LS2, LS3 and Beyond: The Budget Buyer’s C6 Corvette Guide
For decades now, a used Corvette has been one of the best secondhand enthusiast buys around. Whether you're looking for acceleration, handling or reliability, there aren't many cars that can match it.
The bigger question is which Corvette you should be looking for. And there are many answers this question. C4s are dirt cheap, C5s still bring unrivaled raw performance for the money, but if you want a newer car with a little more refinement, the C6 makes for an increasingly great choice.
While still more expensive than the C5, the base narrow-body (meaning not a Gran Sport, Z06 or ZR1) C6 might be the sweet spot when it comes to the overall experience.
The LS2 Era
The C6 Corvette debuted for the 2005 model year, using the same general platform as the C5 but with a modernized interior and re-styled body that did away with the pop-up headlights and had trimmed-down exterior dimensions all around.
Along with the new look, the C6 got a new engine. Replacing the 5.7 liter LS1 V8 that had powered the base Corvette since 1997 was the larger 6.0 LS2 V8 that made 400 horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque.
These figures were almost on par with the outgoing C5 Corvette Z06, and the base C6 could nearly match the Z06 when it came to acceleration.
And when equipped with the optional Z51 suspension package, it could also match the previous Z06 when it came to handling and braking as well, carrying on the Vette tradition of delivering supercar-like performance for a bargain price.
At launch, two transmissions were offered, a T56 six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic that was replaced by a much-better six-speed automatic after the first model year.
Enter the LS3
The C6 went through some incremental updates over the next couple of years, with tweaks to the automatic trans and suspension, but the big change for the base C6 came for the ‘08 model year.
That was when the LS2 was replaced by the larger 6.2L LS3 as the base Corvette motor. It made 430hp and 424 pound feet of torque (a little more with the optional active exhaust system)—it also got a new Tremec TR6060 manual transmission and a revised automatic as well.
The '08 also received other minor updates, including an improved steering system and some nicer interior options on the higher trim models. 2013 would be the final year of the C6 model, before it was replaced by the C7.
What to Pay?
Looking at the used C6 market today, nearly a decade after the last one was sold, prices remain quite enticing for those looking for fantastic performance on a budget.
As with nearly every vehicle, prices have creeped up in the last couple of years, but on the bottom end, you can still nice, non-abused early LS2 C6s for under $20,000.
The later LS3-powered cars naturally bring more money, but they still deliver a lot of for the money. Look to pay somewhere from the mid $20,000s to low $30,000s for a nice one of those.
Perhaps the biggest detractor is that those looking for a stick shift C6 will likely have to wade through a lot of automatics before a manual transmission car pops up. The significantly more expensive Z06 doesn’t have that problem, being manual-only.
Still a Budget King
As with all of the C5-C7 Corvettes, the C6 has proven to be very reliable, and there are endless aftermarket options to get more power out of either the LS2 or LS3. And when it comes to things like aftermarket wheels and tires and suspension parts, you'll find there's a lot of carryover with the C5 and C7.
There might be cheaper Corvettes out there, and the exotic LS7-powered C6 Z06 and supercharged C6 ZR1 might be the ones that get all the attention, but that stuff only makes the base C6 that much more overlooked.
When it comes to being an affordable, modern, highly capable performance car with lots of room to grow, the standard C6 ‘Vette should be a choice you won’t regret.
More From Driving Line
- Speaking of the C6 Corvette platform, don't forget about the short-lived Cadillac that also used it - the XLR.