2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06Enlarge Photo
If you feel the need for American speed, and demand a voluptuous, standalone sports-car shape to match, there are two options that stand out from the pack: the Chevy Corvette Stingray and the Dodge SRT Viper.
Yes, there are plenty of very fast muscle cars that would like to contend with these two, but when it comes to track-carving capability and sheer on-road prowess, the heavier, lazier muscle cars -- even the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which comes close, we'll admit -- can't compete with these purpose-built super sports cars.
But how do you choose between them? The Corvette Stingray offers 455 horsepower, and brilliant handling, for a starting price around $55,000. The SRT Viper is much more powerful at 645 horsepower, and it remains much more expensive, at its $86k starting price for 2015 -- although that's $15k lower than just last year, as part of one of the most significant downward price adjustments seen this model year. On the other hand, there's the new Corvette Z06, which packs 650 horsepower, and yet still starts $7,000 below the Viper, at just $79,000.
The price and the power aren't the only differences between the Viper and the Corvette, however.
The Viper is bred from genes very close to the racing branch of the tree--and while the standard Stingray may not be so pure, the Z06 borrows heavily from lessons learned and methods proved at Le Mans. That comes across in the on-track performance of both cars. The Viper is brilliant, but also tricky: with 645 horsepower on tap from its 8.4-liter V-10 engine, even the new advanced performance-oriented traction and stability controls can't always keep up. There's massive grip and stopping power, but there's also a tendency to twitch and squirm at the limit that can be unnerving at speeds well over 100 mph.
As for the Corvette Z06, with 650 horsepower, but also with GM's electronically-controlled rear differential, magnetic ride dampers, and Performance Traction Management race-bred traction control, it feels more inherently balanced in power-to-chassis comfort, whether on track or on real-world roads, and mates very well with either the seven-speed manual gearbox or the quick-shifting new eight-speed automatic.
On the street, the Viper's race-bred genes come through too, though in a more unwelcome way. The cockpit is immensely refined from previous versions of the Viper, with quality materials and attractive, modern design -- but it's also loud, low, and riding on a stiffly sprung chassis. Viper GTS models get an adaptive suspension that helps balance the street ride quality, but still tends toward the firm over the
The Corvette's approach makes it a much quieter and more comfortable daily driver, and the updates for the seventh generation of the Z06 push it firmly into the luxury class it has long sought to join. A cleanly laid-out and well-upholstered interior, even in base models, is nearly the equal of the Vipers, and on equal footing when optioned up with available trim and equipment upgrades. With the magneto-rheological (MR) dampers, the ride quality ranges from comfortable to track-ready at the touch of a button.
Otherwise, the cabins of the Viper and Stingray are very similar: two low-slung, well-bolstered sport bucket seats offer good head, shoulder, and leg room, by sports car standards. The driving position for both cars is similar, and each even offers enough cargo area for a long weekend jaunt for two.
Performance is surprisingly close in some regards, despite the 185-horsepower difference. The Viper hits 60 mph from a stop in the low-three-second range, while the Corvette gets there in 2.95 seconds--if you opt for the 8-speed automatic, otherwise it's 3.2 seconds. Technically, the Z06 is the quicker car, but in the real world, both are blindingly quick. Top speed for the Z06 clocks in at something north of 200 mph, while it's 206 mph for the Viper.
On the styling front, the Viper is perhaps the more audacious of the two, though that could come down to individual preference; the Viper's lines are more curvaceous and organic, while the Corvette Z06's look is sharp, edgy, and slightly futuristic.
Gas mileage is another minor point of contrast. The SRT Viper's monstrous horsepower output comes at a cost, with EPA ratings of just 12 mpg city and 19 mpg highway for a combined 15 mpg. The Chevy Corvette Z06 is only slightly more efficient, at 15 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with the seven-speed manual transmission, or 13/21 (and 16 combined) with the eight-speed auto.
For a deeper dive into what makes each of these super-performance sports cars tick, see our Dodge Viper review and our Chevy Corvette review.
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