American idol gets six-speed paddle-shift auto 'box
Before we look at the new paddle-shift C6 Corvette, let's recall a couple of details about the manual version. Number one: the American idea of a good manual is something that requires an XXL tub of testosterone and a forearm the size of a baby hippo's leg. As a result the standard manual six-speeder is a little lacking in delicacy. Not bad, just slightly rural. Number two: many people in Britain will avoid buying a Corvette because the stick for shifting is on the right-hand (or wrong) side and there are only so many times it's funny smacking your left hand into the door trim. All right, it's still left-hand drive, but the automatic largely solves both these problems. Slot the lever into 'D' and it's a normal auto, if not a very good one. On full throttle it holds on to gears well, but move along more gently and it seems like it's racing to get to sixth, the rev-counter never seeing the fun side of 2000rpm. It's happy to kick down, but it jumps back up if you stay on a steady throttle, so through a corner it shifts up before you reach the apex, then has to shuffle back down again after it... Happily, if you slot 'S' on the lever, the shift quickens and the paddles wake up. Said paddles are attached to the steering wheel and you can push either one to shift up, or pull to change down. With this extra control you can enjoy what is essentially a good, smooth-changing 'box. It's quick enough for the character of the engine, blips nicely on the down-change and will even run into the limiter without changing up. The only bad thing is that the temptation to change all the time is perhaps too great - you need to remember to leave it in third once in a while and luxuriate in the engine's flexibility and reach. Fifty per cent of Corvettes sold are automatics and you can understand why, since they provide a sort of characterful (and cheaper) alternative to a Mercedes SL.
|Engine||V8, 5967cc, 16v|
|Max power||404bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque||403lb ft @ 4400rpm|
|Top speed||186mph (claimed)|