellent magnetorheological suspension as standard equipment, but my tester packs something special: The $7,995 Z07 package, which adds Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup summer tires and the optional Z07 suspension from the Z06. While it's undoubtedly better to have for twisting roads and the track, it's a hair away from being too stiff for normal street use. Every time I drive over a pronounced bump or expansion joint, the car bucks like a mechanical bull with a solid rear axle, even in its softest setting.
When the going gets twisty, the Grand Sport is ready for all its go-fast bits to do their collective job. The suspension eliminates body roll and the steering reacts quickly to changes in direction. Despite the monster 335/25ZR20 rear tires, getting to third base with the throttle early in the corner will produce some fun, controllable oversteer.
Like the regular Corvette, the Grand Sport has a few adjustable modes. I prefer to leave it in the standard Tour mode, which I think delivers the best throttle response for most situations as opposed to the sharper Sport and Track modes. Eco mode engages cylinder deactivation for improved economy, but I see highway mileage around 30 mpg even without it -- impressive, given its 25-mpg EPA highway rating.
Impressive tech, if a little aged
Chevrolet has done a commendable job as a tech-forward domestic automaker, and even the Corvette isn't immune to its bevy of gadgetry, which includes a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, embedded navigation and internet-based news, sports and even shopping apps on its MyLink infotainment system. The infotainment setup is responsive enough, but the look is out-of-date. Chevrolet's graphics could use a refresh.
In addition to the screen on the dashboard, the gauge cluster also contains a configurable display. I like the fact that it changes its look based on vehicle mode, but I like it even more because you can set the gauges to their raciest look without having to drive the car everywhere in Track mode.
If you're looking for active safety systems, there aren't too many available. My Grand Sport tester is (to some, perhaps) delightfully devoid of newfangled safety doodads, sporting a standard cruise control system and that's it. While not everyone may want them, it would be nice if some systems were at least optional.
The backup camera is on the low-resolution side, but it works. Two of my favorite tech bits come as part of the $9,745 3LT trim level. The color head-up display lets me see everything from a tachometer to whatever's on the radio, and a trio of front cameras ensures I don't scrape the low lip on anything.
How I'd spec it
My tester has $27,000 in options -- or about $17,000 if you count 3LT as a trim and not a package -- but I find both numbers utterly ludicrous given the Grand Sport's bargain play, so we'll start back at the base $65,495 Grand Sport coupe.
From there, I'll add $4,455 to move up to the 2LT trim, which has all the things I want from the 3LT package -- the HUD, curb cameras, ventilated seats and auto-dimming mirrors -- without all the pointless leather-wrapped-interior frippery. I'll take the free Arctic White paint job, but I'll still throw down the $795 for the fender hashes.
Michigan's roads are garbage, so I'll skip over the Z07 package. I will, however, shell out $690 for a performance intake that can add up to 15 horsepower. I'll also tack on $1,995 for the sport seats, if only because they look cool and feel plenty supportive. That leaves me with a far more affordable $73,430 Grand Sport -- $74,525, once you factor in the $1,095 destination charge. Much better than $94,300, that's for sure.
Down to brass tacks
It's hard to find a sports coupe that is this much fun at this price point. The BMW M4 starts a grand or so above the Grand Sport, but I don't think it's that good. The cheapest V8-powered Jaguar F-Type starts at $100,000. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 starts around $56,000 -- even in its most pedestrian form, it's still a little more hardcore than the 'Vette, but its flat-plane-crank V8 has a superior sound and an utterly ridiculous 8,250-rpm redline.
The Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport occupies the exact middle of the Corvette spectrum, taking the good bits of the Z06 and mating them to the also-good bits of the base Corvette. The Grand Sport will still let you exercise some g-force good times without really overdoing it.