2009 Corvette: America’s greatest sports car is even greater

By Bruce Caldwell
I wish our highway system were on the same improvement program as the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette. Unfortunately they appear to be on divergent courses. The Corvette keeps getting better and better every year, while congestion keeps getting worse. Our clogged roads aren’t fun in a mini van, but they’re particularly frustrating in a car with the Corvette’s performance potential.

For 2009 the Corvette is available in three power levels: the base 430 hp; the Z06 with 505 hp; and the new ZR1 with an incredible 638 hp. Torque figures are 424 lb-ft, 470 lb-ft, and 604 lb-ft respectively. The so-called base Corvette has enough power to humiliate most production cars, so the Z06 and ZR1 are overkill and overkill squared.

Prices rise with horsepower. A base coupe (hatchback) starts under $50,000. The base convertible (the only convertible offered) goes for a little over 50K. The Z06 base price jumps about $25,000 and the ZR1 goes for another $30,000 over the Z06 (if you can find one at retail). As wild as the ZR1 is, the base Corvettes are the best buys. Plus, you could buy a coupe and a convertible for the price of a ZR1.

Corvette performance and driving excitement are givens, but it’s the Corvette’s practical nature that surprises many people. The hatchbacks are quite versatile (we had space to spare after a big Costco trip) and can return excellent fuel economy if your right foot isn’t too heavy. It’s a safe car that makes average drivers think they’re superior drivers. The Corvette is tractable around town and very pleasant on the highway. It’s an absolute joy on the back roads of western Washington.

Walkaround: The Corvette is a stunning car. It’s the kind of car you always look back at after you park it. Fit and finish are very good. The wheels and tires are huge and contribute much to the car’s outstanding performance.

Interior: Seating position is very low, but legroom is excellent. The seats are very supportive. Interior noise is low for such a powerful car (you won’t ever think you’re driving a hybrid) and the sound system is first rate. The cockpit storage areas are definitely on the small side, but there’s lot of space behind the seats. The Heads Up Display is one of our favorite features.

Under The Hood: The 2009 Corvette is an engineering marvel. We’ve already mentioned the horsepower/torque ratings. The details of how those numbers are achieved would take far more pages than we have here, but that information is available from Chevrolet.

There are two 6-speed transmissions — manual and automatic. Both are excellent — the manual is more fun and the auto is more practical.

Behind The Wheel: Being behind the wheel of a Corvette is where we like to be. Driving a new Corvette is so much fun that it will distract you from other activities. You’ll want to find the most twisting route instead of the shortest.

Whines: The hot, shallow center console melted our Milky Way bar.

Bottom Line: This could be the zenith of American high performance sports cars.