Machine Design

2000 Chevrolet Corvette

If I ever decide I need a $44,000 hobby, this is it.

Every superlative you've heard about the Corvette is true. It delivers a rock-solid ride, superb handling, and sling-shot acceleration that leaves grown men giddy.

The first kick from the Corvette comes from just walking up to it. In Torch Red, it generates respect, stares, and envy from other drivers. It's a low-slung automobile, so getting down and in takes a little practice. The seats are snug but comfortable with exceptional lateral support.

Another surprise comes from just starting the 345-hp engine -- it produces a wonderful, throaty rumble that just builds anticipation for what's to come.

The six-speed transmission is another nice surprise because it does a little thinking for you. For example, accelerate to about 20 mph and a device in the linkage guides the shift lever to fourth gear rather than second. It assumes you are not driving for performance and so selects a higher gear.

This thing is a rocket on rails going exactly where you want to go. The Active Handling System is part of the reason for this feeling. It uses sensors to monitor each wheel and applies brakes according to algorithms calculated to maintain maximum control. Even on wet roads, drivers have to make an effort to get the system to kick in. The car is capable of more than most would ever need in a driving situation and you need more room than is available on city streets to put it to a real test.

The cockpit is full of handy instruments. For example, an on-board computer calculates quantities such as miles to go, miles per gallon, and range. The instantaneous mpg reading tells an interesting tale: the car appears to eke out over 40 mpg when cruising at 50 mph in sixth gear. No kidding. It was also curious to put the clutch in at 70 mpg and watch the meter max out at 99 mpg. The display also tells tire pressure in each wheel, oil pressure and temperature, and percent of oil life left.

"The most telling comment I can make about the car is that when I was testing it, I got up early and took the scenic route to work to spend more time in it," says Randall Rubenking. "More comfortable, luxurious, and faster cars may be available, but I've never experienced one that elicits the subtle psychological forces like those at work in the Corvette. Some people may be immune to these but I'm not one of them. "

-- Paul Dvorak

-- Randall Rubenking

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