Pepperell, MA--ZOOOOOOOOM!!! The word sums up my week-long romp in a 1998 Corvette Convertible. After driving a Vette for the very first time at the fifth-generation introduction in Bowling Green, the car was in my dreams for weeks. This year, I was thrilled to get the new convertible version for a whole week. Now the car is in my wife's dreams. I've since promised to buy a used one in five or ten years.
Like the 1998 model, the suspension's geometry decouples ride from handling. The independent SLA suspension is stiff laterally for high-performance handling, and soft vertically for a comfortable ride. And the 5.7(liter) V8 SFI engine puts out the same 345 hp at 5,600 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm.
The convertible top is simple to operate, thanks to a "pressurized 5-bow" design concept. The rearmost roof bow (which contacts the body) is pre-stressed to seal out the elements with minimal operator effort, and without the latch pins of its predecessor. I had the top down in a minute on the first try. Its operation is smooth and easy. But putting the top back up took me two tries to get it right.
It can't be easy to design a usable trunk into a two-seat convertible, but that's exactly what Corvette engineers have done. In fact, the trunk offers twice the space of the 1996 Corvette Convertible with the top up, and four times that of the 1996 with the top down. As a practical feature, this is the first Corvette roadster to offer a trunk since 1962.
In my opinion, the 1998 Corvette Convertible offers the best value for an all-round sports car. Although Corvette's roof has taken many forms over the years, only the convertible top can be traced to the origins of the legendary icon--when the very first Corvette to roll off of the assembly line in Flint, MI, in June 1953, had its top down.