Corvette 427: Chevy's priciest convertible ever is a steal

There are several reasons the 2013 Chevy Corvette

There are several reasons the 2013 Chevy Corvette 427 can't technically be called a Z06 convertible. For example, it doesn't use the Z06's aluminum frame rails. Instead, think of the 427 as a Grand Sport convertible with a better engine. Along for the ride are the Z06's 14-inch front brakes and 13.4-inch rear discs. (Credit: General Motors)

Chevrolet takes the wraps off the next-generation Corvette at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Mich., on Jan. 13. But this General Motors division is wrapping up the outgoing 'Vette in grand fashion with the 427 Convertible Collector Edition.

Whether the 427 actually achieves collector-car status is really up to buyers and, likely, two or three decades of time, but this Corvette will be much sought-after for being the most powerful production roadster to wear the crossed-flags logo.

These days, the Corvette, Chevy Camaro and other iconic marques pay homage to their storied pasts by providing thoroughly modern content. The 427 owes its name to the last of the so-called second-generation C2 Corvettes (1963-'67) that were available with 427 cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8s and up to 435 horsepower.

Chevrolet reintroduced that particular engine displacement for the 2006 model year in the Corvette Z06. It continues to produce 505 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque and has until now been available strictly in coupes. For the Corvette's diamond anniversary, the LS7 and its accompanying rear-mounted six-speed manual gearbox can be had for the first and last time in the current (C6) convertible body style.

The LS7 is remarkable not only for its prodigious output, but for how it achieves its potency. The engine is hand-assembled at GM's Wixom, Mich., Performance Build Center and uses special cylinder heads, intake valves, titanium connecting rods and other key ingredients originally developed in conjunction with the Corvette road-racing program. It has largest displacement of any Corvette engine, but not the most power. The ZR1 gets that honor, but with a 6.2-liter V8 topped with a supercharger.

The 7.0/427 also features dry-sump lubrication - essentially an external oil reservoir - that keeps oil flowing even during high cornering and braking loads.

The exhaust gasses exit through dual-stage mufflers that open up more when you tromp the gas. The system is optional on base Corvettes.

Chevrolet claims the 3,355-pound Corvette 427 can streak to 60 mph from zero in 3.8 seconds and is capable of a top speed somewhere north of 190 mph. It can also achieve up to 1.04 g's in lateral acceleration, assisted by a set of Michelin PS2 tires mounted on ZR1-sized 19x10-inch alloy wheels in front and 20x12s at the rear. These performance numbers would be impressive on nearly any high-performance machine you can think of, at any price.

To maximize ride and handling, the 427 comes with Magnetic Selective Ride Control. The system includes special shock dampers that adjust their settings up to 1,000 times per second, according to road conditions and driver input. In this regard, the 427 might be better than the Z06 since magnetic ride is not available in that model. The 427 also includes the Z06's larger brakes.

Outwardly, the 427 gets numerous design cues borrowed from the Z06, such as wider front carbon-fiber fenders. Out back are the Z06's wider fenders (three inches wider overall) and the supercharged ZR1's spoiler.

The first of three 427 trim levels carries a full load of standard equipment, including keyless push-button start, premium Bose audio system and voice-controlled navigation. Optional are heated leather-covered seats, power-adjustable steering column and a power-folding top.

Various option packages add fancier machine-faced wheels, carbon fiber front spoiler, hood and rocker panels, and 60th anniversary branding displayed all over the vehicle.

But easily the most intriguing option is the Engine Build Experience. For $5,800 you get to assemble your very own 427 engine right on the shop floor, with Chevrolet's engine-building pros looking over your shoulder, of course.

At a $77,750 starting price, the 427 is the most expensive convertible that Chevrolet has ever constructed, but it's a steal of a deal compared with more outrageously priced, extra-quick hardware. It also proves that Corvette ranks as one of the world's quickest and most capable of sports cars.

It's hard to imagine how the all-new 2014 version will move the needle, but we can't wait to find out.

What you should know: 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427
Type: Two-door, rear-wheel-drive convertible
Engine (hp): 7.0-liter OHV V8 (505)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Market position: The 60 year-old Corvette brand has remained successful and earned its iconic status through a combination of great original styling. exciting performance and a price that's far less exorbitant than its rivals.
Points: Final-year C6 Corvette goes out in style with 427 roadster; Hard to believe the engine is eight years old; Six-speed gearbox the only way to fly, but will there be a twin-clutch automated manual in the Vette's future?; Who wouldn't want the build-your-own-engine option; Pound for pound, one of the best sports car deals to be found anywhere.
Safety Front airbags; side-impact airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 15/24;
Base price (incl. destination) $77,750

BY COMPARISON 

Jaguar XKR convertible
Base price: $104,400
If a 510-hp Jag isn't enough, opt for the 550-hp XKR-S for $34,500 more.

Mercedes-Benz SL-class
Base price: $105,800
New-for-2013 cruiser can be had with optional 518-hp V8 in AMG 63 model.

Ford GT 500 convertible
Base price: $60,000
How does 150 more horsepower sound along with two more seats? 

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