2013 SRT Viper vs. 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Comparison Test

2012 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

(6.2L V8 Supercharger 6-speed Manual)
  • 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 - Group Picture - 3

    2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 - Group Picture - 3

    On the track the ZR1 is more confident, easier to drive and quicker. | January 04, 2013

75 Photos

When Big Hammers Collide

  • Comparison Test
  • 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Specs and Performance
  • 2013 SRT Viper GTS Specs and Performance

The most powerful machine ever created by man, the Saturn V rocket, boasted a power-to-weight ratio of roughly .0067 pound per horsepower*. Only 17 were ever built at an inflation-adjusted cost of roughly $2.7 billion each. They harnessed liquid hydrogen, kerosene and magic to propel 29 large-stoned men into orbit — some all the way to the moon.

You couldn't go to your corner rocket ship store and buy one, however.

But you can go to your corner rocket ship store and buy a 2013 SRT Viper. Or a 2012 Chevy Corvette ZR1.

Both cars, although equipped with far more modest power-to-weight ratios of only 5.2 pounds per horsepower, can also be fueled right at your local Gas-and-Sip. They come with warranties, sticky tires and shift-it-yourself six-speed transmissions. And though they might not take you to the moon, low-earth orbit isn't out of the question should you get it wrong.

Mercifully, despite many trips into triple digits, two racetrack visits and hundreds of miles on the open road, we didn't get it wrong.

Overpowered Celebrities
The Saturn V, SRT Viper and ZR1 Corvette have more in common than their impressive power-to-weight ratios. All three are fodder for freedom-loving gratuity hounds. All three are made to unleash hell when fully throttled. And all three will make you famous: the former for lifting its occupants into space on a trail of fire and hubris, the latter two, of course, because YouTube exists.

And in all three cases it might just be worth it.

Open the throttle on either of these cars and there's mountain-moving power and tectonic torque at your disposal. When the numbers are left to the Society of Automotive Engineers it's a near dead heat, with the Viper cranking out 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque to the Vette's 638 hp and 604 lb-ft. We don't leave it to the SAE, however.

We leave it to the dyno.

And on the dyno the ZR1's advantage in the explosive power delivery department is made immediately clear. Despite similar peak power and torque figures, the Corvette enjoys a 50-70 lb-ft advantage throughout much of the midrange. This torque hit manifests itself in a tire-frying Gong Show — even on the freeway. Though unbridled zeal with the throttle isn't recommended, it is mind-blowingly awesome.

But it's nowhere near as demanding as the Viper. Ever.

Big Power, Big Responsibility
So it was with carefully tempered enthusiasm that we arrived on a 50-degree overcast day at the 1.8-mile Streets of Willow Springs road course to settle the score. On a warm day these machines require patient respect until their tires are up to temperature. With the mercury so low and no sun to warm the track surface, they demand unthinkable restraint and a stubborn refusal to crash.

And it took only as long as our warm-up laps to be certain which car was both quicker and easier to drive.

The 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, with its arsenal of technology, was our ally. It is more predictable and more stable and simply easier to drive — particularly in the cold conditions. Its adaptive magnetic dampers yield both the body control and compliance necessary for commitment to every dynamic move.

Performance Traction Management, Chevy's advanced stability control, is there when you need it at corner exit. Too-eager throttle stomping will make its intervention burdensome, but it will still be blindingly quick. In the end, a perfectly calibrated right foot is better than PTM, but those are hard to come by. We liked the confidence PTM 5 provided and used it on our quickest lap.

The Viper's "Track" stability control setting is lenient enough to allow sideways moves certain to compromise lap times, but also a solid enough safety net that we used it for our quickest lap. We didn't, however, use the Viper's "Race" damper setting. Even the "Street" setting was too stiff for the track on this day. Without the compliance to absorb the track's small surface imperfections, the Viper's ride was busy at the limit, which diminished our confidence.

After all, we know few drivers partial to bouncing past the edge of grip. Most prefer a calculated, controlled breach of adhesion and that's not available in the Viper. But it is in the Vette.

As a result, the ZR1 was just over a second quicker:

2013 SRT Viper: 1:23.0
2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: 1:21.9

Is This Necessary?
At the end of the day the Viper's creators are as unapologetic in their approach as the car is from behind the wheel. Erich Heuschele, manager of SRT Dynamics Engineering, told us that the Viper might behave this way on a slower track like Streets, but the car is designed for faster, smoother circuits. "We could have compromised the Viper for slow, rough tracks, but that's not what it is for. Our owners want an uncompromised track car."

It's a point with which we wouldn't argue if we thought the Viper would be quicker than the ZR1 on a bigger, smoother track, but we don't. And despite what Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of SRT brand might tell you on Twitter, there's far more to going quickly than simply mixing spring rates and cojones in the proper ratio. A good driver's car is one that's as sensitive to a driver's needs as it is physically capable.

That the Viper is uncompromisingly stiff is an inarguable point among the SRT heads of state. That it should be — or more philosophically — that it needs to be is less clear.

But That's the Point
But with only about 2,000 Vipers sold annually it's not a deal-breaker for SRT. The enthusiast community should be thankful to still have 2,000 dedicated lovers of the stiff ride among our ranks. And the Viper will serve them well in the right environment.

Because when it comes to knowing you're driving something legit, nothing sends the message more clearly than the Viper. It snorts and pops and spits and at the end of the quarter-mile, where it's swallowing tarmac 1.2 mph quicker than the ZR1, there's no question this car is something special. And something utterly badass.

Both cars, at 11.5 seconds, ran identical quarter-mile times in our testing — the Viper at 127.3 mph and the Vette at 126.1 mph. Sixty mph arrived in 3.6 seconds in the Vette and 3.7 in the Viper. Both produced 3.4-second 0-60 times using a 1-foot rollout as on a drag strip.

Perhaps the biggest point of contention here is that the Vette makes this acceleration easily accessible using its PTM-based launch control. In any PTM mode the Vette will limit power to the ground to match available grip. And it does it using the same graceful, high-resolution control it executes during corner exit.

The Viper, too, has launch control that's available in any stability control mode and easily accessed via a steering wheel button. And we used it. But the result, partly because of its high launch rpm and partly because of its ineffectiveness in limiting power to the ground, was a chest-pounding burnout. This, says Heuschele, is just how it works. We got the best launch the old-fashioned way: We earned it.

Getting Grippy
Handling tests were a wash. The Viper was marginally quicker through the slalom and the ZR1 produced higher lateral acceleration. But after our handling and braking tests it was clear that despite tires with similar treadwear ratings, the ZR1's Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires make more grip. Given equal heat, the Viper's Pirelli P Zero Corsas are certainly sticky, but they're no match — in the dry anyway — for the Vette's barely streetable rubber.

Circling the skid pad at a record-tying 1.1g lateral acceleration in the ZR1 drove this point home with painful clarity as we attempted to hold ourself in its hilariously unsupportive seat. The Viper's 1.03g is no slouch, certainly. And its seats, though rock hard, were meant for this duty. It was several tenths quicker through the slalom, clocking 73.7 mph vs. the Corvette's 73.1 mph.

Perhaps most telling when it comes to grip is the Corvette's 95-foot stop from 60 mph. Certainly its carbon-ceramic brakes didn't hurt (the Viper's rotors are cast iron), but it's the tires that matter most in this single-stop test. And at 101 feet, the Viper's stop was undeniably longer.

Viper vs. Corvette ZR1: Inside the Control Rooms
When it comes to interior quality, though, there's no question which is better. The Viper controls this part of the contest to the same extent that Tito Ortiz would dominate Nancy Pelosi in an MMA cage match. It's hardly worth addressing again the abundant and utterly miserable ways the ZR1's interior lets down this otherwise remarkable machine.

By contrast, the Viper's interior is modern, beautiful, functional, dedicated to the cause of going fast, and it doesn't stink like fiberglass resin. Its shell-type seats, though hard, are infinitely better at holding their occupants in place than the marshmallow-padded chairs in the Vette. Instruments in the Viper are well placed, well prioritized and abundant.

Our test car, fitted with the optional GTS Interior package, had leather everywhere and an 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen with an intuitive interface. When properly equipped, the car is even a WiFi hot spot. Imagine, mind-melting acceleration and the ability to Facebook about it.

Who could ask for more?

And in the End
Here's the thing: Despite the Viper's downsides relative to the ZR1, we can't help but love the silly thing. Yes, it seems gratuitously stiff, yes, it's brazen, and — good or bad — it announces itself wherever it goes. But it has grown up.

It's easier to drive than the previous-generation Viper and because of its better composure, power and weight improvements, it's undeniably faster. At $138,490 including the Track Pack and GTS Interior package, it should be.

And though we refuse to drink the braver-is-better Kool-Aid peddled by Gilles and team, there's value in an uncompromised supercar — the full extent of which might only be accessible to a tiny percentage of drivers a tiny percentage of the time. If you're OK with that then the Viper is for you.

But the $124,345 Corvette wins this test because it's better than the Viper in nearly every way: Faster, more comfortable and easier to drive, it makes the Viper's uncompromising ethos seem utterly unnecessary. And the fact that it's due for replacement in a few months only makes matters worse for the all-new 2013 SRT Viper.

See it however you want; we're just glad these rocket ships are still around.

*Yes, we know. It's not possible to precisely convert thrust to horsepower. We could have used gigawatts to express the energy released by the Saturn V, but then you'd have no idea what we were talking about. Even though you saw Back To The Future.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Vehicle
Model year2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Year Make Model2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 2dr Coupe (6.2L 8cyl S/C 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 2-passenger coupe
Base MSRP$112,500
Options on test vehicleSupersonic Blue Metallic ($300); ZR1 Premium Equipment Group ($9,950 -- includes standard equipment, cargo net, luggage shade, Universal Home Remote transmitter, Bluetooth personal cell phone connectivity to vehicle audio system and HMI [Human Machine Interface] with specific steering wheel controls, power telescoping steering column with manual tilt, memory package [with two driver settings for power driver seat, exterior mirrors and telescoping steering column], multilevel heated sport front bucket seats with perforated leather seating surfaces, back angle adjustment, adjustable lumbar, side bolsters, embroidery and contrasting stitching, Bose premium nine-speaker audio system with additional 9 months of SiriusXM Satellite Radio service (1 year total), AM/FM stereo with CD player, MP3 playback and DVD-based touchscreen navigation, USB port, auxiliary input jack, seek-and-scan, digital clock, auto-tone control, Radio Data System (RDS), automatic volume, TheftLock, 6.5-inch LCD color display and voice recognition; power-adjustable lumbar support and side bolsters, six-way power passenger seat, custom leather-wrapped interior package including leather-wrapped upper instrument panel, upper door trim panels and console storage cover, exclusive leather color and two-tone design, seat headrest model-specific embroidery, enhanced armrest padding and special gunmetal pattern console trim plate); ZR1 High Performance Package ($1,495 -- includes black, cup-style lightweight aluminum, 19-by-10-inch front and 20-by-12-inch rear wheels; Michelin PS CUP tires; six-speed close-ratio manual transmission, black painted full-width spoiler replaces standard spoiler); Battery Protection Package ($100).
As-tested MSRP$124,345
Assembly locationBowling Green, KY
North American parts content (%)75
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front midengine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeSupercharged, port-injected V8, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6,162/376
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, two valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)9.1
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)638 @ 6,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)604 @ 3,800
Fuel typePremium unleaded (required)
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=2.29:1, II=1.61:1, III=1.21:1, IV=1.0:1, V=0.81:1, VI=0.67:1
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.42:1
Differential(s)Limited-slip
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent double wishbone, transverse leaf spring, driver-adjustable two-mode magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent double wishbone, transverse leaf spring, driver-adjustable two-mode magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Steering typeSpeed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)Variable ratio: 14.6:1 to 17.1:1
Tire make and modelMichelin Pilot Sport Cup
Tire typePerformance front and rear
Tire size, frontP285/3019Z
Tire size, rearP335/2520Z
Wheel size, front19-by-10 inches
Wheel size, rear20-by-12 inches
Wheel materialPainted alloy
Brakes, front15.5-inch ventilated carbon-ceramic discs with six-piston fixed calipers
Brakes, rear15-inch ventilated carbon-ceramic discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)1.9
0-45 mph (sec.)2.7
0-60 mph (sec.)3.6
0-75 mph (sec.)5.0
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)11.5 @ 126.1
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)3.4
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.1
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.0
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.9
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.3
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)11.9 @ 122.7
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)3.6
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)23
60-0 mph (ft.)95
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)73.1
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON72.7
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)1.1
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON1.05
Road course lap time (sec.)1:21.9
Sound level @ idle (dB)53.4
@ Full throttle (dB)87.8
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)68.0
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsOnce again, PTM launch control proves itself worthy. We were able to beat it on ET and Trap, but were essentially dead even to 60 mph. This is the best launch control I've driven. Use it. I missed 3rd gear several times, but slowing the shift down some made it easy to get the gear.
Braking comments95 feet! Seriously. Vette's pedal isn't as rock solid as the Viper's, but its brakes are better.
Handling commentsSkid pad: This number is all about tires. 1.12g. Michelin's Pilot Sport Cup tire is the stickiest rubber that can be passed off as streetable and the ZR1 capitalizes on it. Its balance is toward understeer but can be easily controlled with the throttle. Steering feel and response and both very good. This car breathes confidence into its driver. Slalom: Fast transitions are comfortable in the ZR1 even with PTM off, but we were faster with it on. Oversteer is catchable.
Testing Conditions
Test date12/11/2012
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)71.5
Relative humidity (%)19.69
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.81
Wind (mph, direction)2.8
Odometer (mi.)2,440
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)30/30
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)14 city/21 highway/17 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)15.1
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)18.0
Driving range (mi.)378
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionSeven-speaker audio system, CD player and AM/FM radio, navigation
iPod/digital media compatibilityiPod via USB
Satellite radioXM radio
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemOptional
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Standard 6 months trial subscription
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition doors trunk/hatch
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,333
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,344
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)53/49
Length (in.)176.2
Width (in.)75.9
Height (in.)48.7
Wheelbase (in.)105.7
Track, front (in.)63.5
Track, rear (in.)62.5
Turning circle (ft.)39
Legroom, front (in.)43.1
Headroom, front (in.)37.7
Shoulder room, front (in.)55.2
Seating capacity2
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance5 years/100,000 miles
Vehicle
Model year2013 SRT Viper GTS
Year Make Model2013 SRT Viper GTS 2dr Coupe (8.4L 10cyl 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 2-passenger coupe
Base MSRP$124,990
Options on test vehicleTrack Pack ($4,500 -- includes front 18-by-10.5-inch and rear 19-by-13-inch Sidewinder-Hyper wheels; four-wheel antilock performance disc brakes; P295/30ZR18 front performance tires and P355/30ZR19 performance rear tires; two-piece Stoptech rotors), Interior Upgrade Package ($7,500), Audio Upgrade ($1,000)
As-tested MSRP$138,490
Assembly locationDetroit, Michigan
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, port-injected V10, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)8,381/511.4
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, two valves per cylinder, variable exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)10.2
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,250
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)640 @ 6,200
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)600 @ 5,000
Fuel typePremium unleaded (required)
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=2.26, II=1.58, III=1.19, IV=1.0, V=0.77, VI=0.63
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.55
Differential(s)Viscous-fluid-actuated clutch-type limited slip
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent double-wishbone, coil springs, driver-adjustable two-mode variable dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent double-wishbone, coil springs, driver-adjustable two-mode variable dampers, stabilizer bar
Steering typeHydraulic-assist rack-and-pinion steering
Steering ratio (x:1)16.7
Tire make and modelPirelli P Zero Corsa
Tire typePerformance front and rear
Tire size, frontP295/30R18Z
Tire size, rearP355/30R19Z
Wheel size, front18-by-10.5 inches
Wheel size, rear19-by-13 inches
Wheel materialForged aluminum
Brakes, front14-inch two-piece ventilated slotted discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Brakes, rear14-inch two-piece ventilated slotted discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.0
0-45 mph (sec.)2.9
0-60 mph (sec.)3.7
0-75 mph (sec.)5.1
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)11.5 @ 127.3
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)3.4
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.3
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.1
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.6
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)11.8 @ 125.3
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)3.7
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)25
60-0 mph (ft.)101
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)73.7
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON71.0
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)1.03
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON1.03
Road course lap time (sec.)1:23.0
Sound level @ idle (dB)58.0
@ Full throttle (dB)86.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)77.0
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,000
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsLaunch control is fairly worthless on our low-grip test surface. Its 5,000-rpm base is too high and its closed-loop throttle manipulation (using front wheel speed) is both too slow and not effective enough. Basically, launch control resulted in a big burnout. I chose a 3,000-3,500 launch rpm and had the best luck with a little clutch slip rather than a dump. Shifter is awesome -- much better than before. Never missed a gear.
Braking commentsSolid pedal feel and good response. Consistent performance, but these (optional) P Zero Corsas are clearly less sticky than the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup rubber on the Z06 and ZR1.
Handling comments"Skid pad: Heavy understeer attitude, but massive grip. More throttle equals more understeer. Won't respond to lift-throttle, which is probably good in a car with limits this high. Steering is direct and immediate. Ran all handling tests in "Street" damping, as "Race" was too stiff and made the car nervous. Feels like this level of damping is really only appropriate at high speed.
Testing Conditions
Test date12/11/2012
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)66.1
Relative humidity (%)27.12
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.86
Wind (mph, direction)4 H
Odometer (mi.)2097
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)31/30
Fuel Consumption
Edmunds observed (mpg)14.3
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)16.0
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,374
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,365
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)50/50
Length (in.)175.7
Width (in.)76.4
Height (in.)49.1
Wheelbase (in.)98.8
Track, front (in.)62.9
Track, rear (in.)61.0
Turning circle (ft.)40.5
Legroom, front (in.)42.7
Headroom, front (in.)36.6
Shoulder room, front (in.)53.1
Seating capacity2
Trunk volume (cu-ft)14.6
Ground clearance (in.)5.0
Approach angle (degrees)10.7
Departure angle (degrees)16.1
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance5 years/100,000 miles

Research Models

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Chevrolet Corvette in VA is:

$150 per month*
* Explanation
ADVERTISEMENT