2000 Chevrolet Corvette

by wimzzley

If you love the Corvette, if you've always wanted one and finally have the high admission price for ownership, then stop reading right here.

Let's get this out of the way right now.

Move on to another Web site or Vette fan forum, where accolades are heaped upon this most revered American car icon and any criticism would bring calls for a return to public lynching.

Fact is, the 2000 Vette continues a disappointing spiral of deficiencies that began years ago.

It is not state-of-the-art. It is not a best buy at this price. It continues to be flawed in things that should matter to most buyers, but will be dismissed by the diehard faithful. (You're not still here, are you?)

It is also not what I expected. The C4 Vette was disappointing, and Chevrolet more or less said the problems a handful of auto writers had with the C4 would be corrected in the C5. The main problem I could find corrected was driver entry blocked by a parking brake lever that could stab a crotch as a person dropped down and in. The brake lever was moved in the C5 -- to a position adjacent to the passenger seat!

Now that the faithful have departed, let's settle down for a discussion of what is right and wrong with the Corvette, a car this writer has admired since its 1953 introduction, a car that did become an icon with every showing of "Route 66" in the 60s, a car that represented, for years, America's only attempt at a true sports car.

And when we're through, if none of the objections raised here bother you all that much, go for your dream. Buy one.

But I would think twice.

And I'm about to tell you why.

Specifications

  • Style: sports car
  • Engine: 5.7-liter V-8
  • Transmission: four-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: rear-wheel-drive
  • Horsepower: 345 hp @ 5,600 rpm
  • Torque: 350 ft-lbs. @ 4,400 rpm
  • EPA mileage: 17 city/25 highway
  • Weight: 3,248 lb.

 

2000 Chevrolet Corvette

Video

Safety

Sports cars are dangerous. Right? That's a given. As a percentage of all vehicle accident deaths, sports cars are well above average. Yep. That's a fact.

But the Chevrolet Corvette is number one -- the most deadly sports car. And, overall, it closely trails the first-place Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird duo for most deadly vehicle distinction.

The Corvette can be found on the third page, under "Sports Cars: All Small". Scan over the Vette data until you see the number of deaths from rollover accidents. Look up and down the page for any other figure this high. You won't find one. The real world says Vettes have an extraordinarily high number of deaths resulting from a rollover, a kind of accident rarely associated with low-center-of-gravity sports cars. We almost expect tipsy behavior from tall sport utes, but not sports cars. Yet the Vette is a top contender to kill a driver in a rollover. Why?2000 Chevrolet Corvette

Data doesn't give a reason, just a result. So we now leave fact and enter opinion.

Likely, there is no one factor, but a combination that creates this death rate. It might be summed up this way:

(1) The Corvette will be driven by a risk-taking individual. (2) That individual will be tempted to utilize the horsepower so dearly paid for. (3) The car is capable of speeds far more than double the highest legal limit in the country. (4) The car's handling is not always up to its acceleration and top speed. (5) Windshield design seems deadly to the frontal part of the head. (6) There is no rollover protection at all.

Now, the Corvette comes with a type of traction control designed to keep drivers out of trouble. The system basically shuts down engine power if traction loss seems likely. Hmmm. Let's say you're at a stoplight and want to impress the adjacent Mustang Cobra. You press the brake with your left foot, bring up engine rpm with your right foot and ... ucka, ucka, ucka, oomph. The engine is dying! And the damn Cobra guy is laughing at you!

Well, sir, there's a handy-dandy button on the center console. You depress that thing and you can wipe the grin right off that Cobra guy's puss. What that button does is disable traction control. Suddenly, your rear tires are a-smokin' and squealin' and you're ready for launch.

That button is so handy, in fact, that many drivers might opt not to use the engine-killing system at all.

Not a wise move.

The Corvette does not always launch straight. It varied from a straight line in numerous tests on different dry road surfaces. When the big rear tires finally found a grip, the rear end swung either left or right, demanding quick driver reaction to correct direction. Some drivers will flunk the Vette test right here, and slide into an accident. Yes, I'm pretty sure you could spin a doughnut in the empty Winn Dixie parking lot.

Perhaps the most ominous sensation, however, is that a pushed Vette can feel on the edge of out-of-control. Anything and everything throws the nervous Vette. Even crossing the tiny ridges that precede a rural stop sign -- three closely-spaced little speed bumps -- jumps the rear end slightly sideways! Encountering a bump in mid-turn could cause loss of control.

And then what?

And then we go back to the funny feeling you had when you slid down into that driver's seat, your posterior only 13 inches from the pavement and your head -- your forehead -- a mere 8-1/2 inches from the top of the windshield. That club-like metal windshield top is just inches away. Should your head be whipped around in an accident, a rollover, for instance, is it not possible that it might strike the windshield, perhaps with fatal force?

Real-world rollover death rate in sports cars: Highest for those in Corvettes.

There are no roll bars, by the way, as there are on many competitors. There are no side air bags at a time when some competitors have multiple bags for chest and head protection. The Vette would appear to be dead last in competition for safety features. It has what is required, plus anti-lock brakes. For $50,000. This is not state-of-the-art.

Additionally, I could not find a way to disable the passenger-side front air bag. This means no child should ever ride in this car, under any circumstance. Almost all two-seaters today -- and most trucks -- allow a driver to disable the passenger bag by simply turning a key-operated switch.

Brian O'Neill, the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance industry group that performs independent crash tests, questions why a car like the Corvette is sold for use on public roads. He says that drivers do play a role in fatal crashes, but super-fast vehicles cause them to drive faster than they otherwise would.

"There has been a longstanding question as to why we're routinely producing cars with performance capabilities that could only be legally used on a racetrack," O'Neill said.

I can hear your howls now. No speed governors! No restrictions. Why not? Seriously. NASCAR governs. All racing does. Laws govern speeds on our roads, yet we have cars like the Corvette with a 200 mph speedometer. It's a race car but it's sold for road use to anyone with $50,000 to slap into a dealer's hands.

Don't brush off this issue quickly. If you want powerful cars to continue in production, then devote your creative thinking time to come up with a really good reason why it should be legal to sell vehicles that so seriously allow illegal behavior. Thoughtful input will be needed for an upcoming debate. Believe it.

I think I know where the future is headed. You do too. You see it with gun control, don't you? Well, among vehicles, this Vette is an Uzi.

Think about it.

Handling

On a skidpad, the Corvette returns a most impressive turning force figure: 0.96 g.

Doesn't get much better than that in a car you can use comfortably on the road.

And our test Vette had a three-position, adjustable suspension system, from "soft" touring to firm "performance". Frankly, I couldn't tell much difference on poor roads. But today's Corvette qualifies as comfortable 99 percent of the time.

The real world, however, is not made up of smooth skidpads and you don't drive around in 40-foot circles (that's the overly large Vette turning radius that will gives you parking fits).

In the real world, the Vette feels skittish much of the time. As speed escalates, it lacks the in-contact-with-the-pavement feeling that is near-and-dear to enthusiasts. At high speeds, it drifts. It wants to float. The sensation is like being in a small plane bobbing slightly just before liftoff.

It does, of course, have that traction/stability system to help a driver overly eager into a turn. But that computer can't work wonders, and Chevy says so in bold warning statements (to avoid lawsuits from the "you-said" crowd). This car can get you in trouble at the limits of turning through a curve ... and recovery might not be smooth. How professional are your driving skills? Be honest. Your life could depend on it.

Remember, rollovers follow runoffs!

Performance

Performance is the reason a Corvette exists.

By any other measure, it is one of the most impractical vehicles offered for sale to the public. Only performance beckons those with Big Bucks.

Performance, however, has advanced beyond straight-line, quarter-mile measurements used to rank old muscle cars. Performance needs to be balanced today. Handling is a critical part of the equation, but so are factors like driver effort, driver fatigue, visibility, optimal ergonomics.

Viewed this way, the Vette is not competitive. It is not as balanced as some of its competitors.

But ... it will surely, surely smoke those rear tires. Corvette and the Dodge Viper represent almost a uniquely American sports car concept -- brute power driving the rear wheels. No tricks, buddy. Just horses ripping up pavement!

Even as a convertible -- not very aerodynamically efficient at 0.32 coefficient of drag -- the test Vette can leap 0-to-60 in under six seconds! You are wildly illegal in all residential areas in less than 4 seconds. A bomb rests under your right foot. This car is, quite frankly, wretched excess. Too much of what we think is a good thing.

The 5.7-liter V8 powering the Vette is tried and true. It's been consistently improved over the years, to now produce 345 horsepower while delivering a downright decent 25 mpg on the highway.

A large majority of Corvettes are sold with automatic transmissions, and our tester was so equipped. One reason for the popularity of automatics may be the worst invention in automotive history -- the first-to-fourth forced shift in the six-speed manual Vette. That abomination probably turns off many buyers. Unless you race, the automatic is the way to go with this muscular beast. Just be aware that downshifts lag a bit and then engage abruptly.

 

Comfort

Chevrolet has come a long way towards making the Vette a more civilized vehicle.

It is not the brutal beast it was a short time ago. The ride is better, without a sacrifice in handling. The seats are supportive and include multiple adjustments.

And the "waterfall" emblem piece of old has been returned to this year's Vette. It looks great between the seats and breaks the monotony of the stark black interior.

But all is not well inside a Vette, even an open Vette.

Let's start at the beginning -- entry. Entry is easier today, thanks to the relocation of the parking brake lever. But surely no one would call it "easy". It's not. First, the door must be opened. And exterior door handles are of poor design. Plus, this large door has taken lessons from GM's other killer bounceback doors. It has the same tendency. So you carefully prop it open for entry.

Now, grab the top of the windshield to use as a swing bar. Aim your feet for the floorboard, shift weight to your arms and swing your butt over where you think the seat might be located. Hit the back of the seat, not the base, and then slide down until you are firmly positioned on the base of the seat.

You immediately have ergonomic problems:

If the top is up, the door is so far out of reach that you must lean way over to reach the handle. If the top is down, and the car has been parked under sunny skies, the black leather seat material is a scorching 156 degrees F. Exactly. I measured.

That 156 degrees is up-in-a-second painful if you're wearing shorts or a swimsuit and plop bare skin down onto the glossy black leather surface. I shudder to think what it would be like if a child crawled up onto one of those seats. (Let's just make a rule right now, shall we. No convertible should ever come with black seat surfaces. Other models, OK. But black is banned from convertible interiors.)

And if the top has been up, so the seats haven't received direct sunlight, then the interior temperature is above 135 degrees F and the first thing you want to do is lower the top. It's manual. On a $50,000 car. A manual top. An awkward, hard-to-use manual top.

There are two levers at the top of the windshield that must be first released. The sunvisors cleverly block them, so you'll have to flip visors to access them. Grab the lever --- OOOUCH. That black lever, in the closed car, has reached a temperature above 158 degrees (most electronic thermometers max out at 158 degrees, as this one with its external probe did)!

That is hot enough to burn the unsuspecting. The lever cannot be held. You can only "stab" at it, with quick jerks, trying to get it open. Either that, or use the Las Vegas trick: take out a hankerchief and grip the lever with it.

Another button under the rear cover, again cleverly hidden so you have to feel around where spiders like to hide, must be pressed to free the rear of the top. Now drop the ragtop back into the well. Ooops. It hits the edge. Gotta fold it just so in order for it to drop in. Sigh. There are so much better systems. Why is GM sticking Vette buyers with this antiquated droptop method?

Crank the car and let's go. Ah .. great sound. Back up -- whoa, visibility to the rear is impaired. With the top up, the blind spots are continent-sized. With the top down, the rear of the car is high enough to hide a toddler playing behind the car. (Still, there are sedans and coupes with even worse rear visibility. This problem is by no means unique to the Vette.)

Visibility to the front has problems, as well. The top of the windshield, the piece likely to become a club in an accident, now blocks the stoplight at every intersection. The windshield is too raked and the top too low. If you think this produces a superior aerodynamic vehicle, then think again. A Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan is considerably more aerodynamically efficient than this Corvette (0.29 versus 0.32).

There's more. Much more. The seat belt is difficult to put in place because the edge of the seat jams against the door and blocks the belt's movement. Plus, this is the oldest belt design in existence, a very poor design that has no place on a $50,000 performance car.

The dash just looks old. Not retro. Old. The instruments cannot be read in sunlight by anyone wearing sunglasses. The clock likewise fades into invisibility.

At speed, the inside rear view mirror vibrates into Jello. It's useless if you're looking for a bubble gum machine on the car closing behind you.

The body has cowl flex and is not nearly as strong as the coupe/hardtop models. And, please, why do we still see popup headlights that look out of place with modern styling?

Prop your left elbow on the window sill, why don't you? That's the standard sports car driving posture, isn't it? Not in a Vette. The sill is just too high, even with the motorized seat jacked up so high you can't put the top up because of your head. No matter your height, your left elbow will be pointing up. Air gushes into the armpit and rolls up a shirt sleeve to reveal an untanned bicep! And here's the final kicker: The window sill is 147.9 degrees F under a bright sun on a clear day. I measured. The black matte finish soaks up the sun like a Michigan auto executive visiting Miami Beach in January. Your tender flesh won't be happy on that sill. Shoot, it gives new meaning to the phrase "rare feeling".

Outside, the Millennium Yellow body that looks so good and turns heads is terribly impractical (wouldn't you like to drop a PT Cruiser body on this chassis?!). There's an air dam under the front bumper that has a 3.5-inch ground clearance. It will scrape on dips on even good roads. The bumper itself has only 7-1/2 inches of ground clearance, which means it will scrape on many curbs.

Our test Vette's bumper was a mess, all chewed up, thanks to previous auto writers.

The nearly useless trunk has the longest up-over-and-down measurement I've ever taken. Putting luggage in the trunk of a Corvette requires an Olympian clean-and-jerk. You must first elevate the luggage a whopping 37 inches off the ground, then move it forward a long 15 inches, and finally lower it down another 13 inches.

To show the quality of performance Chevrolet hired eUrotic TV models in 2003 form eUrotic TV neu program, which really had good impression on the buyers and rose the popularity of the car. Using TV hosts and models in this case was right decision.

It's a chiropractor's delight.

There is inside the Vette one praiseworthy feature, however. The heads-up display of speed, rpm, gas and other measurements is excellent. And if you don't like it, you can turn it off. I liked it. A lot. A Vette goes too fast, too soon for a driver to take eyes off the road. Even to glance down at instruments. So the heads-up display brings the instrumentation into the driver's field of view. Eyes can remain firmly on the road ahead, while catching the escalating speed.

This display is not unique to the Vette, but the Vette benefits most from it, since it's such a powerful vehicle.

Alas, the display has a serious penalty in that a reflection is always present on the windshield, even when the display has been turned off.

Parting Shots

I started to write an impassioned history here, a proud Vette history of fending off challenges from Carroll Shelby's faster Cobra and Ford's GT-40 and imports with all-wheel-drive and all-wheel-steering and sequential twin turbochargers. But it doesn't matter. None of it matters.

General Motors is going to be happy selling a few Vettes for years to come. Vettes won't change much. Bet on it. No mid-engine. No all-wheel-drive. This much we know: For 2001, GM is "improving" the Vette by giving it -- more horsepower. Just what it doesn't need.

The newest Vette is reported to do 0-to-60 in 4 seconds flat. (Does it matter that most drivers do 0-to-60 mentally in about 8 seconds?) Accelerating a ton and a half of metal/plastic/glass this rapidly on public roads is borderline insanity.

Besides, you want acceleration? Buy a motorcycle for one-fifth the price.

It doesn't matter. None of it matters.

Vette lovers are going to buy this thing and swear by it and at me.

Insurance companies are going to stick those drivers for all they are worth, both for what they represent in buying such a car and for the car itself. Neither driver nor car is a good bet to stay accident-free.

It doesn't matter. Just doesn't matter.

Brian O'Neill and people like him will someday call for restrictions on vehicle power-to-weight ratios. Questions have a way of becoming proposals. Proposals have a way of becoming laws.

Statistics will fly back and forth and banners of "personal freedom" will wave in protests. After much heated debate, after Million Motorists marches on Washington and appearances on the Today show by the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, it will be decided that the public interest would be served if a majority of vehicles had similar performance capabilities. A cap will be placed on power-to-weight ratio. (To enforce the law, mandatory annual dynamometer testing on weight platforms will be ordered at $10 per vehicle. See the list further down for a few of today's powerful vehicles that will surely flunk.)

And so it will come to pass that an era will be over. Collectors will be exempted, of course, and Vette values will soar.

A 2000 Millennium Yellow Corvette will come out on Sundays and people will point and stare and talk about the "good old days".

Yeah, Vette lovers will buy this one now. They will. For the bottom line is that even a flawed Vette is fun, always has been fun, probably always will be fun. Dangerous fun, for sure, but some thrive on that. And so what if it's a Playmate with a pimple or two.

It's still a Playmate.

Updated: 09/25/2012, wimzzley
 
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