The first thing one notices when driving the 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible is… No, it’s not that. The first thing one notices is that sweet rumble of exhaust. The second thing one notices when driving the Grand Sport Convertible is the pebbles and sand tossed up against the bottom of the chassis by the big sticky tires, something you usually hear coming from under a race car.
There’s a reason for the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar Gen 2 tires (on our test car), of course, and that goes back to the first thing one notices. The Grand Sport needs big, fat and sticky to keep purchase on the pavement. It starts with 436 horsepower from 6.3-liters of Chevrolet LS3 overhead valve V-8 and adds a curb weight of 3289 lbs. You need sticky.
You need big, too. Those Eagle F1’s measure 275/35ZR18 in front and 325/30ZR19 in the rear. That’s not only wider in the rear but a larger wheel diameter as well, the same, actually, as the Corvette Z06.
The bigger tires mean bigger fenders to cover them. The Corvette Grand Sport measures more than three inches wider than the standard Corvette. And it’s noticeable. The uninitiated recognize something is different. It’s the wider fenders. And it doesn’t hurt that the Grand Sport has a Z06-style front splitter and for that matter, it’s just as wide as the Z06 as well.
An easy way to spot a Grand Sport are the functional fender vents on the front fenders and the scoops ahead of the rear wheels, especially as the vents have a chrome bar reading “Grand Sport”. It’s a sure cue every time.
Corvette Grand Sport brake discs measure 14-inch diameter up front. That’s the same size as a large pizza at Pizza Hut (and the same size as the Corvette Z06 front disc). The rotors are cross-drilled for extra cooling, with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, not quite up to Z06 specs but darn close.
The engine, naturally, falls short of the seven-liter V-8 of the Z06, not to mention that of the awesome (and we mean that sincerely) ZR1. In standard trim it produces 430 horsepower, but our test Grand Sport was equipped with the optional dual-mode exhaust for the additional six ponies. It adds a cool $1,195 to the price of a Corvette Grand Sport Convertible. That’s about $200 per horse. No doubt that’s a good price for a horse of the equine persuasion, but the marginal effect on a 430 horse engine–especially since there’s only four pounds-feet gain in torque–makes it an extravagant purchase. Until one opens the throttle. At about 3000 rpm, throttle plates in the aft end of the exhaust system open with a profound increase in exhaust sounds. Hmmm, is there a fuse to pull to make those plates stay open all the time?
Would that one could keep the engine throttle plates of the Corvette Grand Sport open more of the time. Chevrolet says the Corvette GS goes 0-60 mph in under four seconds and we’ve no quarrel with that. The only problem is, what are you going to do with the rest of your day? Well, Chevrolet also claims 1.0 g cornering for the Grand Sport. Seriously, this is one car whose best attributes can only be appreciated on a track day.
Indeed, it takes a true enthusiast to drive the 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport on many public highways. On older concrete surfaces, the interior noises could be The Sounds of Sebring. The big tires slap and thump over seams. Add the wind over the fabric top–it’s quieter with the top down–and it really didn’t matter that Chevrolet put a premium audio system in the car. The finer nuances of Vivaldi–or even Aretha Franklin–are lost in an automotive aural orgy.