DETROIT - Chevrolet thinks its highly anticipated sixth version of the Corvette can compete with prestigious European marques.
The 2005 Corvette - known to enthusiasts as the C6 because it is the sixth-generation version - comes in a much tighter, European-sized package.
Jim Campbell, marketing director for Chevrolet small cars, says General Motors hopes the smaller dimensions will better position the Corvette against sports cars in Europe and the United States.
"With the smaller, faster car, we can attract clients that would normally go for BMW-type cars," Campbell says.
The C6 is 175 inches long and 73 inches wide - 5 inches shorter and 1 inch narrower than its predecessor, which puts the vehicle in a similar size class as BMW and Porsche sports cars.
Chevrolet hopes to sell between 32,000 and 35,000 units of the Corvette worldwide annually. GM sold 30,856 Corvettes in 2003.
GM would not comment on how many units dealers pre-ordered.
According to AutoPacific analyst Jim Hall, the interior improvements are the Corvette's best selling point.
"GM has a better chance with this car than the C5 to pull someone out of a BMW," Hall says. "The size won't have as much of an impact as the new interior."
The most noticeable exterior change for many Corvette enthusiasts will be the deletion of the flip-up headlights, a feature that has been on the Corvette since 1962. The vehicle also has sharper fender edges with a grille opening in the front.
In the engine bay, the new model has a 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 producing 400 hp. Last year's model developed 350 hp.
New options include color touch screen DVD navigation, XM satellite radio and ahead-up display unit. Other changes include keyless access with push-button start.
The coupe will go on sale this week. Campbell says GM hopes to get the convertible version to dealers in two months. Pricing for the base coupe is $44,245; the convertible will be priced at $52,245. Both prices include destination.
The high-performance Z06 will be unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January. It will have a 7.0-liter V-8 with 500 hp for the 2006 model year.