Standing side by side, the Corvette C5 and C6 are two almost completely different two-seater sports cars. Both are products of a new generation of design engineers and stylists paying homage to the 1960s versions with 21st-century sensibilities, yet each gives off different vibes. The C6 is lighter, leaner and more compact than the C5, and wields considerably more horsepower. The C6's interior is all new. The C5 was the first to make a clean break from the pedestrian 1980s styling.
The fourth-generation, 1984-to-1996 Corvette C4 was a lesson in safe 1980s flat styling matched by an equally uninspiring 250-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8. The 1997-to-2004 Corvette C5 broke out of the doldrums with more aggressive styling. The nose sloped more, the fenders had a nice flare, the side panels were more defined, and the C5 proudly flaunted its more upright rear-end for all the world to see. Yet standing next to the C4, one gets the impression that Chevy stylists still played it safe with the C5. Whatever doubts 'Vette enthusiasts had about the C5, however, disappeared with the C6. The 2005-and-onward C6 is a real growler with an all-new body. The bulbous fenders echo the Mako shark C3 version and the body lines are sharper. The C6 also featured exposed headlamps for the first time since the 1962 Corvette. The C6 has a more European feel that abandons the timidity of the previous two generations.
Under the Hood
The Corvette C5 received the new Generation III LS1 5.7-liter V-8 engine with an aluminum block. Chevy engineers revamped the engine from its 1955 small-block origins to develop a new small-block. In 1997, it generated 339 horsepower and 356 foot-pounds of torque, and saw its horsepower increased to 350 in 2001. The 1997 Corvette could reach zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. For the C6, Chevy went a step further by dropping in an LS2 all-aluminum 6-liter V-8 wielding 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque. The C6 was capable of reaching zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. The C6 Z51 package featured a 420-horsepower version while the Z06 model was equipped with a 505-horsepower LS7 7-liter V-8 capable of reaching 60 in 3.6 seconds. The even more impressive ZR1 620-horsepower 7-liter could reach a top speed of 200 mph. A four-speed automatic or six-speed Tremec T56 manual transmission complemented the C5 and C6 engines. Buyers could order a six-speed automatic for the C6 in 2006.
Not only did Chevy inject mammoth power into its C6, the automaker made it a more taught machine. The C5 sat on a 112.2-inch wheelbase and measured 179.9 inches long. Chevy placed the C6 on a 105.7-inch wheelbase with a 174.7-inch length. The C5 had a curbside weight of about 3,300 lbs. The C6 tipped the scales at 3,240 lbs.
The C6 benefits from the improvements made to the C5's chassis. Both generations feature an aluminum double wishbone suspension with a short/longarm system. Computer-controlled rack-and-pinion steering gear makes steering speed-sensitive and more responsive for negotiating curves and high speeds. Both generations feature all-wheel vented disc brakes with anti-lock braking system.
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