2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport first drive review

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The Corvette is the king of American sports cars, but which one reigns supreme? If smashmouth acceleration and take-no-prisoners grip are your thing, the only Corvette on the menu is the Z06. Check, please.

If you favor a subtler approach--maybe just a roundhouse to the jaw, with a donkey-kick chaser--there's this: the 2017 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport, a new middle entry in the Corvette family, a car blessed with the Z06's handling bits and paired with the Stingray's naturally aspirated V-8.

Call it a parts-bin special if you want, but that's like equating the French Laundry's mother sauces with the stuff at the Olive Garden. Yes, the Grand Sport picks off the plates of other 'Vettes liberally, but its brute-force V-8 and handling hardware still are car caviar.

The Grand Sport takes what Chevy calls a "purist" approach, a third way between grand-touring Corvette Stingrays and supercar-taunting Z06s. It's a track-day special, for days when handling is a slightly higher priority than scorching the straights.

A blazing 95-degree day's drive at Atlanta Motorsports Park confirmed all that. A 1.8-mile loop body-modified on the north Georgia mountains, AMP is a tight greatest-hits mashup of Spa and the 'Ring.

A dozen laps at AMP gave plenty of proof that, if it really does exist, a purported mid-engine Corvette just might be an expensive folly.

MORE: Spies nab the mid-engine Corvette

It's only the third in the entire Corvette lifespan, but we'll lay down money that this Grand Sport will one day be the most popular.

A short run through the record books: Grand Sport 1.0 was Zora Arkus-Duntov's idea. He wanted to race the Corvette at Le Mans, but only five cars escaped into the wild before the project was shut down.

The next Grand Sport was the 1996 car, a single model year send-off for the C4 that numbered just 1,000 units.

The latest Grand Sport came in 2010, with the Z06's wide track and other shared hardware. It was the top-selling Corvette for a few years, with the asterisk of arriving right after the Great Recession and GM's bankruptcy.

The 2017 Grand Sport returns as part of a trio. Now there are essentially three Corvettes, each with a performance upgrade package. The base Stingray is the grand-touring model, and an astonishing sports-car bargain. It's also a little crowded by GM's own excellent Camaro SS. Adding Z51 hardware takes care of that overlap.

The groundshaking Z06 and its performance package? They're knocking at the doors of the supercar world, and we hardly need to tell you why.

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