Halfway between the excellent Z51 and the hyperbolic Z06, the Grand Sport is the purist’s Corvette and a future classic. Sometimes a place lives up to its stereotype. Atlanta Motorsports Park, which is about 90 minutes north of the city, was sweltering this week.
The 2017 Corvette Grand Sport’s temperature display claimed it was nearly 100 degrees outside, and the humidity was almost comical. In the distance, thick thunderclouds were stacking themselves up, threatening to saturate the track and end the day early. We hurried to gulp down water and put on helmets, heading out for hot laps on a day set to broil. Luckily, the Grand Sport is always in a hurry.
It’s also, to cut to the chase, absolutely the Corvette you want if you have any intention of visiting a place like AMP on a regular basis. The base Stingray, a 1LT Coupe with no options, is plenty quick on the street but is missing some critical components to prevent grenading its engine or an expensive trip through the gravel trap.
Adding the Z51 package provides that peace of mind: a performance dual-stage exhaust that adds a few horsepower, sportier suspension (and available Magnetic Ride Control, worth every penny of $1,795), a rear differential cooler, an electronic limited-slip differential, and most importantly a dry-sump oil system to make sure the LT1 6.2-liter V8 is properly lubricated under high g-loads. A Z51 will circle the skidpad at around 1.03 g, bringing us closer to an ideal dual-purpose Corvette.
Want to be unfair? Call it a parts-bin special, or a Z06 Lite. Go ahead. Then drive it. This isn’t merely some incremental improvement to make an already quick car imperceptibly quicker. It is a grander experience – the sweet nature of the naturally aspirated V8, with its delightful throttle response, and the determined focus of a track-day car. All in something you could daily-drive.
Without the Z07 package, the Grand Sport will corner at 1.05 g – a subtle improvement over a Z51 Stingray. With it, it’ll match the Z06 at 1.2 g. You don’t want just a subtle improvement. Spend the nearly $8,000 to option the Z07 package. The Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires alone are worth it, and the Brembo carbon-ceramic-matrix brakes are icing. Chevy says a GS will hit 60 mph in 3.6 seconds with this package, and come to a stop from that speed in under 100 feet. This squares with our experience white-knuckling the dual “oh, crap!” handles as a very nice, very quick man named Oliver Gavin did his damnedest to make the Grand Sport quit gripping during a couple of memorable laps which you can watch below.
If you like the wide-body look but don’t plan on tracking your Grand Sport, skip the Z07 package and be (very) happy with the MRC and fantastic Z06-aping looks. If you have a club track nearby and want a car with near-supercar performance that you’ll enjoy even as it’s challenging you, spend for the Grand Sport with the Z07 package.