Battle of the American Supercars: Viper vs. ‘Vette

With the 2014 C7 Corvette having just been released, there is a showdown on the horizon. One legend is returning, the other has been bulking up and is coming back with a new look for the next generation. I’m sure by now most of you have seen the 2013 SRT Viper, and it looks fantastic!  In the other corner sits the Corvette, which I will be honest, I have never been a huge fan of.  In my opinion, if you could only call one a super car, it would be the Viper, and always has been.  There is a certain pantomime a car needs surrounding it to be a super car, a sense that you are by something great and unusual when standing next to it.  Now before you guys form an angry mob and ambush my house, let’s take a look at the history of the two, and also the next generation of both and I’ll explain why.

History

Not to bore you with facts, but here are some anyway.  The Corvette has been around since 1953, was named after quick American naval ships, and is built in Kentucky.  That is as American as Dirty Harry and apple pie.  However, sacrilegious as this may be, I think the last good looking Corvette was made in 1982.  It was downhill after that, as it began to look more like Star Wars space junk than a sports car.  The body looked plastic, the interior followed suit, and it took on a dated, digital, square look.  It looked closer to a stretched Fiero than anything else.

You can’t blame Chevy, after all, it was the 80’s and every car got cheap looking and was styled with the lines of a walkman.  Not true, as you can look back on Ferraris and Porsche 911s of the 80’s.  Then when the C5 came out in 1997 someone forgot to tell them that pop-up headlights had not been cool for a long while, and while it was more curvaceous, it got a fat rear end.  The looks got a little better with the C6 in 2005 becoming the basic design we all know today.  They finally got rid of the pop up headlamps, but it still has a gigantic ugly rear.

2012 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

While the Vette was busy being cheap and ugly in 1992, the Dodge Viper burst onto the scene in a flurry of tire smoke and the thunder of a V10 engine.  If you look at the 92’ corvette you would think they were from different decades, or maybe the Viper was straight from the future!  This was something special, not brand marketing, this was a poster car.  Growing up in the 90’s, the Viper was all that, and that is what being a super car is all about!  This car was plastered on my friends’ walls, we all had Viper Hot Wheels, and magazine cut outs of the car.  Just look at it, the sleek back, the long hood, and those side exhausts!

It’s a whole bunch of showing off, but it looks sexy and fun.  In 1996 they released the coupe version, which was a bit more serious, but just as good looking, probably one of the best looking cars ever.  In 2003 they released a new version which got a bigger 8.3L V10 engine and 500hp.  2006 saw the hard top coupe version with 510hp, and that really completed the looks for the 2nd generation body style, it looked so original, American, and mean while still having some fun.  How could you not with the extra 10hp under the hood?  By the end of the 2nd generation, the SRT-10 ACR edition had broken the production car lap record at the Nurburgring.  After 2010 the Viper went out of production…until now!

Current Models and Concepts

The Corvette needed to get out of the Viper’s shadow with the performance crowd after it had put on such a show for the previous 18 years.  While the Viper was on its way out in 2008, Chevrolet let their ZR1 Vette out of the cage, all pent up with rage.  To date this is the fastest Corvette around the Nurburgring after its run in 2012, however it is several seconds off of the Viper.  But that isn’t the end all on deciding a car, I just bring that up because of how big of a deal Chevy made of the ZR1’s time.  The 2013 base Corvette starts pricing at under $50k, not bad considering you get 430hp and 0-60 in 4.2 seconds.  The Z06 has 505hp, can do 0-60 in less than 4 seconds, and is a light weight respectable sports car, but is $77k.  Then we come to the ZR1.

It has a 638hp supercharged V8 engine, which instead of producing exhaust gases, sends howling demon monkeys screaming out of the back.  Honestly, it emits a stupendous sound while pushing the limits.  Unfortunately it’s gaudy. So much in fact they decided to put a clear plastic cover on the hood, under which the fake plastic engine cover can be seen. This is not going to impress anyone that is worth talking to.  Also it’s $115k…so if you are really in the market, and performance is what you care about, save yourself some green and go out and buy a lightly used SRT-10 ACR, there are many on the market right now in the $80-90k range.

But, oh look!  After tackling the Nurburgring and embarrassing the Germans and Italians, the Corvette is back to fight for its home turf summoning its Stingray super powers, and boy does it look good.  Send the children to bed before going through the pictures, because this car is pure sex.  If you have not read up on the car yet, check out Chris Nagy’s First Impressions for some more in depth detail.  I’ll touch on some points that stood out here.  It has been lightened with carbon fiber panels as standard for a lower center of gravity.  The small block 6.2 liter V8 allows the block to be placed further back to help give the car almost 50/50 weight distribution, a down side of that is the car could be unstable under braking.  The car also has a wider stance to improve grip, which Chevrolet claims can reach a whole G in cornering.  In addition the C7 has a diffuser like a Formula 1 car, only in this case it is in the front of the car.  In the case of the F1 car hot exhaust gasses are released onto the rear wing to improve down force, while in the Corvette the hot air that has passed through the front grill is released through the vents on the hood, which then flows over the car improving down force, also reducing drag by venting the air.   The update that stood out the most was a 7 speed manual gearbox!

Don’t get all excited yet though, there are some issues to address here.  The styling seems blatantly copied off of a Ferrari, a 599 is just one that comes to mind.  As I said it does look fantastic…until you get around to the back.  The ass end of the car is hideous!  It looks like the old C6 has just clinched up, or perhaps been crashed into, and does not follow the contour of the car whatsoever.  Also it now as something called “Active Rev Match”, and this simulates heel-toe braking by “blipping” the throttle automatically on downshifts  and also revs up automatically while up shifting.  There isn’t left much to skill after that, in addition to all of the torque reduction and traction management settings.  After taking it all in, it seems like a desperate attempt to keep stride with the new Viper.

We already know the Viper specs however.  It has the infamous V10 engine has 640hp roaring away at the front, and 600 lb-ft of torque propelling you from the back, and SRT so proudly points out, “…the most of any naturally aspirated sports car in the world.”  Just like the new Stingray it has a lighter frame, and near 50/50 weight distribution.  However when you get down to the business of driving, you get the sense that they only put traction control in because it is required by U.S. law.  Both the stability and traction control have 2 settings, “on” or “off”…unlike the Corvette that advertises 12 variables that can be tinkered with and 5 torque and brake settings.  Are you serious Chevrolet?  It’s a super muscle car, it is supposed to scare the pants off of you when driven improperly.  You can change the color of the seats and stitching to your liking, so you can escape from a dull interior as well.  Prices start at about $97k, and end just over $120k for the GTS model.

 

Verdict

This is it, which one is the American super car?  I’ve been asking the readers this for about a week now, and so far it has been unanimous.  Most have pointed out that, sure, the Corvette has more history, and they have produced and sold more, but that just doesn’t do it.  When you drive down U.S. 31 you see as many Corvettes as you do Nissan Zs.  Thus, you don’t see anyone rolling their windows down to take a picture of one, because they are too ordinary!  A super car needs to have an epic presence, like Shaq or a Mission Impossible trailer; it needs to be outlandish, ridiculous, fun and unnecessary!

The Corvette is a place you go when you start using Cialis, and overcompensate for it.  However the Viper is a place you go when you start using Cialis, and can have a laugh about it!  Most of the people I asked didn’t even talk about the Corvette.  They just went on about how the Viper is “ridiculous” and talked about the Viper following, or called it a “monster” and a “kissing death kind of car”.

You can talk about stats, cornering g’s, and other performance figures until you have bored everyone in the room, the fact is a super car is really about the pantomime and “shock & awe” factors.  That is what the Corvette is missing, and I doubt it will ever attain it.  Not to mention the looks are so much better on the new SRT, the curves are fierce, the V10 idle sound is that of a lion before it takes its prey, and the sleek tail lights remind me of an Aston Martin.  The Viper is America’s super car, simply because you need to either go big, or go home.

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About The Author

Born and raised in the Racing Capital of the World, Indianapolis, IN. I have been around motorsports and cars my entire life. I race karts regionally and work at the Dallara IndyCar Factory giving tours and training in the quality control labs. Cars and driving have always been a huge part of my life. To me cars are freedom, passion, art, and an adrenaline rush. You can follow me at https://twitter.com/LukeEdwardsUSA and http://instagram.com/uprev

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