C5 Corvette Overview: The 5th Generation Corvette That Ran From 1997-2004

C5 Corvette Overview

1997 C5 Corvette Instrument Panel
1997 C5 Corvette Instrument Panel

Are you thinking about getting a C5 Corvette?

The 5th generation Corvette pushed the entire Corvette brand into the 21st century. With modern technology, a redesigned powertrain, and an active handling system, Chevrolet went all out to create one of the most impressive American sports cars at the time.

While the C5 was incredibly impressive on the road, it was also a fairly economical car for its segment. This was emphasized by its surprising EPA rating of 18 miles to the gallon, which left much of the competition scratching their heads.

Want to learn more about the C5 Corvette? You’re in the right place.

A 5.7-Liter V8 Powertrain

1997 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
1997 Corvette Coupe

The C5 Corvette was powered by an all-new powertrain by Chevrolet. Despite small cosmetic changes in 1998, 2003, and 2004, the entire C5 installation of the Corvette came in two distinct powertrain platforms. This was the initial 5.7L LS1 V8 and then an upgraded 5.7L LS6 V8 that was released with the C5 from 2001 to 2004.

The initial powertrain managed to output around 345 HP, while the upgraded LS6 model extended its performance to around 385 HP. The Z06 model maxed out at around 405 HP and could accelerate from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds flat.

C5 Corvette Engines

  • 5.7 L LS1 V8
  • 5.7 L LS6 V8 (Z06: 2001–04)

Manual and Automatic Transmission

The C5 came with both a manual and automatic transmission variant. While the automatic gearbox was not yet perfected, this was the same system that formed the base for the C7 transmission. The automatic gearbox was a full 4-speed transmission and did not come in the same 4+3 configuration as the C4.

This option was brilliantly received by car fans around the country, as the manual transmission was slowly being phased out of high-performance cars. While automatic cars were slightly out-performing manual cars, there is just something about the control and feel of a manual gearbox that car lovers around the world adored.

C5 Corvette Transmissions

  • 6-speed manual T-56
  • 4-speed automatic 4L60E

C5 Exhaust System

On the new C5 Corvette, the dual pipes with dual converters continued and a crossover was factory installed. The mufflers are mounted laterally behind the transaxle.

Pipes in the Corvette are 2.5-inches in diameter, with the exception of the Z06 which has 3.0-inch titanium pipes and less weight, by nearly 50%.

The fifth generation Corvette started with the 1997 model year.  The C5 offered a larger amount of trunk space, now large enough for two golf bags.  They moved the transmission to the rear.  The rear on the C5 was raised for better aerodynamics. The new Corvette also featured better technology like the head-up display and run-flat tires on all models, making it the best Corvette to date.
The fifth-generation Corvette started with the 1997 model year.  The C5 offered a larger amount of trunk space, now large enough for two golf bags.  They moved the transmission to the rear.  The rear of the C5 was raised for better aerodynamics. The new Corvette also featured better technology like the head-up display and run-flat tires on all models, making it the best Corvette to date.

50/50 Weight Distribution

The C5 Corvette was designed from the ground up with handling in mind. Chevrolet opted to reposition much of the powertrain to create a rear-mounted transaxle assembly. While this may be incredibly technical, what it meant was that the C5 Corvette had an impressive 50/50 front and rear weight distribution.

This enabled drivers to take a lot more speed into every corner and gave them the confidence to push the car to its limits. While this kind of engineering isn’t as flashy as adding extra cylinders and driving up the listed horsepower, it’s still an incredibly influential and important aspect of C5 development.

Dimensions:

  • Wheelbase – 104.5 in (2,654 mm)
  • Length – 179.7 in (4,564 mm)
  • Width – 73.6 in (1,869 mm)
  • Height Coupe/Hardtop – 47.7 in (1,212 mm)
  • Height – Convertible 47.8 in (1,214 mm)

Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension

When the C5 Corvette was released in the late 90s, it came standard with RPO FE1 suspension. This was the standard sport suspension across all of Chevrolet’s high-performance cars. However, as time went by, Chevrolet offered upgraded suspension options with their new C5 models.

These options included the FE3 Sport Suspension, which was included in the Z51 Performance and Handling Package, and the F45 Selected Ride Control Suspension. These two options offered distinctly different drives but were designed to provide a stiffer feel to the overall sports car.

Later in the C5’s production run, Chevrolet introduced the F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension System. This implemented new suspension technology to the Corvette and was stiffer than any other sports suspension available at the time.

This suspension was unique to the Z06 model of the Corvette and included independent double wishbones with transverse mono-leaf springs. While this may have been a subtle upgrade, it managed to bring the C5 to the level of the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage and even the Ferrari 355.

Convertible C5 Corvette

1998 Corvette Convertible
1998 Corvette Convertible
1998 Corvette Convertible
1998 Corvette Convertible

The C5 Corvette came in a few different variants as well. The C5 initially launched with a two-door coupe in 1997 and followed that up with the two-door convertible in 1998. This was not much of a surprise, as the convertible model was announced at the same time as the C5.

In 1999, Chevrolet started production of a hardtop version of the C5 Corvette. This hardtop version of the C5 was commonly referred to as the “fixed-roof coupe” and replaced the Targa model of the C4.

Although many Chevrolet Corvette fans loved the Targa model and wanted the C5 to come in one, Chevrolet decided against it due to poor sales. The hardtop model did have a similar design and came with the same amount of trunk space as the convertible model.

C5 Corvette Body style
  • 2-door coupé (1997–2004)
  • 2-door convertible (1998–2004)
  • 2-door hardtop (1999–2004)

Drive-By-Wire Throttle

The C5 was the first Chevrolet to introduce a drive-by-wire throttle. This technology was initially created for the aviation industry but refers to the use of electromechanical systems to perform various vehicle functions.

This replaced the fully mechanical systems found in Chevrolet’s previous Corvettes with a more responsive and reliable electro-mechanical system. One of the main reasons for this was because of the insane amounts of weight savings these systems offered.

The electronic throttle system did not need as many heavy moving parts to be added to the car and thus reduced the C5’s overall weight.

Lightweight Design

The 5th generation Corvette was also one of the lightest models ever made. While Chevrolet was able to save a lot of weight by implementing new technologies such as a drive-by-wire throttle system, the car also didn’t come with a spare wheel.

Instead, Chevrolet opted to fit the C5 Corvette with run-flat tires. These tires were specifically designed to be able to run even when they were flat. This saw the C5 weigh around 3,000 to 3,250 pounds.

The heaviest of these models is the convertible model due to the adjusted frame needed to support the convertible roof. To put these numbers into perspective, the C4 model was around 100 pounds heavier than the standard C5 Corvette.

C5 Corvette Curb Weight
  • Curb weight Coupe – 1,472 kg (3,245 lb)
  • Curb weight Convertible – 1,473 kg (3,247 lb)
  • Curb weight Hardtop – 1,439 kg (3,172 lb)

Classic Pop-Up Headlights

By far one of the most iconic aspects of the C5 Corvette was its pop-up headlights. These headlights made use of the same system found in the convertible roof and popped up the headlights at night.

Introduced at the 1935 New York Auto Show on the Cord 810, these headlights quickly became a sensation with almost all major manufacturers including them in their cars over the years. The most notable names to feature pop-up headlights include the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, and even Lotus.

Digital Heads-Up Display

The most popular feature of the C4 Corvette was its modern, digital gauge cluster. While this aimed to be incredibly modern and futuristic, it was confusing and didn’t age well with C4 owners.

With the C5, Chevrolet went in a different direction. Instead of trying to recreate the digital gauge cluster, they implemented a heads-up display into their new model. Despite this technology being around at the time, it was still fairly new to American sports cars and enabled the driver to see vital information without taking their eyes off the road.

In regard to the gauge cluster, Chevrolet went back to traditional dials for a classic and simple look. However, the C5 did come with extra gauges on the sides of the dash for a sportier look.

Luxury Interior Design

Despite being an all-out sports car, the C5 Corvette did not hold back in the interior department. The car was full of plush leather and had minimal amounts of plastic throughout the cabin.

The C5 Corvette even included a fully leather dashboard and a leather-wrapped gear shift and handbrake. This showcased Chevrolet’s attempt at creating a sports car that could rival the likes of Aston Martin and other popular exotic cars.

5th Generation Corvette Fuel Economy

One of the most surprising ways that the C5 managed to edge the competition was in fuel economy. While many may not pay much attention to fuel economy in sports cars, the C5 managed to put out such impressive numbers that people considered using the car as their daily driver.

The C5 Corvette managed 18 mpg in the city and up to 25 mpg on the highway. While this is impressive, many C5 owners have stated that they can get well over 30 mpg on the highway.

Although these figures aren’t great when compared to today’s standard, they are still incredibly impressive for a classic car. This is significant because many car lovers choose not to buy classic cars for this exact reason.

50th Anniversary Edition

2002 Corvette Pace Car
2002 Corvette Pace Car

A slightly upgraded version of the C5 Corvette was chosen as a pace car for the Indianapolis 500 race in May 2002. This then led to the development of a special Anniversary Edition of the Corvette to be offered to the public in 2003.

This model came in a special shade of red paint and a classic two-tone leather interior. It was available in both a coupe and convertible configuration.

C5 Corvette Special Editions

  • Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica
  • 50th Anniversary Edition
  • 24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition

C5 Corvette: Bringing the Corvette into The Modern Age

The 5th generation Corvette took the Corvette platform to a whole new level.

While the C4 model was distinctly impressive and futuristic, the C5 Corvette brought the entire brand to the 21st century. From active suspension to a drive-by-wire throttle and modern heads-up display, the C5 feels more like a modern sports car than a classic.

1998 Corvette Pace Car
1998 Corvette Pace Car
2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
2002 C5 Electron Blue Chevrolet Corvette
2002 C5 Electron Blue Chevrolet Corvette
2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Commemorative Edition © General Motors
2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Commemorative Edition © General Motors
2004 Chevrolet Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.
2004 Chevrolet Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.

Five features about the C5 that make it great:

  • Hydroformed Frame Rails
  • Pop-up headlights
  • Head-up display
  • Targa Roof
  • LS1 V-8

C5 Corvette Recap

1997The LS1 engine is new; the fastback coupé is the only body style offered
1998Convertible C5 debuts with the first trunk in a Corvette convertible since 1962 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica offered; Active Handling System introduced as optional equipment
1999Less-expensive hardtop coupé is offered as a base-model body style
2000Newly styled alloy wheels debut. Three new colors: Millennium Yellow, Magnetic Red ll, and Dark Bowling Green.
2001Hardtop coupé body style becomes top-performance Z06, utilizing the new LS6 engine and suspension improvements Second-Generation Active Handling System becomes standard equipment on all models; slight (5 hp) increase in base model engine power
200220 hp increase for the Z06
200350th Anniversary Edition package offered for coupe and convertible. F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension supersedes F45 Selective Ride Control Suspension as a base model option
200424 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition package offered for all models

What did the C5 Corvette Cost New?

YearProductionBase Price
19979,752$37,495
199831,084$38,995
199933,270$39,777
200033,682$40,900
200135,627$41,475
200235,767$42,450
200335,469$45,895
200434,064$46,535
Total248,715

C5 Corvettes for Sale

Make sure you check out our Auction Results and see what Corvettes are selling for at auction recently. Right now the C5 Corvette might just be the ultimate performance bargain out there without having to put a lot of money out. You can buy a really nice C5 Corvette for Sale for around $15,000 to $20,000 and have a very nice daily driver. Jay Leno does a walkaround of a 1999 C5 Corvette. Check it out:

While here you will want to check out our Corvettes for Sale in our classified ads and see what is available.

The C5 Chevrolet Corvette was produced by Chevrolet from 1997 through 2004 model years. You can check out the final C5 Corvette production numbers and see just how many C5 Corvettes were produced each model year.

Interested in learning more about these classic American sports cars? Subscribe to the Vette Vue Magazine today.

You can read more about Corvette’s History by generation. Check out these Corvette overviews:

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