C6 Corvette: Long Term Review
The avid readers of Everyday Driver will know that exactly a year ago (Early Nov 2022 as I write this), I made the big decision to sell my beloved FRS and buy a 12 year old Corvette. It was a big change and definitely a different driving and ownership experience than the car I had grown with for 9 years. I wanted to share a review of it earlier, but to be honest, I bought the car so close to winter that I didn’t do much driving in the first six months I owned it, and when I did, my impressions and opinion of the car was ever-changing. So, I decided to wait until my (many) thoughts on the car leveled out and became more concrete.
Now, that last bit may seem like I wavered on whether I liked the car or not. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Spoiler alert, I love this car. My wavering was more to do with the whole experience being SO much different from what I was used to - it took longer than I expected for the car to feel like “MY” car after having one dedicated sports car of my own for nearly a decade straight. Sometime about mid-summer the Corvette finally felt natural and “mine”, and my opinions and impressions stopped changing. By then, I was close enough to the 1-year mark, I decided to wait for a proper long-term review as I prepare to store it for the winter.
Before that, let’s get the paperwork out of the way. There are a handful of Corvette variants in each generation and here’s the nitty gritty on mine:
It’s a 2010 Corvette Grand Sport. My configuration is a manual transmission, targa-roof coupe with a 3LT trim package. It basically has every possible option you can get this car with except the 4LT-only leather dash cover (which is known to lift and be a nuisance by now and I avoided on purpose) and the adjustable magna-ride suspension (which is great in theory but with age is known to have issues so I avoided this on purpose as well).
Essentially, it’s a slightly heavier, slightly more relaxed open roof Z06 with the engine from the base model. There’s more nuance to it than just that (and I’ll get into some of it later) but it’s usually seen as the “greatest hits” model of the 6th generation Corvette.
Interior impressions This is usually the Achilles’ heel of GM products, and while this car follows suit in that it’s the biggest detractor possible, I also think it’s a bit overblown and most people would be pleasantly surprised getting into one of these cars for the first time.
For example, the seats are not great but not as bad as most reports. I found it took me a long while (much longer than a typical journalist review period) to find a comfortable position for my atypical shape with a tall torso. Once I found a good combination of fore/aft position, seatback lean, lumbar air bladder level, and adjustable side bolster width I absolutely find it’s a good long-distance place to be. I think the biggest downside of the seats is that they don’t offer enough lateral support for aggressive driving. Sure they could and should be better considering cheap cars like a BRZ have fantastic seats in them, but all in all, they’re not as bad as most people complain about.
The rest of the interior was a HUGE upgrade from the 90’s era fisher price blow-mold bubbles of the C5 generation. It doesn’t look current or modern but it does the trick of being clean and simple enough that it’s not silly looking - understated and inoffensive is the name of the game here. There’s some so-so materials used but most of the touchpoints feel absolutely fine. The gauge cluster is one of the best analog dial setups in the game and the heated seats, automatic dual-zone climate control and Heads-Up-Display are all welcome additions to an “old” car that all work very well. There’s a good amount of visibility, plenty of room to not feel congested and all in all, it’s a pretty nice place to be even if it falls short of newer offerings here and there.
The biggest downside is the stereo that comes in these things. The base setup is horrible in every way and the upgraded BOSE system isn’t much better. I did what most people do, and pretty much gutted everything and replaced it with a modern head unit (with android auto/apple carplay) and new speakers and now it’s pretty terrific.
In the end, I really don’t think that the interior would really keep you from buying the car as it might on older Corvettes. If you like driving the car, the interior absolutely won’t keep you from purchasing one.
Classic looks Styling and taste is subjective. I’m admittedly not super fond of the current trend of what I see as over styling in automotive design - the busy, angular lines everywhere without a single square foot devoid of a styling accent. I prefer flowing lines and muscular bulges with some purposeful hard edges/lines. Things designed like this tend to never go out of style, and this car falls into that camp without question.
The Grand Sport (or Z06/Zr1 for that matter) really do have a whole different presence from the base model cars. The different proportions, the added cooling vents/intakes and the slightly lower stance just have a more purposeful look to my eyes. The added 3" of width the widebody cars get was something that I didn't really notice how different they were until the day I "saw it", and after that it was amazing how different they look to me. It's really hard to capture in photos, but compared to the base "narrow-body" Corvettes, this just has a MUCH more imposing presence and looks far more serious in person. They are also far lower than you expect if you have only looked at photos for a while and not been up close in a while. The roofline is lower than the top of most doors on a CUV, and even an Altima in the next lane will have your eye-line looking at their door handle.
You may not agree here, but in this respect, I absolutely find the widebody Corvettes of this generation are the best looking modern Corvette of them all. It's clean and simple with strong lines. The shorter overhangs (compared to the prior C5) give it a more agile and purposeful stance and while it’s less aggressive than the C7 that followed, it has a much more elegant and classy restraint to it making it the goldilocks of the modern traditional Corvette. A design that is all but devoid of gimmicks or of-the-time design trends, I think it will age very well. Kind of an 'if you like it now, you’ll like it forever' kind of deal. I do think some people who didn’t look twice at these when they were current may have a bit of a moment in 10 years or so that will attract people who didn’t previously like them. Just a thought, I'm no fortune teller.
Engine and Transmission It’s got a ton of power. Sure, it’s not the very special and fabled 7.0l the Z06 gets, nor the supercharged monster of the Zr1, but if you’re going to have a “base” engine to settle for, a 436hp 6.2l LS3 V8 isn’t exactly slumming it. Also, the manual transmission grand sport models such as mine get a hand-built LS3 with upgraded/forged internals that the other LS3’s don’t. They’re more durable and tend to dyno a bit higher peak output than “normal” LS3 cars. Add to that, the Grand Sport manual-equipped cars also get the same dry sump oiling system, oil cooler, transmission cooler and differential cooler as the Z06. Add that up and you have a pretty great out-of-the-box setup that’s able to do some normal track driving without much worry - which is not necessarily the case with all Corvettes.
The transmission is a welcome upgrade from the older models, but it’s still just ok to me. It’s serviceable but a tad vague - I think the only real issue I have with it is that there’s a ton of overtravel with the lever beyond when it seats into gear. It makes being precise difficult and feels mushy - you’re always second guessing where you’ve just put the shifter. I’ve heard that a reasonably priced upgrade fixes it, and I will likely do this in the off season.
But how does it drive? Well, in the modern era of crazy power numbers, the stat sheet of a C6 Corvette may seem a bit underwhelming. But one minute driving this car will solidify the notion that you can’t drive a spec sheet. It’s properly fast. It makes boatloads of power nearly everywhere. It has enough torque to break the tires loose just by goosing the throttle at any speed up to about 60mph, and unlike some big engines, it likes to rev all the way up the tach. I'd say that the midrange is where it's at though - 2500-5500rpm it's just unreal. Honestly, it’s the most flexible engine I’ve spent time with - making great power any gear, any rev, whenever you want more it’s got it.
More than that, its like a living breathing animal under the hood. There is some isolation but you never stop feeling what the engine is doing at any moment. The pulse of the v8 makes the whole car tingle at idle, throb under load and absolutely feels rowdy as you climb through each gear. It's anything but boring and always visceral.
The best part is that it’s so well matched to the rest of the car. Personally, I like a car to be playful and have just enough power to get loosey-goosey when you want but not so much power that you can’t get after it without being able to put it down. This car has one of the best power:chassis balances in that respect that I’ve ever driven. At 8/10ths, the enormous 325 tires apply power down beautifully, and the 275s up front don’t allow any slip - it’s a slot car at anything near normal speeds. Push it a bit more to 9/10 and even all that rubber can be overwhelmed by the immense torque output, making it very playful yet controllable at the limit. But if you’re ham-fisted and drive like an idiot, this car will BITE. It’s perfect for my driving style. Most of all, it behaves predictably albeit a tad dramatically. If you want to explore the outer limits, you better be ready to catch it because when it lets go, it's not subtle about it. It's a riot that demands some skill to not bin it.
Handling/Dynamics The Grand Sport is truly the goldilocks spec here as well. My weekend rental in a base model C6 prior to buying mine was plenty of time to show that it was too soft and under-tired for my liking. It had excessive amounts of body roll (side to side AND fore/aft). I liked it but knew I'd be upgrading things instantly negating any purchase savings vs just buying the car I did. The Grand Sport has a stiffer suspension setup but still has a nice amount of compliance - something the next step-up Z06 is notorious for NOT being pleasant on the street.
The steering is quick without being twitchy. It's got a progressive rack which initially felt odd but now is transparent. While it’s a hydraulic assisted setup, it doesn’t offer the feel you expect or want - at least not initially. In fact, it’s a bit numb a lot of the time in normal around town driving. It’s not until you’re actually moving pretty quickly that it wakes up and starts giving information, and THEN it feels great. Again, a situation where not having much seat time doesn’t do the car justice. Ultimately, when you're cruising around it's pretty numb, but push a bit and suddenly it's fantastic.
The ride is very soft and it soaks up bumps extremely well - most people are shocked how smooth it goes over crappy Illinois pavement. But the wide stance, slightly lower ride height and extremely low center of gravity keeps the body roll side-to-side in check without making the ride too stiff to be comfortable. Only in AutoX or full-send track driving will it seem soft, but 90% of the time it’s a wonderful blend of crazy capability in comfort that a static non-adjustable suspension usually can’t do. It’d be understandable to think of it as a GT car but it transitions and rotates like a much smaller car than it is.
Which leads me to some negatives…
It’s a BIG car. But it’s also kind of small. It’s really weird. It’s not as long as you expect even with the massive hood. It’s very low slung and from certain angles appears like a relatively tiny car. But it’s SO SO SO wide - so from other angles it looks positively massive. Whether it's taking up 1/3 of your mirrors or 95% of a parking spot, the hips don't lie.
Underneath those swollen fenders, the huge wide tires hate parking lots. Between the hopping/scrubbing they do at low speed turns to the wider-than-expected turning circle dictated by the wide front wheels, parking a widebody corvette is not easy. Then, getting in and out of such a low slung car with long thick doors and fairly wide door sills with the few inches left over from a car that’s 76” wide is no picnic either. You absolutely can drive this thing every day as a normal car, but it'll never stop reminding you it's not a normal car in a way that even a Camaro or Mustang does.
The car is also very low to the ground, and the front lip can scrape/catch very easily. There’s also an air dam “scoop” under the engine bay to direct air up from under the car into the engine bay (it’s known as a bottom feeder, lol). That is designed to have some compliance and even the manual mentions that it’s normal to scrape it over some speed bumps, driveways, etc. It happens often and it’s never not a bit unnerving.
The center tunnel (that houses the torque tube that links the engine up front to the rear mounted transmission) gets hot. VERY hot. Not so much that it makes the cabin too warm inside as you drive, but the center console under the armrest will cook anything inside of it over a long period of time. On a road trip it overheated my phone that I had set inside there - the phone freaked out, went into limp mode and the wood panel of my snazzy cell phone case delaminated from the sustained temperature akin to a toaster for my 3.5 hour drive. Oops. Not a big deal, but in a car that doesn’t have tons of usable nooks and crannies, the most convenient one acting like an air fryer isn’t great.
Also, there's just the simple fact of consumables compared to a more "normal" car. I say this because while the Corvette is priced closer to things like Camaros, Mustangs, Nissan Z cars, it has a lot more in common upkeep-wise with more upmarket competition like Porsche, Ferrari, etc. It may be a fairly normally priced car but it's anything but that underneath the skin. It's not a huge surprise for a high performance automobile, but I suspect that most people who buy into a Corvette are not going to be used to it beforehand.
There's a handful of weird things, but the first ones you will encounter are the enormous tires are absurdly expensive (you can approach 2 grand for a set of 4). Brakes are far more expensive than anything remotely in the price range as well. Think 2-3x more than a more traditional car. When it comes time for things like routine maintenance, it gets equally silly. The dry sump oil system (with extra capacity for the oil cooler as well) holds nearly 11 quarts of oil. That's over twice what my FRS took. And obviously the engine is larger (by times of 3.x) but the wet sump LS3 still takes barely more than half of what mine swallows up. Performance bargain they may be, but Corvettes aren't as cheap to keep going as they are to get into your driveway.
Other than that, I don’t really have any other negatives to speak of.
Basically, everything else. It’s more usable than expected, it’s way more than fast enough for anybody that isn’t trying to prove something on a forum. It’s a crazy fun, enjoyable charismatic open air sports car that’s still analog in the ways very few things are anymore.
The best part is the character the Corvette has. The whole car feels alive - it tingles, rumbles and is ALWAYS engaging. The combination of sports car dynamics and a loud and snarling American muscle car attitude makes it such a unique and wonderful vehicle to operate. The character and drama it has over something a bit more exotic just makes it hysterical - and such a fun car full of personality in a way so many more prestigious options aren’t.
This car is so strange in that most likely everything you’ve been told about Corvettes of this era is true, but also they are very surprising. I found that it took me quite a lot of seat time and living with it to REALLY understand it. Now a year in, my opinion seems a bit more ‘locked’ so I'm thrilled to announce that it’s a far better car than most people would have you believe. And considering they still can be had in GREAT shape for less than the average new car sold these days, it’s among the best bargains in the performance car world.
The tricky thing about the Corvette, is that it is one of those cars that on paper could be made to be a more focused vehicle, and it would certainly be easier to design if it were. The reality is, that it is purchased for a half dozen different uses by many different types of people. It needs to be an open air cruiser, a show car, a budget supercar, a daily driver, a weekend getaway toy, a track car, a drag racer all while being a comfortable day-long GT car. Maybe that's why it's so hard to get quick impressions of them that are accurate or fair. It certainly took me a while to make my mind about what it really is because there's so very few things it is NOT.
I absolutely love it, and while I didn’t have any regrets since purchasing it, I genuinely grew to like it more and more as the year went on. Let’s say it started out at an 8 but ended up at a 10. I’ve driven faster cars, more nimble cars, more comfortable cars, more luxurious cars but I can genuinely say that no car I have ever spent time in is a better combination of all of these things than my very own C6 Corvette Grand Sport. I have more content and a more comparative/philosophical discussion about this car to share at a later date, but after a full year of owning this beast, I wanted to share. These cars have been going up slightly in value but still remain an incredible value in the performance car market that should not go ignored.
I'll leave you with images that show some universal truths of corvette ownership:
I write and I know things. I am also the resident motorcycle expert at Everyday Driver - check out the Cycle Report - www.thecyclereport.com - on our YouTube channel. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.