HomeCar Reviews2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 Convertible Review

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 Convertible Review

Chevrolet Corvette Z51 Convertible Open driving experience and performance

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Corvettes have always been about open motoring. The first generation was convertible only, and every generation since has offered a top-down version. The mid-engine C8 is no exception.

But while previous Corvette convertibles offered a complete top-down experience, the C8 convertible offers only about a third more openness than the targa with its carbon-fiber roof panel removed. The convertible’s major difference from the coupe is that it eliminates the permanent section of the roof that spans the C-pillars. The convertible also does away with the sloping backlight that offers a view of the LT2 engine, instead turning the C-pillars into flying buttresses. In the process, the one-piece cover for the engine and trunk is split into separate lids.

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The changes don’t detract at all from the C8’s looks, and Chevrolet even claims that the drag coefficient is unchanged. As on the C7 convertible, you can access the sunshine at the push of a button rather than by having to undo three latches and physically remove the roof panel. The top disappears in about 16 seconds and can be lowered at speeds up to 30 mph, thanks to six electric motors that open the rear-hinged engine cover and retract the two-piece roof into a neat, nested bundle that stows just behind the cockpit.

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This is the first Corvette with a retractable hardtop, and that makes for a convertible that’s every bit as quiet (73 decibels at 70 mph) and weathertight as the coupe when the top is closed. The push-button operation makes the convertible painless to use, even for short trips. And the up-to-30-mph operation means you can raise and lower the top while waiting at a stoplight without worrying if the light will change with the top in mid-cycle and force you to hold up traffic.

HIGHS: Easy on-the-fly operation, quiet and weathertight when top is raised, the usual great C8 combination of performance and everyday drivability.

The convertible also comes with a power rear window that drops about eight inches but doesn’t fully retract. In combination with the side windows, you can adjust the amount of airflow when the top is down, though the cockpit is admirably non-frenetic under most conditions.

The convertible mechanism and changes are said to add 101 pounds of weight. We measured this Z51 convertible at 3747 pounds, which compares to between 3647 and 3665 for three Z51 coupes we’ve tested. As you’d expect, that difference didn’t degrade performance much, with the drop-top losing a tenth or two in most acceleration times—we measured 3.0 seconds to 60 and 11.4 through the quarter-mile at 120 mph. It also drops 0.02 g in cornering and a few feet in braking. Nothing you’d notice on the street.

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What hasn’t changed is the C8’s fine combination of refinement and performance, even though the convertible has its own suspension calibrations. Driven calmly on back roads, the ride is excellent, engine noise is moderate, and the car is a pleasant cruiser, top up or down. The twin-clutch transmission shifts so smoothly that you only notice the shifts if you focus on the engine note or the tachometer.

Put your foot in it, however, and the gearbox shifts down several gears, the performance exhaust’s valves open, the small-block V-8 roars, and the car moves out. With the mid-engine layout, the wide rear tires have plenty of traction, and the car rockets forward without even the hint of fishtailing.

Bend the C8 hard into a corner and the nose cuts immediately, followed by plenty of confidence-inspiring grip. You’re unlikely to explore its cornering limit of 1.01 g’s on a public road. But you will appreciate the accurate steering with its natural feel, the solid and linear brake response, and the instantaneous and powerful thrust offered by the powertrain.

As an everyday driver, there are some quirks. While the configurable instrument cluster provides an interesting mix of layouts that are easy to select, the square steering wheel makes little sense. The flat top blocks the view of the instruments, and the flat bottom isn’t needed for thigh clearance. The infotainment system works well, but the sloping wall of HVAC switches separating the driver and passenger seems contrived, even if it isn’t as isolating as it appears to be. Between the frunk and the trunk, you can probably fit at least three carry-on bags and some other smaller items.

Compared with its arch-nemesis, the Porsche 911, the Corvette’s performance is a touch quicker off the line—likely due to its more-than-twice-as-large, naturally aspirated engine—but otherwise very similar to a base 911 Carrera’s. Cornering grip and braking performance are slightly worse, though still stellar. And control feel is very comparable.

LOWS: Less open than most convertibles, engine no longer on display, good value but no bargain at $100K.

The overall experience, however, is much more extroverted in the Corvette. The C8 has more—perhaps too much—visual presence. When pushed, it produces louder, and more raucous, sounds. And the punch in the back it delivers seems more instantaneous. The Corvette tends to bring out the animal in the driver more than a 911. Which you prefer is a matter of personal taste.

As always, you pay more for the equivalent Porsche, though Chevrolet has been jacking up Corvette prices substantially over the past few years. When the C8 appeared in dealerships two years ago, the base price of a coupe was $59,995. That has inflated to $65,895 for 2023. The convertible version costs $7500 more, and the 3LT package adds another $11,450, bringing the base price of this tested convertible to $84,845.

Then there’s the $6345 Z51 performance package, $2595 for the front lift system, $1995 for bright machine-face forged wheels, $1895 for the MagneRide dampers and performance traction management, plus a few cosmetic odds and ends, and presto, you have a six-figure Corvette—$ 100,060 to be exact.

Of course, a Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet starts at $120,350 ($12,800 more than the coupe) with an options list that dwarfs the Corvette’s, so the C8 remains a relative bargain. At these price levels, the $7500 hit for the convertible is hardly prohibitive. With so many pleasant fall and spring days, as well as summer nights, across most of the country, it’s the way we would go.


2023 Chevrolet Corvette 3LT Convertible
Vehicle Type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible

Base/As Tested: $84,845/$100,060
Options: Z51 performance package – performance suspension, Brembo performance brakes, electronic limited slip differential, performance rear axle ratio, high-performance run-flat tires, low rear spoiler, HD cooling, performance exhaust; $6345; front suspension lift w/memory, $2595; 20-spoke bright machine-face forged aluminum wheels, $1995; Z51 magnetorheological dampers and performance traction management, $1895; Carbon flash-painted nacelles and roof, $1295; Edge-Red painted brake calipers, $695, black exhaust tips, $395

pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 376 in3, 6162 cm3
Power: 495 hp @ 6450 rpm
Torque: 470 lb-ft @ 5150 rpm

8-speed dual-clutch automatic

Suspension, F/R: control arms/control arms
Brakes, F/R: 13.6-in vented disc/13.8-in vented disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ZP
F: 245/35ZR-19 (89Y) TPC Spec 3120
R: 305/30ZR-20 (99Y) TPC Spec 3121

Wheelbase: 107.2 in
Length: 182.3 in
Width: 76.1 in
Height: 48.6 in
Passenger Volume: 51 ft3
Cargo Volume: 13 ft3
Curb Weight: 3747 lb

60 mph: 3.0 sec
100 mph: 7.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 11.4 sec @ 120 mph
130 mph: 13.9 sec
150 mph: 20.5 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.2 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 3.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 1.9 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.6 sec
Top Speed (mfr’s claim): 184 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 154 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 313 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.01 g

75-mph Highway Driving: 24 mpg
75-mph Highway Range: 440 mi

Combined/City/Highway: 19/16/24 mpg

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