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Price: $54,950
Major equipment: 6.2L LS3 V8, 6-speed manual transmission, dual-mode performance exhaust, 5-spoke forged chrome aluminum wheels, transparent removable roof panel

In the fleet: 12/04/2008 – 12/11/2008

Approximate mileage driven: 285

Z. DUBE: The sixth-generation Corvette has been a personal favorite of mine since its launch in 2005. We’ve driven several iterations of the C6 Corvette since then, but the 2009 model is the best yet. Even in base trim, the 2009 Corvette will still hold its own with the best that the Germans and Italians have to offer, and for a fraction of the price. At a price as-tested of $54,950, the Corvette Coupe offers Porsche 911 performance for just a tick more than a base Porsche Cayman S — and that makes it simply the best performance value on the road today.

Our original plans for this particular Corvette tester included a day out at the track to really see how well it performs on the track; however Mother Nature had other plans for me. There’s a saying in Houston: “If you don’t like our weather, wait a few hours and it will change.” When we took delivery of our tester, it was a beautiful 74 degrees outside. I enjoyed taking the removable roof panel off and cruising home in absolute bliss. A few hours later though, the skies had opened up and the temperature had dropped to the mid-30s. The weather remained this way for the rest of the week, with Mother Nature throwing in some snow and freezing rain into the mix for good measure, pretty much eliminating any chances I had of getting the Corvette to the track.

All was not lost though, as I got to enjoy the Corvette the way most Corvette owners do. That is, on the road doing daily driver duty. Even with rain, sleet and snow, the Corvette was an absolute pleasure to drive. One of the best things about the Corvette is how easily anyone can get into the car and drive it like they would any other car. There is no high-horsepower learning curve here, as the Corvette can be driven around town as easily as your average family sedan. Even the pouring rain the Corvette tracked true and never once felt unstable, even at slightly higher than legal speeds. The six-speed manual in the Corvette is actually easier to manage in daily traffic situations than the six-speed in my old Audi A4 was, making commuting in stop-and-go traffic less of a chore. In mixed driving conditions, the Corvette averaged a very respectable 23 mpg.

The Vette’s interior isn’t exactly class leading, particularly without the pimped-out leather-dash option introduced last year. Still, the seats are still extremely comfortable to sit in for hours on end. Gauges are large and easy to read, and both HVAC and radio controls are extremely simple to use. The cabin does tend to get a bit loud at times, due in part to wind noise and the roar from the Goodyear Eagle tires.

Our test vehicle did not come equipped with the optional Navigation system, and I actually prefer it that way. The available navigation system is expensive, cumbersome and mediocre compared to other in-car navigation systems. If you are considering a Corvette, do yourself a favor: pick up a $200 Tom Tom that does the job far better than the $2000 factory system. Though the Corvette loses practicality points for being a two-seater, the rear hatch is still big enough to swallow a good amount of cargo. At 22 cubic feet, the Corvette’s hatch was large enough for me to fit a Dyson vacuum cleaner box, with room to spare for the rest of my Christmas goodies. I’ve been a ‘Vette fan for a long time; this is a car I’d be happy to own. Mine would be pretty much the same as our tester, with the addition of Z51 for those rare non-snowy Texas afternoons. Make it Atomic Orange, of course!

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Yes, sometimes it snows and ices over in Texas.

J. BARUTH: Sorry to burst your bubble, Z, but you can’t touch a Cayman S for $55K. They start at $59,900 and the new 2010 model won’t be any cheaper. Still, my sixty-thousand-dollar sports-car adventure starts and ends at the Porsche dealership. Four or five times in my life I’ve gone to a Chevrolet dealership intending to buy a Corvette, citing the outstanding Internet-numerical performance, ripping V8 power, and the simple coolness of owning a ‘Vette in America. I’m a big Corvette fan. I attended the regional Corvette show every year as a kid, and I’ve been to Bowling Green. And yet every time I decide to buy a pointy plastic-mobile, I end up with another Porsche or Audi in my garage.

What’s my problem? Only this: a base Corvette is faster on-track than any Porsche short of a 911 Carrera S — at least until the brakes run out — but the Porsche is more satisfying for the other 99% percent of the ownership experience. Even on the proverbial closed course inhabited by professional drivers, the Porsches provide better feedback and more tossability. The fact is that the Corvette has offered more speed for less money than the equivalent Porsche since… well, since Zora put the V8 in the car back in the late Fifties. And people still buy the Porkers. There’s a reason. But there are also plenty of reasons to buy the Corvette. It’s a world-class car and it just keeps getting better.

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Zerin Dube

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