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All Chevrolet Corvettes are convertibles, when you think about it. A removable roof panel turns the standard Corvette coupe into something sunnier, but there's one problem -- stowing it renders the rear trunk otherwise useless, so it's hard to take in the sun and, say, go to the grocery store. Enter the Corvette Convertible, which picks up a whole slew of new tricks in the move to a mid-engine layout, tricks that might make the drop-top an even more appealing car than the coupe.
Having already spent an inordinate amount of time on the road with the C8 coupe, I feel like I'm in a good position to discuss the addition of a power-folding hardtop and how it makes the Corvette feel different -- or, rather, how it doesn't.
The specs are pretty similar to what you see from other automakers. This electromechanical top takes about 16 seconds to raise or lower, and it'll work at speeds up to 30 mph. It's a fun bit of theater to behold: After pushing or pulling the roof switch, which is positioned like a traditional window switch on the door panel, a massive tonneau cover rises from the back half of the car as the multipiece hardtop folds into place. If people weren't already stopping and staring -- a frequent occurrence for all C8 Corvette variants -- they will once the body starts splaying itself every which way. It's smooth and silent, which gives me confidence that it should last longer than previous hydraulic ragtops, too.
Benefits of the new hardtop are pretty obvious. When the top is up, the 'Vette is demonstrably quieter in the cabin at speed, perhaps a bit louder than the coupe, but not by much; nowhere near enough to drown out the hulking V8 living a foot behind my head at any rate. With the top down and the windows up, there's a negligible amount of turbulence on the highway, and moving the rear window up or down can adjust it to your taste. Crank the heat (and the heated seats) and you could rock this baby with the top down for many months to come.
It's also significantly safer from a theft perspective, because you can't slice through the top and slide on in, at least not with my knives.
One of the most pronounced benefits of the Corvette Convertible? The trunk is usable again. Storing the coupe's removable roof panel requires the entire trunk, whereas the convertible is hidden under the tonneau but above the engine, which is now covered so the hardtop doesn't melt. Better yet, the cargo capacities of both Corvettes are the same, which means no livability is lost in the transition to the 'vert.
The biggest drawback of the Corvette Convertible's hardtop is just an amplification of a problem that exists on the coupe. Forward visibility is great, but it's the absolute pits out back. A quick glance to either side fills my eyeballs with aggressive nacelles instead of cars, and looking through the rearview mirror offers up a whole lot of tonneau cover (if I don't swap to the camera view, which is available, thank goodness). Changing lanes requires more reliance on the blind-spot monitor than I'd prefer, with a little bit of well-wishing thrown into the mix. Sure, I could lift off my seat and look over the nacelles, but then I'd lose my hat to the wind.
Roof aside, the Chevy Corvette Convertible experience is about the same as the coupe. The breadwinner is a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque when equipped with the $1,195 performance exhaust, an option that, for a pipe aficionado like me, is a must-have. It also adds 5 hp and 5 lb-ft, to help sweeten the deal. Motive force is available just about anywhere on the tachometer, with the rumble behind my head rising to a roar as the Corvette pushes forth with authority. I don't know if it's the mid-engine layout or what, but despite the car being very quick, it never feels overwhelming. It's an approachable kind of power that you don't normally get when the engine is mounted midship.
The standard eight-speed dual-clutch automatic is impressive, given Chevrolet's lack of sports-car experience with this kind of cog-swapper. I wouldn't even be able to tell it went up a gear if the engine note didn't change, it's just that smooth. Even on the way down, there's more velvety goodness than I remember, with little in the way of annoying head bobs. It's pretty darn smart when it comes to picking gears, too, so even in the presence of some decent paddle shifters, I find myself letting the computers do the work.
I'm also excited to announce that, while excellent, the optional Magnetic Ride Control magnetorheological shocks are not entirely necessary. Although the suspension has been tweaked to account for the extra 80-ish pounds the convertible top brings to the table, the nonadaptive stock dampers strike an impressive balance between softness (for cushion) and stiffness (for pushin'). There are multiple modes on offer, but I find the best middle ground to be Sport, which has a slightly more excited throttle that doesn't sacrifice much in the way of minute adjustability. Throw in some nicely weighted steering and properly grabby brakes, and there's no shortage of fun available at a moment's notice, even if it's just a quick blast up to the speed limit.
Inside, my midlevel 2LT-trimmed tester is pretty cushy, with soft leather in many places and hard plastics in very few. The bright red leather isn't my personal cup of tea, but points are given for boldness. It's not the most ergonomically sound interior, with a mode dial that's hard to grasp when there's something in the cup holder, and a long string of buttons on the tall center console that are difficult to commit to memory, making for quite the distracting experience unless I just ask my passenger to handle it. The heated-seat indicators also lack the brightness to be seen clearly on a sunny day with the top down. My tester rocks supremely supportive GT2 seats ($1,495), but the GT1 seats and their base brethren are both comfortable and sufficiently bolstered, too. Storage remains limited to two small door pockets, an armrest cubby big enough for a couple wallets and a wireless charging cradle up against the rear firewall. It's definitely on the cozy side.
The Corvette's tech is the same no matter the roof, which is good, because it's great. An 8-inch touchscreen runs the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system; it's fast, it lets you tailor preferences based on a login, and it packs a bunch of features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The 14-speaker Bose sound system that comes with the 2LT trim offers plenty of volume and clarity to beat highway wind noise into submission. The 12-inch gauge display offers solid customizability and crisp graphics while managing to display a whole boatload of information about, well, practically anything you could need while driving. While a high-def backup camera is standard, and while the 2LT trim packs blind-spot monitoring and additional cameras, that's it for safety systems. Want more? Buy an Equinox.
While the Chevrolet Corvette Convertible is more expensive than the coupe, it's still an absolute performance bargain. Starting at $67,495 including destination, my 2LT tester rocks a few additional goodies that raises its price to a slightly less-exciting $79,075. But look at its competitive set: The Acura NSX costs twice as much (in addition to being coupe-only), and you might need a second mortgage for something with a McLaren badge on it. Hell, even the longtime-rival Porsche 911 Cabriolet can't be had for anything less than six figures.
Just like the coupe, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible is practically in a class all its own. The 'vert takes the impressive performance of the coupe and lops off the top in exchange for… very little, actually. It's one of the least compromised drop-tops available today.