Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Corning NY

This sixth generation of the new Corvette looks right. Despite the radical changes — such as the exposed headlamps, the longer wheelbase and shorter overall length, the proportions and the detailing clearly communicate traditional Corvette styling.

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So much so, that some initial reports characterized this version as a C5 1/2, something short of a full remake on the car. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it retains a transverse leaf-spring suspension and a front-engine/rear-transmission drivetrain, calling the new Corvette a facelift is like saying that the Porsche 911 has been essentially unchanged for 40 years just because the engine is still in the back.

And yet, despite the overhaul of suspension geometry, an all-new skin, a larger passenger compartment, better ergonomics, greater displacement, more power and, above all, a high level of refinement, the Corvette hasn't lost its familiar character. It's still a brassy, whomping, V-8-powered American sports car with packaging and road manners certain to give the new Porsche 911 a run for its Euro.

In fact, what really sets the C6 apart from the C5 is its 5.1-in.-shorter overall length that results in the compact proportion that Europeans will definitely love. This reduced overall length combined with short front and rear overhangs signals the dramatic changes that lie beneath the skin. The peaked fenders and Ferrari-like front fascia add a touch of sophistication to this all-American pushrod-powered package.

Slipping behind the wheel of a silver convertible equipped with the Z51 handling package, I was impressed by the roominess of the cabin, the high quality of interior appointments and seat comfort as well as the shorter, more precise throws of the shifter. The instrument panel is simple and clean with tight fits on the few visible seams. The head-up display has three modes, one for the street and two for the track, the latter featuring a neat little "g"-meter. Equipped with the optional navigation system ($1400), the convertible has a nice satin-finish bezel around the center dash area. The analog instruments are large and easy to see, with a three-dimensional presentation of each individual face ringed in a satin-faced bezel and placed at varying depths in the binnacle.

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