Farewell to the Corvette C6

The C6 was the game-changer. Smaller, racier, purposeful and more powerful than ever, it’s a tough act to follow

By Shahzad Sheikh

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Ever since MME’s Imthishan returned from the Detroit Motor Show with his lower jaw still left dropped on the floor of Kobo hall on the Chevy stand next to the new Corvette Stingray, we’ve been trying hard, and failing, to contain our excitement at the impending arrival of the latest iteration of America’s foremost sportscar.

We’re hoping to see it at the Dubai Motor Show this December, and keeping our fingers crossed for a drive before that. As good as the new C7 looks though, and as much as it’s setting up the stage to be a full-on Ferrari challenger, we can’t let the game-changing, Porsche-baiting, bar-raising, C6 just go quietly into the night.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Final Drive of the C6

Actually I’m finding that rather impossible right now. Roof down on a beautiful balmy evening and I’m waking the neighbourhood by mashing my right foot into the carpet and taking the throttle pedal with it.
As the clutch cracks into the torque stream, the electronics are caught napping and the tail signs out an arch on the slightly damp tarmac.

Ten degrees of opposite lock, with a quick lift to snatch second and this low-flying missile straightens, then squirms, then finally gets a little help from the traction systems which have just de-startled, and we’re back on line with considerably less drama than a bystander might be imagining.

For this send-off and our final drive of the C6, we’ve pinched the boss’s car. This is President and MD of General Motors Middle East, John Stadwick’s daily driver. And it’s a rather special Corvette as you might expect, but more on that later.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

For now, suffice to say, grabbing a last-chance run in this undisputed future classic was definitely one of our better ideas. In this moment we’ve forgotten all about the new Stingray, and indeed most other supposedly desirable metal including a car who’s name we won’t mention for risk of upsetting some of our readers.

No. Sorry. I can’t. I won’t. Oh okay then, it’s the 991 Porsche 911. As good as it is, it cannot match the visceral, old-skool appeal of the C6 – a car that seems to interface directly with the neural pathways on the right side your brain. Again though, let’s just pull-up and pause for a second, to remind ourselves why the C6 was – and is – so significant.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

C6 – small and perfectly formed

Introduced in 2005, this sixth generation car was the first to come without pop-up headlights since 1962. This was to make it more slippery, keep it from falling foul of pedestrian safety legislation, and give it some credibility as a serious 21st Century player. Yeah, sure, but I personally miss the pop-ups.

Both coupe and convertible guises were offered, it does look like a superstar with the top down, but if you’re not quite sure about the canvas top, the regular coupe also comes with removable roof-panels for that proper Targa-style experience. (Yes that was a dig at Porsche).

It was also quite a bit smaller than its predecessor, despite a longer wheelbase, which of course had the effect of reducing overhangs and pushing the wheels out close to each corner – which is an obvious trait of good-handling cars.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

How much smaller? Well despite the looks, and preconceptions that will put you in mind of a big lumbering muscle car, this lithe sporster is actually shorter than the new Porsche 911 (4435mm versus 4491mm) and lower (1245mm against 1303mm). It is a little wider (1844mm beats 1808mm), but that just ensures that it looks like it owns its piece of blacktop, oh yeah baby.

In fact, whilst keeping a familiar silhouette, it evolved from the C5 with even more appealing proportions, whilst retaining its sleek and sexy, ground-hugging stance and coke-bottle styling. It’s one of those cars that looks a million dollars but doesn’t cost it. It’s as at home in swish Downtown Dubai, as it is street-fighting through Al Nahda. It won’t look out of place parked in front of the Atlantis, nor do you suffer a load of anguish leaving it in Karama car lot.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Engines and drivetrains

It was launched with a pretty potent 6.0-liter V8 (LS2) producing 400bp at 6000rpm and 400lb ft of torque at 4400rpm with either a four-speed auto or a Tremec T56 manual transmission which offered ‘Computer Aided Gear Shifting’. Essentially this punished and embarrassed you for driving too slowly, forcing you to go from 1st to 4th gear at low revs! 0-100kph acceleration was dispatched in 4.4seconds and top speed was limited to 300kph.

For 2008 things improved considerably, and if you’re thinking of buying a used ’Vette, and you really should (we are), then a 2008 or later model is the one to go for. Squeezed into that slender front end is a 6.2-litre V8 (LS3) pumping out 430bhp at 6500rpm and 428lb ft at 6500rpm. 0-100kph was in 4.3seconds and vmax was 306kph.

Better still in addition to the six-speed auto it got in 2006, a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual was introduced offering smoother changes. The steering was also firmed up and improved for feel – with variable ratio power steering following in 2009.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Performance and special editions

The Z06 arrived in 2006 and was a take-no-prisoners hard-core experience that virtually replicated the stripped-out single-minded philosophies of its on-track racing cousins. It featured an even more powerful and staggering 7.0-litre (427cu in) LS7 V8 with 505bhp.

It also got Magnetic Selective Ride Control which can vary the viscosity of the fluid in the shocks through magnetism a thousand times a second, instantly firming or softening the ride. This technology is now widely used by Ferrari.

Over 60kg was shaved off thanks to a lightweight aluminium frame. A dry sump oiling system and titanium alloy connecting rods, as well as stiffening up the coupe body with a fixed roof added to the mix. Appropriately performance was blistering – 0-100kph in 3.9seconds and top speed was 318kph.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

A previous option packaged offered under the tag Z51 became the Grand Sport in 2010: shorter manual gear ratios, larger anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, Bilstein shocks, Z06 rear spoiler, better cooling for the brakes and transmission, 18-inch front wheels and 19-inch rear wheels, plus launch control for self-shifting versions. Performance was unchanged from regular 6.2-litre C6 versions.

And then came the frightening ZR1 flagship codenamed ‘the Blue Devil’ and living up to the fearsome hype with a 638bhp supercharged 6.2 LS9 V8, which combined with 604lb ft of torque to give a 0-100kph time of 3.4seconds and a 330kph top speed. It was aided by a six-speed close-ratio, race-spec manual and weight-reduction through carbon-fibre body panels. It sat on 19-inch front wheels and 20-inch rear rims, with larger brakes to help it stop.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

And finally for 2013, to mark the 60th anniversary of the ’Vette, Chevy introduced the 427 Convertible which got the LS7 from the Z06 as well as pilfering it for chassis and suspension components.

Along with all 2013 Corvettes, this 427 Convertible can be had with the 60th Anniversary Design Package which comes in arctic white with blue leather upholstery inside with suede accents, and a blue canvas top. There’s also a ZR1-style rear spoiler, anniversary badging, grey brake callipers and full-length racing stripes in pearl silver blue – it even gets a tonal stripe stitched into the canvas top. It reaches a top speed of 306kph and 0-100kph is 4.1seconds.

It’s an example of this car that became, on 28 February 2013, the last C6 to roll off the production line in Bowling Green, Kentucky. And it is not that one, but another very much like it, that I am driving, enjoying, relishing and absolutely loving right now.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Scintillating sensory perception

Now rejoin me back in the cosy cockpit. Bottom skimming millimetres off the ground it seems, the steering writhing provocatively in my hands, literally a smattering of road noise clattering through the lightweight shell, but dubbed over by the tremendously thrilling soundtrack of the rumbling LS7.

And just knowing it’s there is a reassuring reminder that the slightest twitch of the right foot can unleash a tidal wave of torque should you reach across and quickly snick-snack to a lower ratio through the very satisfying manual shifter.

Alternatively just leave it where it is, squeeze the accelerator, and enjoy the building rush of momentum from the lusty motor, as the ’Vette tries to fulfil its ever-present threat to help lose your licence through indecent speeds.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

The ride is firm and transmits exactly how many road-shavings you’ve driven over, even before their pings echoe off the underside of the chassis. But it isn’t exactly uncomfortable. It makes great use of the clever magna-ride suspension it’s also taken off the Z06.

It reacts and changes and settles the suspension quickly and quietly. Which means that driving this car is a bit like having your cake and eating it. Get on it hard and it’ll corner like a racecar – all grip and go. Alternatively just showboat in true musclecar style with lairy powerslides and tail-wagging getaways. Or, as I’m doing now, just Bluetooth your tunes, stick it in a high gear exploiting the meaty motor, and just cruise around feeling like a Tinsel town matinee idol.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Sure the car does feel dated by today’s standards. The sat-nav and central screen almost harks back to the dot-matrix era, and the simple plasticky interior, whilst driver-focussed, doesn’t exactly ooze premium quality. Of course these are issues that are being addressed by the futuristic new C7 Stingray. Still, there’s a charm and honesty here that refreshingly ditches pretentiousness for functionality. And besides – it has heads-up display!

Sure-fire signs that this car got under my skin? It’d put a smile on my face whenever I approached it, I turned back to gaze at it each time I parked it up, and felt my whole demeanour lift after every drive. This is a massive feel-good car, and one that I really struggled to hand back to Stadwick.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

How do I get one?

After reading all the above you’ll probably be wanting one – well I certainly want one! The good news is that there are tons on the market right here in the region, as the Corvette is a hugely popular junior supercar.

There are few left in stock at some of the dealers, which will also be the best places to check for nearly new cars too. You’ll be able to bargain harder, once the new car hits our shores though, if there’s any still left by then.

The slightly alarming news is that most of them were probably owned by young guys who may not have been the most caring owners. Fortunately the C6 has proved to be a tough car, with particularly the later cars recording very few complaints.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Reliability survey scores have been above average for 2008 onwards cars, and the engine, transmission, electronics and even the paint finishing have fared well. The only common issues seem to be interior rattles and squeaks, and owners moaning about the cost of replacement tyres!

Nonetheless this is a high-performance car, and will have been driven hard here. Try to get one that has full service history from a main dealer, and check the transmission, particularly if it’s a manual. Have a look at the clutch fluid, it should be yellow, black indicates dust contamination causing slippage and resulting in a costly clutch or flywheel change. Grinding from the rear differential on half or more lock might mean it needs new oil.

Ideally get a mechanic or an official service centre to give the car a once-over. Check also for leaks from the roof panels – take it through a car wash! Oh, and avoid any car that is, or potentially could be, an ex-rental, it will have been abused thoroughly. Well why else would you hire a ’Vette?

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

What do I pay?

Considering it’s been around for nearly nine years, there’s a huge price range available to purchasers, and you can pick up a 2005 model for under AED70,000. But if you follow our recommendation, you’ll hold out for a 2008-9 model year car increasing your budget to AED100-150k depending on condition or spec. You’d be looking at closer to AED300k for a nearly new C6.

Budget around AED150k-plus for an early Z06, right up to AED250k, and more, for a 2011 edition. If you’re even more ambitious and thinking of the mighty ZR1, there’s only a handful here, and you’d need to set aside about a half million dirhams. This collector’s edition 427 Convertible would be a great example to keep hold of, and proves a good compromise between the regular Corvette and a full-on Z06.

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

Whichever C6 you go, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a solid, dependable, desirable, head-turner and grin-inducer that’s about to deservedly take its place in the Chevrolet hall of fame. It serves up a rich and textured old-fashioned sportscar driving experience in a contemporary package that will still boast knicker-elastic snapping style for years to come.

What will be your memories of the Corvette C6? Share them below. Do you own one? Then let us have an owners’ review of the car (email to MME@MotoringME.com). 

Chevrolet Corvette C6, 2005-2013, Tribute

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