How Does the C6 Corvette Hold Up in Today’s C7 World?
Being asked to write a “general review” of the C6 Corvette’s impact on automotive history is like being asked to review your cousin. Everyone usually likes their cousin, but there are things that they do that maybe make you wonder about their decision-making skills. Who hasn’t ever questioned why a cousin decided to date a particular person? But here’s the thing: you always love your cousin, even the goofy one.
All that being said, there are certainly some good things and some “not so good” things about the sixth-generation Corvette.
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To talk about anything before the exterior of the car just wouldn’t make sense. Can you remember all of the hype before the C6 was unveiled? Before that night of January 4th, 2004 in Detroit, the speculation, the spy photos, and the articles from the behind-the-scenes people?
I don’t remember GM going to the lengths like it did recently with the unveiling of the C7. Of course, that could be because back in 2004, there really wasn’t true high-speed Internet or much social media presence. But I digress.
What I remember thinking first when I got my first glimpse of the car was that it didn’t look anything like the C5. Sure, there were similarities. I guess it’s like looking at two sisters. You can tell they come from the same bloodline, but they aren’t twins. And that’s obviously a good thing. The styling of the C6 Corvette to me seemed edgier. The lines were a little more noticeable and things were not as rounded. It was the same, but different.
And then you see the headlights. The pop-ups, were gone.
Of course, GM had all the reasons why the pop-ups had “run their course.” Explanations about the functionality being poor when temperatures got really cold (true), about mechanical parts breaking and being hard to replace as the car aged (true), about daytime running lamps being safe (I suppose), about fixed lights being more aerodynamic (if you’re into that sort of thing), and reminding us that from 1953 to 1962, no Corvette had pop-up lights (true).
This could go on for a while, but in the end, I still don’t think I’m a fan of the C6 headlights. I’ve tried to like them, but they just don’t sit right with me for some reason.
The rest of the exterior had a lot of things in common, basically with every other Corvette. One of the bigger design miscues, according to auto experts, was the plastic. The bumpers simply felt like they were, dare I say it, low quality. Five-spoke rims are classic and all, but until later models, such as the Z06, Grand Sport, and ZR1, the rims weren’t much to write home about.
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This is where GM could have really stepped up its game. They redesigned the exterior really well; it was modern for the time, sleek, and edgy. They had almost a decade to re-imagine things. Technology had improved by leaps and bounds since 1997 and the release of the C5. Surely they wouldn’t have fallen into the same mistakes they did when designing the C5. However, the short answer is, yes they did.
Let me ask you a question: if you are dropping more than $40,000 on a vehicle, do you want it to share a steering wheel with a car that, fully loaded, can’t hit $20,000? I doubt it, but GM thought you wouldn’t have noticed the teenage-owned Chevy Cobalt had the same steering wheel. That teenager is going to look over, tap the tiller, give you the “head nod”, and you’re supposed to be OK with that.
Check out that new Bose stereo! Oh, the one surrounded by all sorts of plastic? Here’s the deal: the interior, while, yes, redesigned, was still covered with plastic. If you didn’t click the navigation option box, it was all pretty cheap looking. The seats looked great, but the support was poor. It was nearly impossible to see out of the back window, and that was if you didn’t have a convertible.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom on the interior, though. The push-button start was an amazing change in technology. The instrument panel and diagnostic options were great. The “waterfall” on the convertible still looks really good today. The multiple options for interior colors and seat accoutrements were fantastic. Even the new power convertible roof was a happy leap.
Yet, in the end, the interior still wasn’t stunning. There hadn’t been a real paradigm change for the interior from model to model since the dramatic change from 1982 to 1984, and right when the Corvette needed a great interior for the 21st century, it didn’t get it. How sad is that?
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Can I get a hallelujah? If there’s one thing GM can do right, it’s make an amazing V8. The 6.0-liter LS2 produced 400 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 400 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm.
That’s an additional 50 horsepower and 40 lb-ft of torque over the previous LS1 engine. There really wasn’t much not to love about this motor.
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At the time, and even more so toward the end of the model run, the C6 Corvette was a stunner. Sure, it had some faults — what generation hasn’t had something to rag on? (For the C7, it’s the Z06.) But here’s the deal: until the release of the C7, the C6 was, by far, the best overall production Corvette ever made. The technology, the performance and the fuel economy were all fantastic. Long term, I have a feeling the C6 will go down as one of the most underrated models Chevrolet has ever made.