When one hears the name Grand Sport and Corvette used together, you know that something special is in store for those that are lucky enough to experience it.
This was true of the first Grand Sport which arrived on the scene as a ferocious racing machine back in 1963 and fulfilled Zora Duntov's vision of creating a race car thanks to its lightweight dimensions as well as its 377 cubic inch aluminium V8.
The vaunted nameplate would make its return in 1996 when it ushered in the debut of the new at the time LT4 small block V8 before returning once again for the 2010 model year this time serving as a compelling mixture of Z06 and base Vette cues.
The current generation Grand Sport aims to continue this hybrid formula, but can it make the C7 Corvette truly stand out against entries such as the Jaguar F-Type and the Porsche 911?
The exterior styling of the 2017 Grand Sport carries on the path laid out by the C6 version and is a mixture of Z06 and standard Vette traits. The majority of the wider body panels are carried over from the Z06, but the shorter hood is from the standard car since there is no intercooler system on board that needs the extra clearance.
Our Arctic White test car did not have nearly the same visual punch as other colors such as Torch Red or Black, but it was paired nicely with optional Satin Black rims that are 19-inches up front and slightly bigger 20-inch units at the rear wheels. The spiffy rims helped enhance its profile, and meshed nicely with the black accents scattered throughout the car. The Grand Sport also features its own version of the ZO6's Z07 package which helps enhance the car's aerodynamics.
While the overall appearance may look unchanged at first glance, The Grand Sport makes do without the clear center section and the taller end caps since the model does not need as much downforce as the more track focused Z06 when going down a winding road or on a track day at the local race circuit.
The interior retains much of the basic design language that has defined lesser Vette models, but here too it shows the artful blend between performance and usability. A flat bottomed Alcantara swathed steering wheel is carried over from the Z06 while strategically placed Grand Sport badges are scattered throughout the car including a dash mounted plaque just ahead of the shifter. Our tester had the standard GT bucket seats, and they offered a healthy balance of support and comfort.
Like all C7's the interior was designed to cater to the driver with many of the buttons and switches angled towards the driver seat. Bold gauges are also part of the package, and they did an excellent job delivering various pieces of information and the center mounted digital speedometer can be configured depending on which drive mode is selected. Lastly the aluminum halo that is positioned to the right of the center stack also incorporates a subtle Easter egg, and features a slick racing stripe that was created by rotating the brush pattern on the metal a full 90 degrees during the polishing process.
This a cool touch and it serves as a unique nod to the nameplate's storied history. As is the case with many of GM's recent performance offerings, the Grand Sport also comes equipped with a Performance Data Recorder (PDR) that allows occupants to video log their lap times while also showing various information with all of this being saved to an onboard SD card.
Performance comes from the familiar 6.2 liter small block V8 that powers lesser Corvettes. Good for 460 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, the engine sends its grunt to the rear wheels through either a standard seven-speed manual gearbox or our tester's optional eight speed automatic transmission. For hardcore Vette fans that might grumble about the notion of an automatic equipped Corvette, this particular transmission is a massive improvement over the units that saw duty in older Corvettes.
Shifts are precise while still delivering the smoothness that many buyers expect when driving the the car at more relaxed speeds. It also allows the car to be on par with European rivals while also out-muscling some of them at the same time.
However the Grand Sport is more than just being the provider of outright muscle and a five-star soundtrack, it's also about handling, and it is in this regard where the Grand Sport transforms into a true jack of all trades. GM's Magnetic Ride Control plays a key role in the Grand Sport's handling manners and was able to handle all kinds of road imperfections without the spine jarring punishment that defines other sports car entries.
It also helps unlock all the car's personality and can change it from being comfortable and compliant, to a hungry corner carving monster that has an insatiable appetite for tight turns. During our time with the Grand Sport we discovered that Track mode was a bit too twitchy at times and seemed out of place on the winding roads that Monticello had to offer. That's why we kept it in Sport mode and it is in this setting where the car felt just right. Steering was rock solid with just enough weight and feedback to really make you feel connected to the road. Braking was also strong with minimal nose dive and a strong sense of stability especially during high speed stopping.
Pricing for the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport starts at $66,445 which is $10,000 more than the entry level Stingray and $5,000 more than the cheapest Z51 equipped Vette. However, it is also $15,000 less than a base Z06 which can make it a tough choice for some Vette buyers when comparing the two side to side. This pricing also helps the car undercut some of its foreign rivals especially the Jaguar F-Type which requires nearly $100k before a V8 becomes standard issue as well as the equally pricey 911 coupe.
This pricing reflects the balanced nature of this iteration of Grand Sport, and look for it to carry on the legacy laid out by the last generation Grand Sport which quickly became the best selling C6 Corvette variant when it was launched in 2010. Either way the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport represents the best the good ol' USA has to offer, and we look forward to seeing what other surprises the C7 Corvette has in store in the near future.