Archive for the ‘Corvette’ Category

Chevrolet hits it out of the park with the 2017 Corvette Grand Sport

July 24th, 2016

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

ATLANTA—Well folks, they’ve done it. With the 2017 Corvette Grand Sport, Chevrolet may well have built the best Corvette ever. That was our take-home message after a day spent driving the car at Atlanta Motorsports Park and on the sinuous nearby mountain roads. The concept behind the car is simple but effective: carry over all the suspension and aerodynamic goodies from the range-topping Z06 without the overheating problems that have beset that model’s supercharged 650hp (484kW) engine. Oh, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Z06 too—just $66,445 for the coupe.

First, a little history: the Grand Sport name was first attached to the Corvette way back in 1962. The father of the Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov, wanted to take the car racing. The plan was to make 125 Grand Sports to race at Le Mans, Sebring, and elsewhere, competing for glory against thoroughbred European machines like Jaguar’s Low Drag E-Type and Ferrari’s legendary 250 GTO. Sadly, corporate edicts at the time forbade GM from creating a factory racing program, and Arkus-Duntov’s plan was rumbled by management. Instead of the planned 125 cars, only five were built in the end.

The Grand Sport moniker showed up again a couple of decades later, this time as a limited edition run-out model for the C4 Corvette (just 1000 were built). The second Grand Sport was distinguishable from lesser ‘Vettes by its deep Admiral blue paint. Adorned with a white stripe and a pair of red hash marks on the front fenders, it also featured bulging rear arches and a 330hp (246kW) LT4 V8. After skipping a generation to the C6 Corvette, the next Grand Sport was actually the best-selling variant of that particular car. Released in 2010—and finally available as a convertible as well as a coupe—more than 28,000 were sold. But that was then, and this is now, and you probably want to know about the new car.

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GM might be planning to add electricity to the Corvette’s screaming V8

December 22nd, 2015

Just imagine one of these could do 30mpg even driven hard. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Since the 1960s, whether or not General Motors would finally put a mid-engine Corvette into production has been a perennial question for ‘Vette-watchers. Now they’ve got a new puzzle: is a hybrid Corvette on the way? The answer may be yes, based on a trademark that GM filed last week.

In fact, we asked Corvette’s product manager, Harlan Charles, exactly that question at the Bowling Green, Kentucky, Corvette plant earlier this year: will we ever see a hybrid ‘Vette? Predictably, Charles refused to be drawn into the question and only commented that someone, somewhere within GM R&D was almost certainly looking at the idea.

The idea of a hybrid Corvette makes a lot of sense. If the sports car wants a future in a warming world, the days of single-digit fuel economy for the more muscle-bound members of the class will need to end. BMW’s i8 has already shown that’s possible. What’s more, General Motors has a wealth of electrification know-how now that the Volt is in its second generation.

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The Corvette Z06 is a 650-horsepower video camera

July 28th, 2015

On a recent trip to Ann Arbor and Detroit, General Motors was nice enough to lend us a new Corvette Z06 as a runabout. Although Cars Technica is always up for getting some wheel time with interesting sports cars, the fact that the Z06 was equipped with the Performance Data Recorder (PDR) really piqued our interest. In fact, it has been an option on Corvettes for a little while now; last year it made news because of its ‘Valet mode,’ something that may not be legal in some states. The PDR combines a 720p video camera with an in-built data acquisition system, bringing driving analytics easily within grasp. A full workout of the PRD’s capabilities will have to wait for me to successfully persuade The Powers That Be to let me book some track time on the office dime. But a (relatively) sedate drive through the Michigan countryside with Ars’ Lead Developer Lee Aylward seemed like a good time to try out the PDR on the road.

Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin and Lead Developer Lee Aylward go for a drive in the countryside. Edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

One of the nice things about the relentless pace of Moore’s law is the way that consumer-grade hardware enables us to do things that a few years ago would have required six- or even seven-figure price tags. For example, in the car world, cheap and rugged video cameras, processors, and GPS units have brought data recording systems to the masses. Almost no one goes on a track day or racing without a GoPro camera, for example. And data recorders like those from TraqMate and AutosportLabs make it a doddle to analyze one’s driving quantitatively and then overlay that data graphically on top of the corresponding video. Some automakers are evidently wising up to this trend and as a result are starting to offer OEM solutions built into their cars. Porsche now offers a Track Precision app which leverages a smartphone’s camera to record video and overlay telemetry data, but Chevrolet was first to market with PDR, a standalone solution.

PDR uses a camera set into the base of the rear-view mirror, just below the top of the windshield, coupled with a microphone inside the cabin. So far, so interesting, but nothing you couldn’t get from a GoPro. But the PDR—developed in a partnership with Cosworth, which also supplies the telemetry system used by Corvette Racing—couples video and audio recording with a telemetry module. This features a dedicated GPS system operating at 5Hz, separate from the one in the car’s infotainment system (which only runs at 1Hz). The PDR is also connected to the CANbus, allowing it to pull information from the car’s sensors, like which gear you’re in, engine revs, throttle and brake applications, steering input, and so on. All of this is then recorded to an SD card, found in the glove box.

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Walking away from the big one: How Corvette built a safer race car

July 14th, 2015

In the run-up to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Danish racing ace Jan Magnussen had a frightening crash in the #63 Chevrolet Corvette. It was during the final qualifying session on June 11 as Magnussen was going through the Porsche Curves, a fast right-left-right-left section of the track. At 135 mph (217kp/h), instead of turning into the first left-hander, his race car went head-first into the safety barriers lining the track, spinning him around and sending him backwards into a wall on the opposite side.

But shockingly, Magnussen escaped without injury. And given the spectacle, we had to find out how this was possible. We spoke with Corvette Racing’s boss, Doug Fehan, at a recent round of the Tudor United Sports Car Championship (TUSC) in Watkins Glen, New York.

Jan Magnussen’s accident at Le Mans this year. You can see the car lost very little speed between the first and second impacts, caused by a throttle sticking open at 135mph.

Magnussen’s crash was traced to debris in the throttle-return linkage that caused the throttle to stick open. Although he was able to shed a little speed by shifting down a gear or two (and applying 1400psi/9.65 MPa pressure to the brake pedal), the team estimate his first impact was around 102mph (164kph/h). As you can see from the video above, he lost very little speed before the second impact. The damage to the car was so bad that it couldn’t be repaired in time for the race—so bad in fact that the car still isn’t fixed and Corvette Racing had to borrow a year-old car that they sold to customer team Larbre Competition for the TUSC races that followed Le Mans.

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