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2003 Chevrolet Corvette Performance Sports Car

MSRP Range: $ 43,495 - $ 57,000

Invoice Range: $38,058 - $ 55,000
Price Quote

MSRP As Tested: $55,370 50th Anniversary convertible

Versions: Corvette Hatchback Coupe, Corvette Convertible, 50th Anniversary Coupe, 50th Anniversary Convertible, Corvette Z06 Hardtop Coupe

Vehicle Category: 2-seat Performance Sports Car

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Rear-Wheel Drive

Engine As Tested: Optional - LS1/Z06 5.7-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, V8, 405-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 400 lb-ft torque at 4,800 prm. Standard - LS6 5.7-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, V8, with 350-horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 360 lb-ft torque at 4,000 rpm.

Transmission As Tested: (optional LS1/Z06 and LS6) 6-Speed Manual or standard (LS1) 4-Speed Automatic

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): LS1/5.7 or LS6/5.7 with manual transmission - 19/28. LS1/5.7 with automatic transmission - 18/25

Standard Safety Features: Driver and Front Passenger, front airbags, 4-wheel power disc brakes, Antilock Braking System, Antiskid-Traction Control, tire pressure monitor, daytime running lights.

Competition: 2003, Audi TT, 2003 Dodge Viper, 2003 Mazda Miata, 2003 Honda S2000, 2003 Nissan 350Z, 2003 Porsche 911

MILAN, Mich. -- What can you say about a svelte two-seat sports car that runs to 40 mph in only the first of six forward gears, packs sophisticated hardware to control suspension, traction and brakes, and -- with pedal pushed down to the medal -- tops out at well over twice any legal highway speed?

Only one word comes to mind: Corvette.

So cinch that seatbelt tightly, adjust the sculptured sports seat and all mirrors until they're just right, then send a wake up call to 350 hearty horses -- and hang on to your teeth because this mechanical animal can fly across the landscape, pulling G-forces through your eyeballs as you power up a straightaway.

Take even a short spin and you'll fall head over heels in lust, but spend some serious seat time with this power monster, as we did recently in performance tests conducted at a private motorsports park in Michigan beyond the suburbs of Motor City, and you'll crave its addictive muscle.

Chevrolet's Corvette seems like something out of a fine dream. It's also all-American, this country's true sports car, with 2003 issues marking the golden anniversary with 50 years of production.

Corvette for 2003 attains the peak of performance and automotive sophistication with five models including the hatchback coupe and convertible plus special 50th Anniversary Edition coupe and convertible and the Z06 hardtop coupe with even more power points added to position it in the exotic club of plus-400 hp rippers.

The 50th Anniversary Edition coupe and convertible celebrate Corvette's heritage, which traces through five different platforms labeled successively from C1 through the current style of C5.

In spotlighted displays at Kentucky's National Corvette Museum -- which stands within sight of the Bowling Green Assembly Plant where this iconic American sports car comes together -- visitors can view each generational edition.

The museum display begins with the initial fiberglass-body Corvette classic of 1953, followed by the Sting Ray rendition of 1963. Then there's the refresher Ray from 1968 that established precedents of pop-up headlamps and removable roof panels, plus a longer and lower model of 1984 from which subsequent Corvettes through 1996 were derived.

Yet the position of honor in the museum contains the fifth Corvette -- the C5 coupe that emerged in 1997 and serves as foundation for the five editions of 2003.

In a stunning sweep of aerodynamic lines from the low-pitched nose to a classic high-hitched tail, C5 retains the unmistakable look of previous Corvettes but also features some of the most sophisticated automotive concepts on the planet.

All of its high-tech systems combine behind injected-molded body panels to elevate Corvette into that exotic realm of megabucks foreign brands such as Ferrari and Porsche -- yet price points tally to far fewer dollars.

Essential components of the revolutionary 1997 C5 remain in the current issues of 2003 -- such as the unique hydroformed rails extending from tip to tail and united by aluminum cross members to forge an incredibly firm foundation for a sports car.

Due to the inherent strength and stiffness of the hydroformed rails, Corvette's designers were able to make significant organizational changes inside the rails to revamp the cockpit for efficiency. A closed driveline tunnel also enhances the space, particularly since the transmission was repositioned in the rear, thus balancing the weight fore to aft.

Then comes the magic: A suspension system mounted to the ultra-stiff chassis that permits superb handling control yet also delivers a smooth ride quality on the road. The independent four-wheel short- and long-arm suspension, with forged aluminum front upper control arms and cast aluminum front and rear lower arms, weighs less and reduces mass.

On Corvettes for 2003, a new Magnetic Selective Ride Control (MSRC) employs a damper to control wheel and body motion with special magnetized fluid in shocks. By governing the current to an electromagnetic coil positioned inside the piston of a damper, the shock fluid's consistency can be changed for continuously variable real time shock damping. The device isolates the movement of each tire for less bounce, vibration and noise. Ultimately, it produces a flatter ride quality with more precise handling traits.

MSRC gear, optional on Corvette coupe and convertible, is standard on 50th Anniversary Editions, which also show special 50th Anniversary Red exterior paint, specific badging, an interior shade called Shale with color coordinated instrument panel and console, and champagne-painted wheels with special emblems. Further, there are embroidered 50th Anniversary badges on seats and floor mats, and a Shale-tinged top for the convertible.

Chevrolet's first aluminum short-block engine, the LS1 V8 displacing 5.7 liters, debuted in the C5 and today pumps even more power -- 350 hp at 5600 rpm plus 375 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm with the six-speed manual Borg-Warner shifter or 360 lb-ft at 4000 rpm with GM's four-speed Hydra-Matic 4L60-E automatic.

Corvette Z06 represents the pinnacle of the line and ranks as the quickest in Corvette's history. It emerged in 2001 packing an upgraded LS6 V8 engine with more power points than the LS1 V8 of standard Corvettes, along with performance upgrades for suspension, wheels and tires.

Currently, Z06 delivers 405 hp at 6,000 rpm, with torque boosted to 400 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm as channeled strictly through the Borg-Warner six-speed stick. More output from the LS6 engine is the result of adding hollow stem valves, a higher-lift camshaft and new low-restriction air cleaner so the engine can pull even more oxygen-rich air into combustion chambers.

The Z06 designation tracks back to 1963 when Corvette's chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov concocted a showroom race car version of the then-new Corvette Sting Ray split-window coupe. The Z06 RPO (Regular Production Option) Sting Ray contained a heavy-duty suspension with stronger brakes, an expanded fuel tank, fuel injectors, GM's Positraction rear axle and a four-on-the-floor manual shifter. Today's Z06, like the rare issues of 1963, also adds up to a showroom race car -- although its bottom line does not.

On base coupe and convertible Corvette models for 2003, more standard equipment applies -- foglamps, sport seats plus power controls, twin zones for the automatic climate system, and a parcel net and luggage shade in the coupe.

Also new is a Child Restraint Attachment System (CRAS) with hooks in the passenger seat for anchoring a child seat. A switch disables the passenger-side air bag when the child seat is installed.

Pricing for Corvettes of 2003 extends from $44,000 to $57,000, with a 50th Anniversary Edition coupe marked at $48,895 and the 50th Anniversary convertible at $55,370, or Z06 starting at $51,155.