The 2005 Corvette coupe and convertible were quickly hailed as the best Corvettes ever, yet they somehow weren't new enough to satisfy a few critics. Indeed, Car and Driver first described the C6 as a "C5 and 11/16ths ... Like the '68 Vette, the 2005 is a profound evolution of the existing car. It's one long stride on the road of continual improvement."

The 2005 Corvette Z06 was unveiled in January 2005.
The 2005 Corvette Z06 was unveiled in
January 2005 at Detroit's North
American International Auto Show, but
didn't hit the streets until the '06 model
year. See more pictures of Corvettes.

Significantly, the C6 is t­he first Corvette developed in tandem with another GM car, the Cadillac XLR, a suave two-seat retractable-hardtop convertible launched for 2004. The Cadillac was given priority because it would launch first and would stand as a symbol of an emerging renaissance for GM's luxury brand. Only after the XLR was finished could the Corvette team turn full attention to C6 work, which was under way in earnest by mid-2000 -- yet another reason why the C6 could not be totally new in concept.

It is, however, very new in content -- 85 percent by weight. Much of that newness stems from having XLR in the mix. Chief among the XLR influences were the fit and finish of the composite-plastic exterior body panels; powertrain and road-noise isolation; and interior design, materials, and assembly.

From the beginning, the design team accepted widespread criticism that the C5 was a bit large for a high-power sports car. Shedding bulk would shed pounds to the benefit of performance, but would also make the Corvette easier to live with in crowded urban conditions -- an important consideration for Europe, where GM wanted to boost Corvette sales.

Complicating matters was the desire for improved aerodynamics, which had great implications for a new C6.R racer. So did a decision made early on to abandon pop-up headlamps for Corvette's first exposed beams since 1962. Besides reducing drag the fixed lamps took weight off the front, punctuated the new C6 face, and lowered cost and complexity. The team's aero target, a 0.28 drag coefficient, was met, yielding a small but important 0.01 Cd improvement over the production C5.

Beyond competition needs, C6 styling was influenced by the C2 Sting Ray, which can be seen in the wheel orientation, body shape, and canopy cockpit. Another styling influence was aircraft, especially the YF-22 jet fighter, which can be seen in the more pointed rear profile.

The C6 has plenty of other details to appreciate. Rear decks, for example, gain a "boattail" character line swept neatly back from the belt, a touch of the split-window Sting Ray coupe. Corvette's trademark four taillamps were almost perfectly round again, and nestled in a more-sculpted back panel that's still rather wide yet contrives to look lighter. Bodysides gained visual interest from a deft blend of creases and curves, especially around the indented "coves." And the "double-bubble" contouring of the coupe's lift-off roof panel was slightly more pronounced.

The C6 measures 5.1 inches shorter and an inch narrower than the C5, but is 1.2 inches longer in wheelbase at 106. That wheelbase was dictated by packaging requirements for the Cadillac XLR, but it added to the Corvette's purposeful new "wheels at the corners" stance. Helping the cause, the wheels themselves were larger, growing an inch at each end to 18 front and 19 rear. The one downside to the downsizing was slightly less cargo space: 22 cubic feet for coupes (previously 24.8), and 10.5 max for convertibles (vs. 13.9).

This clay model for the 2005 Corvette dashboard showed the C6 would use the dual-cowl design.
This clay model for the 2005 Corvette dashboard showed that the C6 would use
the dual-cowl design that had become a Corvette trademark.

Matching the more-sophisticated exterior was an all-new cockpit. The most obvious change was the dashboard. It was laid out like the C5's, but the sculpted "twin cowl" theme gave way to a clean, vertical, passenger-side panel with newly hidden airbag door. New seats offered longer cushions and more prominent side bolsters. A sprinkling of aluminum and metal-look accents provided a tasteful touch of modern "hi tech." Gauges looked much the same, but audio and climate panels had fewer buttons and clearer markings. The center stack can also house a navigation system, available for $1,400 as a first-time Corvette option. A reworked console provided proper twin cupholders beneath a sliding cover and a larger armrest/storage bin. Designers also found space for small but useful door map pockets. The doors themselves gained electric latches with pushbutton interior releases and exterior press pads; a mechanical release outboard of each seat let passengers escape in case of power failure. The ignition key was replaced by a large engine-start rocker switch, part of a standard keyless entry system with pocket transmitter, another "gift" from XLR.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

2006 Corvette
2007 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

  • Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
  • Corvette Specifications: Get key specifications, engine and transmission types, prices, and production totals.
  • Corvette Museum: The National Corvette Museum draws Corvette lovers from all over the world. Learn more about the museum.
  • Corvette Pictures: Find pictures of the hottest classic and current-year Corvettes.
  • Muscle Cars: Get information on more than 100 tough-guy rides.
  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.