The 1997 Corvette C5's chassis design and powertrain layout were astute responses to the customers' call for friendly handling, roominess, and solidity. Relocating the transmission to the rear axle created a near-ideal 51/49 percent weight distribution for better-balanced road manners. It also eliminated bulk behind the engine, so footwells were no longer toe-pinching tunnels; the driver's side was even wide enough to accommodate a proper dead pedal.
Automotive writers and buyers alike
judged the 1997 Corvette C5 the first
Corvette that could truly
be called a "world-beater."
of 28 welded pieces like the C4's, the new model's frame rails were seamless
one-piece steel tubes that had been "inflated" into shape by
hydraulic pressure. They defined a new perimeter-frame chassis that was vastly
stronger than any previous Corvette structure. Tying it together was a chassis
floor of composite plastic sheets sandwiching Ecuadorian balsa wood. Balsa proved
lighter than synthetic fillers and better at absorbing noise and vibration.
Mounting the fuel tank ahead of the rear axle instead of behind it enhanced the
car's weight balance and cargo room.
The rear suspension was now a true short/long-arm double-wishbone design with geometry and bushings tuned for optimal ride and handling. Rear driveline componentry, meanwhile, was segregated from the structure. Transverse plastic leaf springs returned but, thanks to the stiffer structure, had lower spring rates for a softer ride. There were two suspension options: the autocross-ready (but tooth-rattling) Z51; and the high-tech F45 Selective Real Time Damping system that allowed driver-selectable "Tour," "Sport," and "Performance" modes.
and offering good road feel, GM's second-generation electro-magnetic
variable-assist steering automatically increased wheel effort as the car's
speed increased. The brakes featured vented discs and aluminum calipers as
before, but were treated to thicker rotors, and, since the ABS was integrated
with the aforementioned traction-control system, the pedal no longer pulsed to
signal antilock activation.
The ability of new Goodyear Eagle F1 GS Extended Mobility Tires to run airless for 200 miles convinced Chevy to eliminate the spare tire and jack altogether, which was another boon to reduced curb weight and increased cargo space. Inflation levels were monitored constantly and could be called up on an instrument-panel display. Wheel diameter was again 17 inches in front but grew to 18 in back. At 245/45ZR-17 and 275/40ZR-18, respectively, the unidirectional all-season tires were slightly narrower than the 1996 model's base tires and didn't nibble and trammel nearly as much, which made for outstanding directional stability.
The car came packed with the same complement of comfort and convenience features as before, including a removable body color roof panel (a blue-tint panel could be substituted for $650 while dual panels remained available for $950), power accessories, the proximity based keyless-entry system, a Bose audio system with an AM/FM/cassette head unit by Delco, and leather seats. All this came in at an introductory price of $37,945, just $720 more than the 1996 coupe.
offered options included electronic dual-zone air conditioning for $365, a $600
remote 12-disc changer, and a $150 Memory Package that recalled the driver's
settings for the outside mirrors, radio, climate-control system, and power
automotive press was enthusiastic about the C5, comparing its performance
favorably to exotic Ferraris and Porsches that were priced on a par with new homes.
This was clearly a Corvette that satisfied both the emotions and the intellect,
a car without excuses. Reviewers agreed that this was the quickest and most
agile Corvette ever, yet they praised it for being the most-civilized
iteration, as well.
The 1997 Corvette C5 boasted swoopier styling than the C4, Detroit's lowest
air-drag factor, and the longest wheelbase in Corvette history at 104.5 inches.
While the C4 was routinely slammed for its omnipresent squeaks, rattles, vibrations, and all-pervasive lack of sophistication, the C5 was credited for its newfound rigidity, feeling of precision, and overall quality. The new Corvette earned high marks for departing from the age-old philosophy that held that a car needed to trade off ride quality to achieve better handling; this car, they felt, offered both attributes in ample amounts. Seat comfort was lauded as much as the car's ride comfort, and the much-improved instrumentation, interior ergonomics, and outward visibility were welcome changes, said the scribes.
Minor criticisms involved poor side-window seals, unwelcome air currents
with the removable top off, and a tendency for the vehicle's low-slung nose to
scrape dips, driveways, and parking-lot barriers.
Total sales for the foreshortened and production-constrained 1997 model year accounted for a mere 9,752 units. Even so, the new Corvette was selling briskly for the first time in more than a decade.
Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:
|1997 Corvette||1998 Corvette ||1999 Corvette |
|2000 Corvette ||2001 Corvette ||2002 Corvette|
|2003 Corvette||2004 Corvette|
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