A love of cars can be akin to the affection felt in a long-term, but affectionate relationship. The passion is not fleeting, and the adoration remains, even if it is not always expressed outwardly.
But every once in a while, something comes along that reignites the passion.
It could be taking possession of a new car that you have long dreamed of owning. Sometimes it is climbing into an old car, the model you had as a teen, and letting its looks, smell and feel wash over you and transport you back in time. Or, it could be studying the lines, rises and falls of bodywork so elegantly formed it evokes emotion normally reserved for celebrated pieces of art. The passion could also come rushing back when you are given the opportunity to get behind the wheel of your dream car.
But sometimes what reminds us of our four-wheel infatuation is the ability of cars to erase our worries, even for a fleeting moment.
As my right foot made its descent to the floorboard of the 2019 Corvette Grand Sport, my head was thrown back into the seat and the exhaust gave the roar of a large beast and crackled and popped as if firecrackers were in its pipes. My grip tightened on the steering wheel and everything outside the Corvette’s confines became a blurred streak, even though my eyes were as wide as saucers.
The Grand Sport’s speedo reeled off numbers on the head-up display faster than my brain could process as I flew along the narrow, undulating back road. The Corvette was as planted and precise as a bullet train on rails, and just as fast, it seemed.
When the road straightened, my foot came of the gas and the engine went from a shout to a hum. I began to breathe again and felt my heart race as the adrenaline surge continued to flow through my body.
And on that night, my love of cars was at its strongest.
In that time speeding along in the Grand Sport, I momentarily let go of my mental troubles. My newborn daughter had arrived two nights before, a full five weeks ahead of her due date. Anxiety over her condition, and that of my recovering wife, had turned me into a mental wreck. Exacerbating my concern was the doctor’s words that our daughter could be afflicted with a serious condition. After 48 hours with almost no real sleep to speak of and an exhausted and crippling mental state, I needed a release, and that is what the Grand Sport provided me.
But my infatuation with the Vette goes far beyond its therapeutic uses. It is an absolutely fantastic and truly special car.
We can drool over Italian supercars, but no matter how much we may love cars, the majority of us will never have enough zeros in our bank account to afford such offerings.
And while you will still have to dish out a pretty penny for the Corvette, it is obtainable for many. My Grand Sport tester came with over $12,000 in options and was still under 80 grand.
For the performance you get, that price is like a supercar super sale.
Attached to a 7-speed manual with rev matching or an 8-speed auto transmission, the Grand Sport has a snarling LT1 6.2-liter V8 under the hood cranking out 460-horses and 465 torques.
While those output figures are dwarfed by those of the Z06 and ZR1 — which add 90 and 195 horsepower, respectively — the Grand Sport has more than enough grunt for public roads with serious track day capability.
The GS gets the power down quickly, 0-60 is accomplished in 3.6 seconds, and the pull remains constant to the redline. The top speed is, well I’ll put it this way — I recently rode along in a Grand Sport equipped with the same 6.2-liter V8 around Road Atlanta. In a raucous pull, the Vette got up to 160 with aplomb and felt like it had loads left to give when braking was required for Turn 10A.
While I did not test the manual transmission, the 8-speed auto changed gears smartly and quickly and kept the revs high in sport and track modes. The paddle shifters were nice to have but I had no grievances letting the Vette’s automatic do its thing.
If putting the hammer down in the GS wasn’t already exhilarating enough, the onslaught to the senses extends to the ears. The active exhaust system has two settings, fantastic and sensational, blending low growls, baritone roars and the kind of crackling and popping that puts any cereal to shame.
Backing up the intimidating sound is the Grand Sport’s striking appearance. Cast the Vette in a movie and it would play the arrestingly sexy but simultaneously sinister looking anti-hero.
While it does have serious performance, an intimidating soundtrack and great appearance, the Grand Sport is more than muscle.
The GS changes direction with the velocity and precision of a laser bouncing around a room of mirrors.
Putting the Vette’s power down and keeping it on the road are adjustable magnetorheological dampers, electronic limited slip differential and beefy, sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
Switchbacks, S curves, negative camber bends and sweeping turns will fail to unsettle the Grand Sport, which seems to yawn confidently, challenging you to push the loud pedal down harder next time. You will comply, but the Corvette seemingly never runs out of grip with the traction control on, and any oversteer is extremely manageable with the system off.
The Vette’s fantastic brakes will give you the confidence to push further. If you have driven into a telephone pole at speed — and I have — you will have a good idea of what it’s like to come to a stop in the Grand Sport. And that’s without the optional ceramic brakes.
Eco, tour, sport and track driving modes are available, with each step up stiffening the suspension and adding weight to the accurate and full-of-feel steering.
The Grand Sport is the kind of car you will want to drive every day, and despite its sport pedigree and high performance, that is not such a far-fetched notion.
If you don’t need an abundance of storage space and can overlook some stiff jolts on pot-marked roads, the Vette could easily be used as a daily driver.
There are some drawbacks to the Grand Sport, including its rather uninspiring interior. There is also an overwhelming odor of chemicals and/or plastic that smells exactly like a 2005 Chevy SSR I once piloted. Having the option of removing the hard top is a great feature, but with its bulk, this is not a one-person job. Also, expect to replace or repair the low-hanging front splitter often if you pull into driveways with street gutters.
But compared to the overall fun, adrenaline and pleasure the GS provides, these are really the inconsequential grievances.
By the time you read this, the new C8 Corvette will likely have been revealed, ushering in the new, mid-engine era of the sports car nearing its seventh decade in production. It is an exciting time for Corvette faithful, and after my time with the C7’s swan song, I can add myself to that group of followers.
The 2019 Grand Sport is like the athlete who lifts the championship trophy and immediately announces his retirement. The C7’s run may be over, but it is going out on top.