The 2010 Corvette Grand Sport accelerates a touch faster than a normal 'Vette, handles and stops a little better than a regular Corvette, but GM's thinking 50% of sales will be the GS. Why? It's all about the parts list.
Think of the latest incarnation of the Grand Sport as the Z06 light, for about $55k you get a lot of the goodies in the Z06 but at a $20,000 discount. It's not so much of a kidney-pounding, mean and nasty brute, but it'll hang on the track all day and do it reliably, because it's built to a higher spec than the normal LS3-equipped Vettes.
So, what do we have then? Well for starters, the Grand Sport rides on the steel frame of the base Corvette but wears the bodywork and dimensions of the Z06 all around, modified with a set of gill slits in the coves as well as a slightly taller spoiler. This will be the first time the more aggressive Zed's style will be available with an open top, so that's potentially where a lot of sales will originate. It also gets unique wheels in Z06 dimensions all around which come in either chrome, silver painted, or our preference the Competition Gray, hot. Those wheels wrap around bigger brakes shared with the Z06, 14" up front and 13.4" rear, with six-piston and four-piston calipers, respectively. It really announces its presence when optioned with the telltale hash marks sprouting from the wheel wells. Unlike the original 1963 race spec Grand Sport or the 1996 limited run GS, this one has matching stripes on driver and passenger side — a little spit in the eye of tradition, but unless you're a stickler, it's pretty neat, especially when you notice the Corvette crossed-flags emblem in the corner of the leading stripe.
That's all well and good, but we suspect the part that'll get Corvette owners talking is the engine. It's an LS3, yes, but with some very tasty upgrades. All Grand Sports get a forged steel crankshaft instead of the standard cast iron piece which can withstand higher loads for longer times as wells as tri-metal main bearings that'll take a whole lot more abuse than standard ones. On the manual transmission cars, you get a dry-sump oil system standard, with a higher flow and higher pressure oil pump and a 10.5-quart capacity, that dry sump occupies the same space as the battery normally gets, so it's moved to the rear as a result. Because of the dry sump complexity, the engine is being built by hand right alongside the LS7 and LS9. That means you get a properly balanced engine and a reinforced bottom end for the price of admission on the "cheap" Grand Sport model. Add to that the differential cooler at the rear and you have exactly what you need for a solid track day. Sounds pretty good to us.
As with all Corvettes, you can hand it off to Grandma to go pick up groceries and she'll only complain about sitting so gosh-darn low. However, she'll also be able to turn around and rip off 3.95 second 0-to-60 times all day thanks to the addition of launch control, which GM cheekily assured us would never void the warranty, not only that but it works pretty well too (sadly we only had time to test it on the also-equipped ZR1, which was in no way more exciting than sex on a roller coaster, turning in 0-to-60's in a plodding 3.48 seconds). You'll note that 3.95s time puts the GS 0.35 seconds faster than the standard Vette, due to improved traction, transmission gearing and final drive. On the track, unsurprisingly, the Grand Sport reminds us of a Z06 missing about 70 HP, which is actually more manageable than the 7.0-liter brute. 436 HP with the valved exhaust is more than enough to get you rocketing to delirious speeds in no time, and the big brakes haul you down even faster. You can throw every mistake in the book at the car and it's almost too easy to drive at speed, easy to catch when you push too hard, and riotously fun when you do everything right. The upgraded brakes and anti-roll bars really make a difference when late-braking for corners and diving through chicanes as accurate turn-in and quick transitions are incredibly rewarding.
GM's thinking the Grand Sport might top 50% of total Corvette sales at least in the short term, and there's good reason to believe it might. On the one hand, it offers the boulevardier Corvette owners the enticing pitch of the Z06 body with the convertible top, upgraded suspension, unique looks and a reasonably good automatic transmission (really, in manual mode, it's pretty respectable). On the other hand, the base Grand Sport coupe with a manual gives you a lot of the Z06 goodies with a hand-built engine equipped with a dry-sump and upgraded internals for $20,000 less. And here we thought it was just a stickers and wheels package.