While the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 are fairly similar in many ways, the two GM sports cars differ widely in the level of performance offered. Both new Corvettes have the same basic exterior design, similar interior layouts, the Magnetic Selective Ride Control system and a rear transaxle setup but thanks to the new supercharged LT4 V8 and some fairly subtle aerodynamic upgrades – the new Z06 is billed as the most track capable Corvette ever while the new Stingray is just really, really impressive.
The 2015 Corvette Z06 seems to essentially replace the C6 ZR1 with estimated numbers of 625hp and 635lb-ft of torque (the old ZR1 was 638hp, 604lb-ft of torque) while the basic Corvette Stingray “only” offers 460hp and 465lb-ft of torque. Throughout the most of the history of the Corvette, there has been a similarly large difference between the highest performance and lowest performance model in the lineup but in the past, General Motors has also offered a medium performance model that offered an option to those buyers who wanted better than base level performance without paying the big bucks for the most powerful package. During the C6 generation, the Corvette Z06 was this mid performance package between the standard Corvette and the ZR1 but with the C7 Z06 packing such huge power and what will likely be a huge price – there is no longer an option for buyers who want slightly better performance than the Stingray without paying six figures for a supercharged Z06.
As the mid performance model the previous generation Corvette Z06 offered less than a hundred more horsepower than the base Corvette and 133 less horsepower than the ZR1 while carrying a starting price slightly above the fully loaded base Corvette yet some $37,000 less than the ZR1. A fully loaded 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray will run you up around $73,000 and GM has stated that the 2015 Corvette Z06 will be similar in price to the outgoing ZR1 so along with the big difference in performance between the Stingray and the Z06, there is also a huge gap in pricing. It seems that these two gaps between the Corvette Stingray and Corvette Z06 will create a natural demand for a car that falls in the middle; kind of like the C6 Z06…but what would this mid level performance car be?
The problem with General Motors naming the super-C7 the Z06 is that they have ‘used up’ the name that served as the mid performance model during the last two generations of the Corvette. The Z06 slotted between the base Corvette and the ZR1 during the 6th generation and while the Z06 was the top of the line performance package during the 5th generation of the Corvette – it didn’t offer the same level of performance relative to the rest of the industry as the C6 ZR1 or the new C7 Z06 so it was still more of a mid level performance package even though there was no higher performance C5 Corvette (from GM). This means that a new mid performance package Corvette would either need to carry a new trimline designation or perhaps GM could introduce a new Corvette Grand Sport.
The Grand Sport name has been used off and on across the generations of the Chevrolet Corvette and during the C6 era, the Grand Sport package added a handful of handling goodies (many of which were borrowed from the Z06) with the standard drivetrain of the base C6 Corvette. The C6 Grand Sport effectively offered similar handling capabilities to that of the Corvette Z06 but it did so in a package that lacked the LS7 V8 or the $75,000+ price tag of the Z06. The Grand Sport literally replaced the Z51 handling package and making that change from Z51 to Grand Sport made good marketing sense. The problem with that idea now is that the base 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray already features high end handling goodies like the Magnetic Selective Ride Control and advanced cooling features via the new Z51 package that has been ordered on the vast majority of C7 coupes ordered thus far. GM may decide to replace the Z51 package with a Grand Sport package similar to that offered on the C6 Corvette but making the modern Grand Sport a true mid level performance package to rank between the Stingray Z51 and the new Z06 could pay off in a big way.
This new and improved Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport would feature lightweight rims wrapped in high performance rubber, a high end braking system similar to the standard steel brake setup (not the pricier carbon ceramic setup) to that in the Z06 and a similar Magnetic Selective Ride Control system to what is offered in all new Corvettes. Unlike the Stingray that comes with your choice of a 7-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic, the C7 Grand Sport could feature the same 7-speed manual and new 8-speed automatic as the 205 Z06 but it would offer somewhere in the area of 510 horsepower from a lightly modified version of the Stingray’s LT1. Finally, the new Corvette Grand Sport could offer this jump in power from the basic Stingray for a price in the mid to high $70k mark so it would be more expensive than a loaded Stingray but less expensive than a new Z06 with only standard features.
Of course, this is all speculation but it is hard to argue that there is room in the Corvette lineup for a new mid level performance package and judging by the popularity of the C5 and C6 Z06 packages – there is clearly strong demand for a sub-$100k package that offers better performance than the “base” Corvette Stingray. Should GM go this direction – whether it Is called the Grand Sport or something else – I wouldn’t expect it to arrive any earlier than the 2016 model year so it could be a while before there is a mid level performance package for the C7 Corvette but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear more about this from GM in the coming months.