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When fast food restaurants need to shake up business, they often rely on the time-honored tradition of mixing and matching items on the menu to stop their regular customers from getting bored and shopping elsewhere. One week the sign out front will feature a Jalapeño Double Cheddar Bacon Burger, and the next a Southwest Cheddar Chicken Sandwich with Bacon and Jalapeños. With the ingredients already sitting in the freezer, this method is a lot easier and cheaper than concocting an entirely original creation. As someone who adheres to an “I’ll only eat there if there’s something new” rule when it comes to fast food, my bathroom scale can attest to the fact that it works, too.
The 2010 Corvette Grand Sport is the product of similar thinking. With the next generation of Chevy’s flagship sports car still years away from seeing the light of day – if that glorious sunrise actually ever occurs – the bread and butter end of the five-year-old lineup needed a little spice to keep things interesting. What the engineers brought back from their trip to the parts bin is just that.
The look of the Grand Sport is lifted from the $75,000 Corvette Z06, with good old fiberglass taking the place of carbon fiber in the fenders to keep the base price down at $54,770, just six grand more than a standard Corvette. The new configuration makes it look so wide and low that, in person, it resembles the stingrays they used to name these cars after.
Function thankfully follows form, with Z06-size tires filling out the wheel wells, while brake discs that are also dimensionally identical to the ones on that car do the same to the Grand Sport’s unique five-spoke wheels. Together, they work with a suspension that gets stiffer springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars. Under the hood, the Grand Sport sticks with the Corvette’s base engine, a 430 hp 6.2-liter V8.
No deprivation there. Unlike many sports cars, the Corvette feels like it has every one of its horses on tap, and more. A new launch control system helps you get them to the pavement easier than ever. Lots of high-tech automatics come with similar features these days, but this is the only one I can think of that’s connected to a six-speed manual – except, of course, for the Chevrolet Camaro which has the same setup.
Simply switch the stability control system into Competitive Driving Mode, floor the throttle, and drop the clutch. The rubber slips just enough to throw up a wisp of tire smoke and then you’re on your way to 60 mph in about 4 seconds, every time. Chevy concedes that a driver with particularly fancy footwork can beat it by a tenth or two, but it’s proofed against the rest of us fools.
Straight-line acceleration at any speed is as good as ever, but it’s through the bends where the Grand Sport steps things up. In the convertible version that I tested, body roll was as imperceptible as it gets at this level. The car corners like its working in two dimensions. That’s not to say the rear end won’t slip out on you - in fact, even with the traction control fully engaged, it’s more than happy to oblige a heavy right foot for a second or two - but it won’t be scraping its doors on the ground when it does.
The same can’t be said for the front chin spoiler when you encounter any blemish in the road surface bigger than a raindrop. The suspension has no fancy electronic adjustments. It’s one size fits all, and “all” is limited to racetracks and pristine pavement. Shallow puddles cause it to step out of line, so you can imagine what real bumps do to it.
Driving a Grand Sport through New York City lies somewhere between sleeping on a bed of nails and waterboarding on my list of favorite pursuits, but it was a small price to pay to transport it to the road course at New Jersey’s Raceway Park, as that is exactly the kind of venue this car is made for. Whether you’re after fast times, or heroic, smoky drifts, the Grand Sport is as fun as it gets in a cop-free environment. Since I was sharing the track that day with a NJ State Police pursuit training session, it was even better than usual.
Clutch and shifter action remain ideal, but if Chevy moved the accelerator just a hair closer to the mushy, but effective brake pedal, I wouldn’t complain. Using the previously mentioned Competitive Driving Mode is a must in this environment, because even though the default setting gives you a fair amount of rope, it abruptly takes it away right when you start having a good time mid-corner. If you expect to be doing a lot of that, the hardtop version of the Grand Sport is fitted with a dry-sump lubrication system just like the one on the 638 hp Corvette ZR1, which keeps you from starving the engine of slippery fluids during repeated high g-force antics. But after a couple of dozen of those, the mill in the convertible seemed no worse for wear.
Inside, the Grand Sport is stock Corvette, complete with a design that indicates most of the development money for the car was spent elsewhere (though kudos still goes out to the person responsible for putting the cup holders to right of the stick shift, rather than in front of it where your arm goes, as is the case in far too many sports cars.) This focus on performance is surely a large part of the reason why the car remains such a great bargain, assuming that you take it easy on the options.
As tested, mine came with $12,285 worth of goodies, most of which I could have lived without. This included a dated $1,750 navigation system featuring a screen that can’t be seen in direct sunlight, which is particularly problematic in a convertible. A heritage appearance package is also available that adds two-tone leather upholstery and classic Grand Sport paint stripes on the front fenders for $1,195, but for the same money you can get a dual-mode exhaust system that is a must-have. It features bypass valves that open up the pipes somewhere north of 3,500 rpm, strapping on an extra 6 horses, but the sound it makes is easily worth the price alone. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you’ll soon pay for it again in speeding tickets. It’s that addictive.
Driving through the Holland Tunnel on the way back into Manhattan, the wailing echo coming off of the tile walls sounded like some unseen evil from a horror movie that I couldn’t escape from, even if I wanted to. Try, and it only gets better with increasing engine speed. When you finally give up and let off of the gas, you’re treated to an overrun that sounds like an approaching bonfire about to flame grill you.
That’d be one tasty burger.
2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible
Base Price: $58,580
As Tested: $71,815
Type: 2-passenger, rear-wheel-drive, 2-door convertible
Engine: 6.2L V8
Power: 436 hp, 428 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
MPG: 16 city/26 hwy
What do you think of the Grand Sport?
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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.