The standard Corvette 427 Convertible is pricey enough at $76,000. This handsome 60th Anniversary edition lists for a whopping $91,320.
When the 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible is in sixth gear, at 70 miles per hour the motor is turning just 1500 revs. It’s barely awake. At 2000 RPM, the car is doing 92 MPH—with another 5000 revs still on tap! So this formidable beast is capable of a) 22+ miles per gallon on the highway, and b) 182 MPH. With the top up, of course.
As well, the V-8 is so torquey that in fifth gear, with just a bit of clutch slip, the Vette will launch from a standstill and rush all the way to . . . way, way up there. Amazing. But do shift gears, whether you need to or not, if only because the lever operates like a rifle bolt, the clutch is crisp, and the bass bellow (or burble) from the four megaphones is pure male music.
Even men who skew toward the Porsche-Ferrari-Lamborghini end of the implant spectrum are secretly captivated by Corvettes—especially loud ones decked out in special war paint, like this 60th Anniversary 427. Our women roll their eyes but, deep inside, we’re still 14 years old. And in this Vette, reality meets, even exceeds perception. Driving the 427 hard is like heli-skiing the biggest mountain in the Rockies while really good July 4th fireworks go off all around: intense, satisfying, sensory near-overload.
The head-up display in the windshield shows engine RPM, road speed and lateral g-load, a measure of grip. On these tires, the car can corner hard enough to make a 200-pound person feel like he weighs 406 pounds. Yikes. (The most I achieved was 0.75 g’s, but that got me a Level II stinkeye from the passenger-in-chief.) You should also know that the 427 can blast to 60 MPH in just 3.9 seconds, and then stop dead from 70 MPH in only 144 feet. Then it’s off to the chiropractor to have your head reattached.
All these numbers are equally astounding. This car is no striped-and-spoilered poser; the air scoops, vents and ground-effects bodywork, not to say the massive tires and brakes, are functional—and necessary.
With 505 horsepower and 470 pounds of torque, the 427 Vette Convertible (that’s 427 cubic inches, 7 liters of engine displacement) is slightly less muscular than, say, Nissan’s GT-R and the new BMW M6. Yet thanks in part to fenders, floor and hood made from carbon fiber, the Chevy weighs 300 pounds less than the Japanese rocket and a whopping half a ton less than the German, so it gives up nothing to them in performance. In its potential for sheer berserkness, it outdoes them.
Thus the 427 is a very good and very savory super-sports car. It is also an unexpectedly competent GT, a Grand Touring car. Yes, the switchgear is crude and the cabin is straight from 1984, but the upgraded seats are excellent and there’s plenty of tunnel for legs and feet. Outward visibility is good for a low-slung roadster, except for the usual convertible blind spot over your right shoulder. With engine RPM below 2000, the stereo is audible. The fabric top needs unlatching by hand, and then it stows itself under a double-bubble tonneau. Luggage space is tight, but we don’t buy this car for its trunk. (Play dates in supercars should require just a gold card, two toothbrushes and a change of undies, plus a ravishing copilot.)
The door ledge and center console are positioned just right to support the driver’s elbows as he grips the wheel at 4 and 8 o’clock. This is while droning down a dead-straight interstate, of course, not thundering through a mountain pass; the steering is so quick that it verges on twitchy.
This is a high-effort car, even for a Corvette, and it requires attention, particularly in the wet, but thanks to its athletic balance and all the feedback it is richly rewarding to drive. Sometimes—when the sticky tires try to follow every ripple in the pavement, or the suspension encounters potholes—there’s too much feedback, yet somehow it’s not tiring.
After an exuberant all-day toot across the secondary roads of the Northeast, from upstate New York across New Hampshire and Vermont to the coast of Maine, there the 427 sat—wheels black with brake dust, flanks speed-streaked with road grime, bugs splattered across its nose and windshield, ticking and creaking and still breathing deeply, happily as it cooled. This is no mere rich man’s parade float, to be primped and pampered and kept under glass. It’s a tough, real-world and world-class sports car. So let’s have no snide remarks about the “plastic fantastic.” This one, the 427 ragtop, is America’s Ferrari.