2006 American Exotics Comparison Test

2006 American Exotics Comparison Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (2)
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2006 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe

(7.0L V8 6-speed Manual)

  • Comparison Test
  • Top 10 Features
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • Editors' Evaluations
  • 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Specs and Performance
  • 2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Specs and Performance
  • 2003 Ford SVT Cobra Specs and Performance
  • 2002 Acura NSX Specs and Performance

"I raced for 17 years. Ran the Daytona 24 Hours, NASCAR Southwest Tour, SCCA GT1 cars, IMSA, oval tracks. But I never raced a car with this much horsepower."

That was the comment from our professional test-driver after his lap times in this latest American Exotics comparison test. Each of these — the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe and Ford GT — are more powerful than Formula One racecars of 25 years ago. Even today, relatively few racecars boast more than 500 horses.

However, if you have good credit, your local Chevy, Dodge or Ford dealer can put you in a vehicle with more horsepower than a NASCAR Nextel Cup car set up for Daytona or Talladega. A Cup motor fitted with a restrictor-plate makes about 450 horses, while the Corvette Z06 is rated at 505, the Viper SRT10 Coupe at 510 ponies, and the Ford GT at 550.

Our calibrated derrières suggested that at least Chevy — and probably Ford, too — was more than a bit conservative with those ratings. Another racecar comparison: While it's a challenge to find believable data on the peak torque of the current 2.4-liter F1 engine, you can bet it's less than any of these: Dodge (535 pound-feet), Ford (500) and Chevy (470).

Still, that wondrous power is not the most amazing thing about this trio. Another also-ran in the Top Attribute contest is how relatively inexpensive two of these three cars are. If you have an above-average income and really want one — enough to sacrifice vacations, expensive homes, and relationships with the opposite sex — you can own a brand-new Corvette Z06 or Dodge Viper Coupe.

Though unexpectedly welcome, we're also thrilled to report that each is friendly and forgiving when pushed to their limits — and beyond — on the racetrack: The once-feared Viper is now perhaps too easy to drive fast. (More on that later.)

Finally, though none would be confused with a Camry, each is relatively easy to maneuver in everyday traffic. The most difficult thing about daily use is the occasional gawker who tangles up traffic flow around you. It wouldn't be outlandish to use any of them, but especially the Corvette, as a commuter car, though low ground clearance and summer tires mean you'd want to leave them home when it snows. And our particular Ford GT test car had the disconcerting habit of occasionally piddling what appeared to be transaxle oil.

And we must provide some caveats to those who might consider using these as daily drivers. Super-grippy tires wear much more quickly than conventional rubber: Our experience suggests that aggressive drivers may wind up replacing rear tires at every other oil change. Or sooner.

The cars
The concept is simple: add horsepower and lightness. Chevrolet applied this classic formula with brilliant success on the Z06. Despite a long list of additional (and mass-increasing) features — bigger brakes, wider wheels and tires, and a dry sump oiling system — the Z06 is almost 50 pounds lighter than the base 400-horse Corvette Coupe. This is thanks to some fairly exotic and expensive material.

Not only does it offer the best power-to-weight ratio in this test, the Z06 is the least expensive: With a base price of $65,000 it comes in some $18,000 less than the Viper and about $100,000 less than the Ford. It's also worth noting that the Z06's impressive EPA fuel mileage ratings of 16/26 make it the only car in this test to completely avoid the gas-guzzler tax. Our tester was priced at a thrifty $69,135.

Normally, car companies first build a hardtop and, when sales need a boost, turn it into a convertible: Dodge's Street and Racing Technology team went the other way. The resulting SRT10 Coupe is significantly different than its open-top sibling. Its interior feels deceptively confining even though the double-bubble roof provides domelike accommodation to taller occupants.

In hard corners and transitions, the added structure delivered righteous testimony to the unifying strength of a hardtop over a convertible. Power comes from an upgraded version of the truck-based OHV V10 — this time displacing 8.3 liters and featuring an aluminum block and heads. Though still a four-wheel Harley, the Coupe is more of an Electraglide than a Deuce. Out-the-door price of our tester, including a $3,000 gas-guzzler tax, was $86,995.

When the original Ford GT40 debuted more than 40 years ago, it took on Europe's best top performance cars at places like Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans — and won! The current Ford GT has repeated history on public roadways. With 550 (at least!) supercharged horsepower pumped out of its 5.4-liter DOHC V8 and a very sweet handling chassis, the GT is a delicious combination of classic good looks and totally modern performance.

Chassis stiffness, suspension tuning, aero tweaks, and performance tires have come a long way in 40 years: The GT offers a crisp responsiveness, high limits and small penalties if you step over the edge. Sticker price is a steep $166,945 — if you can find a dealer who will let one go at MSRP.

How they stacked up
The logical right brain gets little exercise in a discussion of exotic cars. Fortunately for us, our scoring system acts as an onboard logic center to keep us grounded. A sobering fact: For the current price of a Ford GT, you could get a Z06 and put $100,000 in a Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund. Or buy two Z06s and put $30 grand in the Mega-Millions lottery. The Corvette is easier to drive in everyday traffic; has stability control to prevent you from wasting your investment and yourself; offers Cadillac-like creature comforts; doesn't attract as much unwanted attention (from cops and fellow motorists); and is just as fast around the road racing circuit. Our winner: The Z06.

When lust was allowed to rule, we could see only the Ford GT. If you were old enough to be aware of how the Ford GT40 and its close relatives ruled the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the mid- and late '60s, the new Ford GT had you at the word "Hello." Is it a coincidence that many of those who today can afford a Ford GT were between 10 and 19 years old in the years between 1964 and 1969? The fact that the GT is incredibly fast, easy to drive at the limit, and docile on the street made the distinction between lust and love only that much more confusing.

Earning a solid 3rd-place finish (that would be "last" in a three-car shoot-out) is the Viper Coupe. It's somewhat ironic when you consider that Dodge's Viper was the first real exotic American sports car of the modern era. Without it, the other two likely wouldn't exist. Now, after driving all three of these cars, it's clear the Viper has been surpassed on nearly every level. The Corvette costs less, performs better and is a jovial sweetheart where the Viper is a cranky nag. The GT outclasses Dodge's snake to an even greater extent — albeit at twice the price.

One observant editor made the following comment: "Maybe they could fix it by simply throwing a 'Hemi' under the hood. It's worked for every other modern Chrysler product."

First Place: 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

It's important to know what the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is not. It's not just a regular Vette with a bored-and-stroked small block stuffed into its engine compartment. Certainly the hand-built 7.0-liter OHV LS7, which boasts titanium valves and connecting rods, and a forged-steel crankshaft, is the star of the show.

But power alone isn't significant. What counts is a vehicle's power-to-weight ratio, and the Z06 offers the best in this comparison. If you believe the manufacturer's numbers, the Z06 has 6.2 pounds per horsepower against 6.3 for the Ford and 6.7 for the Viper. The Z06 earns this rating thanks in part to its aluminum frame and magnesium engine cradle, which are both steel on regular Vettes. In addition, there are lightweight carbon-fiber front fenders, wheelhouses and floorboards.

This effort at lightening not only offsets the Z06's list of additional mass-increasing features, but also makes the Z06 almost 50 pounds lighter than the regular 400-horse Corvette Coupe. The result of more power and less weight: A 0-to-60-mph acceleration run in a dusty parking lot of 4.4 seconds, topping out with an 11.9-second, 124-mph quarter-mile. This even though the two-three shift is more than a bit difficult with the hardy-yet-primitive Tremec six-speed transmission.

Racecar bits and performance
To help keep the LS7 alive at its 7,000-rpm rev limit, and during the car's extreme cornering forces offered by it's light weight and sticky tires, is a racecar-style dry-sump oiling system. A dry sump moves the oil reservoir from its traditional position below the crankshaft to a remote location. Among other things this prevents the oil pump from being starved during hard cornering and keeps the crankshaft from splashing through the reservoir; the latter not only foams the oil but also creates power-sapping drag.

In the past, Corvette brakes were far from its most robust component, but that's changed. The '06 Z06 gets monoblock six-piston front brake calipers and four-piston rear calipers that grab onto vented and cross-drilled rotors, 14-inch diameter front and 13.4-inch rear. Large cooling ducts keep the brakes at peak efficiency even on the racetrack. The result is the shortest stopping distance in this comparison: 106 feet 60-0 mph and 300 feet 100-0 mph.

Transmitting the power to the ground are massive Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires: The Z06's P275/35ZR18 front tires are but 10mm narrower than the regular version's rears and the P325/30ZR19s dwarf those on many racecars. This rubber works through unequal-length (a.k.a. "short/long arm") forged-aluminum control arms. This helped give the Z06 a second-best slalom run at 68.3 mph.

Racetrack terror
At Willow Springs Raceway, the Z06 was more than a bit of a handful, twitching into oversteer (a.k.a. "loose") at the exit of most corners. Perhaps it didn't get a fair shake. Its Goodyears had suffered through photographer-pleasing burnouts that took them down to just above their legal tread limit.

Perhaps this also reduced rear grip by revulcanizing the rubber. Or perhaps the Z06 is always a handful at the limit. Virtually all owners will be thankful for the two-stage (normal and competition) stability control system. (We replaced the rear Goodyears after Willow and before the slalom and skid pad runs.)

Gripes include an overly optimistic g-meter on the Z06's otherwise excellent head-up display. On the skid pad, our tester kept an eye on it the entire lap. It never went below 1.0 g and often showed 1.04 and above. The true average cornering power was 0.92 g.

The winner
One of the Z06's strengths — the fact that it blends into traffic far more easily than its opposition — is also one of its weaknesses. Driving a Ford GT there's little chance you'll pass yourself on the highway, but in a Z06 Corvette, you're likely to see a visually near identical (but non-Z06) vehicle piloted by an orthodontist or a recent divorcee every 10 minutes.

Yet, the bottom line remains: Chevrolet applied the time-honored formula of adding horsepower and reducing weight with brilliant success on the Z06. Rated at grins per dollar, the '06 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is the best supercar bargain of all time.

Second Place: 2006 Ford GT

Behind the wheel of the 2006 Ford GT, we couldn't help imagining ourselves at Le Mans, Sebring, Daytona, or the Nurburgring, battling boyhood heroes like Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue, Dan Gurney and Phil Hill. Since the GT40 racecars had less than the '06's 550 horsepower, we could almost imagine running ahead of the heroes of yore. But keep that between us: We don't want Dan or Mario coming out of retirement to spoil our fantasy.

The Ford GT is far better than its inspiration. Racecars are hot, noisy, rattley, uncomfortable, and unforgiving. Forty years ago, suspension designers either didn't fully understand bump and toe steer or didn't have today's powerful computers to help work out the bugs. Or both.

Chassis designers were unable to combine both stiffness and lightness; often achieving neither. Engines were so peaky as to make K2 look like Kansas. Comparing clutches and leg-press machines created distinctions without a difference. Steering was also exercise-machine heavy. Four-speed gearboxes were recalcitrant at best. Installation convenience, not driver ease of use, determined control location. And everything on the car broke. A lot.

Real car and racecar
The Ford GT is how nonracers imagine racecars to be. It's comfortable and quiet, at least in the realm of super-high-performance cars. Except for its go-kart view of life among Freightliner-sized SUVs, the GT is docile and easy to drive in traffic. The interior is spartan but controls are easily employed.

On the racetrack it was surprisingly easy — no, make that shockingly easy — to drive at its lofty limit: It took us a couple of laps to believe its benign manners. Despite its good behavior, as we entered Turn 8 at 150 mph, we wished for six-point belts and a chrome moly roll cage. And those without racing experience — or good judgment — will also wish for stability control.

Ford's "modular" overhead-cam engine has powered everything from Crown Victorias to E-350 Super Duty Chateau vans. Production configurations have included 4.6-liter V8s to 6.8-liter SOHC V10s, both of those with iron blocks and two valves per cylinder. Even the Jaguar S-Type's V6 claims modular lineage. For the GT, Ford chose the modular's long-stroke 5.4-liter, four-cam, four-valve V8 configuration with aluminum block and heads. Topped by an Eaton supercharger, it makes a neck-snapping 550 hp.

This force goes to the ground through a Ricardo six-speed manual transaxle. The result: An impressive 4.0-second 0-60 mph on a very dusty (but controlled) parking lot. It covered the quarter-mile in a blazing 11.8 seconds at a shocking 126 mph.

Bolted onto the GT's all-aluminum spaceframe chassis are unequal-length (a.k.a. short-long arm) control arms and P235/45ZR18 front, P315/40ZR19 rear Goodyear's Eagle F1 Supercars. These are the narrowest tires in the test: Imagine calling 315s "narrow"! Still, the GT recorded the fastest slalom run at 69.5 mph. About the only place it didn't shine was braking, where it trailed the Z06 by 9 feet 60-0 and 14 feet 100-0. Still, we experienced no fade from its Brembos on the track.

No flaws at full throttle
Criticizing the GT is like finding blemishes on Victoria Secret models. There's no luggage space for much more than a toothbrush, T-shirt and workout shorts. And its doors are problematic. If you don't open them all the way, you'll slam the top of your head into the door edge: It only took us four head smacks to figure it out. Finding a parking place that allows you to open them all the way will be a challenge: You'll hunt for the farthest one in the row to prevent another car from blocking you in. The prominent left-side A-pillar blocks a good chunk of forward vision, making it disconcerting in heavy traffic and requiring extra care when placing the car for tight left-handers.

But our best advice when driving a 2006 Ford GT is simple: please aspire not to curse when you reach wide-open throttle.

Third Place: 2006 Dodge Viper

At one point in history, devices as varied as the longbow, paddle-wheeled steamboat, North American P51 Mustang, and 35mm film camera enjoyed reigns at the top of the technological mountain. Just as their reign has ended, so, too, has that of the once dominant Dodge Viper.

From the very start of this comparison, it was clear the Viper SRT10 Coupe was going to be a 3rd-place finisher. Through the entire test, it did little to change that assessment.First, it was the most difficult to live with. Getting into the seat is challenging for many. Getting out is a challenge for virtually all. The combination of its long hood and lower seating position makes it only slightly less difficult to park than an Indy car.

Front end first
It took much less than a lap of Willow Springs to figure out that Dodge has become very tired of the number of Vipers showing up on www.wreckedexotics.com. The SRT10 Coupe is a resolute pusher, its front tires losing traction long before the rears reach their peak grip. This makes the Viper handle unlike its tail-happy predecessors and very much like a Neon.

Even when you try, the SRT10's rear doesn't want to step out. Such a setup (combined with a now standard antilock braking system) makes the SRT10 extremely stable, utterly forgiving and easy to master. But slow. All this is great for owners who lack racing experience, but it limits the car's ultimate lap times when piloted by a veteran. Offsetting this understeer-biased setup is the Viper's super-wide Michelin Pilot Sports, huge 275/35R18s front and gargantuan 345/30R19s on the back.

At the test track, the only performance test it won was skid-pad cornering power (which is more a tire test than a car test) at 0.95 g, and it finished 2nd in only braking (a negligible 2 feet back of the Vette's 60-0 mph), thanks to the combination of Brembo brakes, ABS and sticky tires.

On top of all this, the SRT10 is considerably more expensive than its more capable Z06 opposition.

Fast but slowest
When the Viper RT/10 debuted as a '92 model, Dodge claimed its 8.0-liter OHV V10 produced 400 hp at 4,600 rpm. That was true. But unstated was that if revved higher, the truck-based pushrod mill made even more power. For the '96 Viper Coupe, Dodge claimed 50 more hp at 5,200 rpm. And a few more rpm probably made a few more horses in that engine, too.

For the latest version, the bore of its aluminum block has been increased 0.03 inch and the stroke lengthened by 0.08 inch to gain another 0.3 liter of displacement, bringing the total to 8.3 liters. Along with other tweaks, this brings the claimed peak horsepower to 510 at 5,600 rpm. We wouldn't be surprised if a few more revs reaped a few more ponies. (Torque is 535 lb-ft at 4,600.) A prediction: SRT10 owners will spend tens of thousands of dollars with aftermarket tuners to make their rides as fast as the Z06 and Ford GT. Stock versions of the Z06 and GT, that is.

Thanks in part to its torque advantage, the Viper's V10 is arguably more flexible than the power plants of its rivals. Don't know a double-clutch downshift from a double cappuccino? Just leave the six-speed Tremec in 3rd gear: In that gear it pulls strongly from 40 mph to well over 100. And on those rare occasions when you do have to shift, the Viper's tranny feels better sorted than the Corvette's, though both use the same Tremec unit. Go figure.

Too much Mr. Nice Guy
While still a spectacular performer, the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT10 lacks the freshness of its predecessors. It also lacks much of its former bad attitude. That's at once a very good and a very bad thing.

Consumer Commentary

2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

"It is surprising that the Z06 is getting a wide range of reviews which tends to lead me to believe that the extra HP is not something just anyone can get in and master. It would seem that the 10% larger tire size in a run-flat compared to the non-run-flat GY Supercar on the C5 Z06 might be the source of some issues with 25% greater power."starrow68, December 6, 2005

"I've driven both of these cars, and the Z06 is without peer. The Viper has too many vices that ruin a wonderful chassis and engine. The Z06 on the other hand is like Dr.Jekyl/Mr.Hyde. On the street, my Z06 is as docile as a Z51 C6, but on the track, it turns into a go-kart with flat cornering and stability. The Viper may have an edge (a very slight edge) on the Z06 on the track because its steering is faster. BUT, the Z06 is much pleasurable to throw around." — blkhemi, December 6, 2005

2006 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe

"I think Dodge should revise the Viper to better compete with the new Corvette Z06. Perhaps an aluminum chassis would help."xkss, July 20, 2005

"I have no dog in this hunt, but my guess is that the new Z06, Autoweek criticism notwithstanding, is in a position to put the Viper out of business. Bracketed by the Corvette Z06 on the lower price end and the Ford GT for those that want the ultimate in American performance, I see the Viper as now being a 'tweener' without a lot of intrinsic merit."habitat1, December 6, 2005

2006 Ford GT

"It seems as though the new Mustang won't be the only Ford that will be raced in sports car racing. The new Mustang races in the GS class of Grand-Am Cup and the new GT will be run by a privateer next year in the GT class of the Speed World Challenge."xkss, November 12, 2005

"But at the same time one wonders if the Ford GT is worth $75K more than the Z06, one could also wonder if the Z06 is worth $35K more than a Shelby GT500? That question can only be answered by the owner of the checkbook." — rorr, October 11, 2005

Second Opinions

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
What's more crazy — that you can buy a 500-horsepower Chevy for $65,000, or that a $150,000 Ford exists? Now a base Vette makes as much horsepower as the first Dodge Viper did in 1992. With the exception of $3-a-gallon gas, 2006 couldn't be any better for performance car fans.

The best part of today's high-performance world is that all three cars, while pushing the limits of street-legal performance, are truly functional daily drivers — though the Viper barely qualifies. It's the hardest to get into and out of, it's got the cheapest interior, and it has the "weakest" performance (hell, it can't even do 11s in the quarter…). All this and it costs more than the Z06 while roasting passengers in a hot cabin. Except for having superior seats and better exterior styling, the Viper has nothing on the new Z06.

The Corvette is simply the best performance bargain in the history of the automobile. It's got the best engine in the group, and it's a no-brainer daily driver. I wish the seats were up to par, and I wish the tranny didn't feel like a 200,000-mile 1969 Chevelle's, but at this price I can't honestly even complain about those issues.

The Ford GT? It's expensive, but it's also the only true "American Exotic" in this test. And at $160,000 it's still a bargain in my mind.

Senior Editor Ed Hellwig says:
As the only real "exotic" car of this group, the Ford GT should have walked away with this one. It has the looks, the price and even a stupid door design, but it wasn't enough for me. If I was going to drop that much money on a car I would want an engine that would stomp all over anything with a license plate. When you hear the whine of the GT's blower you know you're going to pile on some speed pretty quickly, but it's so smooth and refined it almost feels more suited to a luxury coupe than an exotic sports car.

The Corvette's motor, on the other hand, can be downright scary. It's quiet and drivable around town, but get into it on a freeway ramp and you better have both hands on the wheel and a paid-up life insurance policy. From just off idle all the way to its 7,000 rpm redline, the Corvette's motor never lets up and sounds ferocious doing it. The GT's supercharged 5.4 is good, but the Corvette's normally aspirated 427 is better.

Then there's the Viper, which can be plenty ferocious as well. Good-looking and decently comfortable, the Viper sits in an odd spot. It's closer to the GT in terms of style and eccentric ergonomics, yet more like the Corvette in its accessibility. Two strikes in my book. Add in its boring exhaust note and it never had a chance. Give me the Z06 over the Viper and the GT any day. It's all the exotic I would ever need.

Stereo Evaluation

2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10
2006 Ford GT

2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

System Score: 8.0

Components: Our Corvette came with the optional six-disc CD changer, but not the nav system. Either system is considered an "upgrade" and uses seven Bose speakers. The head unit is equipped with RDS and automatic volume control, and it can read MP3 CDs.

Performance: This stereo sounds good, but not great. Considering the upgraded audio system without navigation costs $1,700 we were expecting more. We don't like the small buttons on the head unit, but found everything to be logically placed and the features are easy to use.

In terms of sound quality this stereo is a notable step up from previous Corvette systems. We also think it sounds much better than the audio systems in either the Dodge Viper or Ford GT. The Viper's pumped-up system sounds like it's always yelling at you, the Vette's setup is something you can listen to in the background without it being distracting.

The bass is acceptable and has only a little punch but what bass there is sounds tight and well controlled. Boosting the bass through the rotary knob helps. The stereo includes a midrange control, something we like. The Corvette's system reproduces strong highs and they never sound squeaky or tinny, though they also don't bring out much detail.

Overall, the sound is somewhat thin and not as big as we'd hoped for considering the "hey, look at me" factor of the Corvette. Surprisingly, music without all the commotion of rock or rap sounds better than average; vocal tracks sound especially good. Pop in a folk, country or bluegrass disc (or just tune in the appropriate XM station) and you'll be able to hear the Bose speakers in all their glory. Hard rock simply sounds overwhelmed, with the mids becoming a sonic mess.

Best Feature: Vocal reproduction.

Worst Feature: Small buttons.

Conclusion: This stereo sounds good most of the time — audiophiles may be a little disappointed. If you find yourself reaching for a Sara Evans or Alison Krauss CD more often than not, you'll be pleased with your purchase. — Brian Moody

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2006 Ford GT

System Score: 7.0

Components: The base stereo in the GT is a Rockford Fosgate system with a single-CD player. It has only two speakers but those are Rockford Fosgate as well. There is an optional McIntosh Audiophile system available but our car did not have that option. We actually prefer the standard stereo as the upgraded stereo adds a subwoofer that partially blocks the view of the engine, which is situated right behind the cockpit. Also, the McIntosh stereo adds $4,000 to the price of the Ford GT.

Performance: We didn't have high expectations for this stereo as it only has two speakers. However, the Rockford Fosgate system sounds quite good and offers a much richer sound than we initially expected.

There's not much bass, but what there is sounds strong and well controlled. It doesn't thump but neither does it sound hollow as many systems without a subwoofer can. The highs are clear and the midrange sounds good as well, but don't expect too much in the way of separation. While listening to most types of music, all the different instruments and vocals tend to run together.

Ergonomically this stereo leaves much to be desired. The head unit is a far reach from the driver seat and the buttons don't always make sense. It took several of our editors to finally figure out that you have to hold the "CD POWER " button down for a good 3 or 4 seconds before it turns on the unit.

This isn't a great stereo, but considering the car it's in we think most buyers can live without the $4,000 optional system. Oh, and as a side note; the Ford GT's base stereo sounds much better than the one that comes with the Ferrari F430.

Best Feature: Surprisingly good sound quality.

Worst Feature: Awkward controls.

Conclusion: With 550 hp at your disposal and a supercharger staring back at you through the rearview mirror, we think it'll be a good year before you even reach for the stereo. — Brian Moody

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2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10

System Score: 6.0

Components: The Viper comes standard with an in-dash six-disc CD changer. The system puts out 310 watts of power and comes with six speakers plus a subwoofer. The six speakers are placed throughout the cabin with high mounted tweeters and woofers/midrange units mounted low in the door. The subwoofer is mounted in the center of the car between the two front seats.

Performance: The one thing this stereo has going for it is volume — you can crank it up. The stereo gets loud all right but the sound quality isn't much to brag about. Plenty of bass is present, but it isn't refined or tight and seems prone to distortion.

We say "seems" because our Viper came with a damaged speaker grille on the center mounted subwoofer — perhaps the speaker itself is damaged, too. The grille was bent to the point that we're certain it did not come that way from the factory. Still, we feel we have a general idea of how the stereo performs as that one thing wouldn't make an otherwise fine stereo sound awful.

We don't really think anyone is buying a Viper for the stereo but a nice sound system can make for pleasing background music while the V10's exhaust note takes center stage. Even with the car idling, the stereo is somewhat drowned out.

Despite the broken speaker grille, the system sounds fair. The highs are reproduced well, but the midrange and bass lack separation. This stereo has strong presence and gives you the feeling the music is right in your face. This can be really cool…for about the first 20 minutes. After that it starts to get taxing. Oh, it gets loud but that's about all it does.

The head unit is right out of the Dodge parts bin, and looks a little chintzy for an $80,000 sports car. It is easy to use and all the controls are big enough and easy to read. But as with other Dodge and Chrysler stereos, we don't like the preset memory system. Most modern head units simply require that you hold down the preset button you want to set until it, well, sets. But this one makes you press a separate "set" button first, then the corresponding button. Granted, it's a minor complaint but with 500 horses tucked under the hood we'd like to spend every ounce of attention focused on driving.

Best Feature: Lots of volume.

Worst Feature: Not much refinement.

Conclusion: The Viper's audio system is a lot like the car itself: A lot of volume without much finesse. — Brian Moody

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Features that are important on more pedestrian vehicles don't rate a second glance on an exotic car. And things that cause untold excitement when placed on an exotic car would be rated "dumb" on everyday vehicles. Here's what we thought was important.


  Chevrolet Corvette Dodge Viper Ford GT
Traction/Stability Control S N/A N/A
Head-Up Dispay S N/A N/A
Adjustable Pedals N/A S N/A
Keyless Start S N/A N/A
Flip-Up Gas Cap N/A S S
Cruise Control S N/A N/A
Midengine Design N/A N/A S
Luggage Space for Two S S N/A
Dry Sump Engine S N/A S
Engine under Glass N/A N/A S

S: Standard
O: Optional
N/A: Not Available

Traction/stability control: Imagine in the middle of an emergency situation being able to allow Tony Stewart to take the wheel. That's stability control. With 500-plus horsepower, you need it. Even on the track, smooth, fast drivers will almost never invoke a response from the Z06's expertly tuned "competition" mode.

Head-up display: On the racetrack fractions of a second are vital and a HUD saves time wasted switching focus between instruments and what you're rushing toward at 140 mph. And the aging eyes of those who can afford a Z06 can take a painfully long time to focus. Bottom line: fighter planes are equipped with HUD.

Adjustable pedals: With the seat in the proper position for your arms to manipulate the steering wheel, your knees often end up jammed against that same wheel. Adjustable pedals make things more comfortable.

Keyless start: Just as remote door locks have become expected in 2006, keyless start is proof that one day none of us will have to fish for our keys while also carrying briefcases, groceries or the occasional child. The Corvette is already there.

Flip-up gas cap: OK, this is strictly to humor our childhood fantasies of being in the pits at Le Mans, but it's one of the few fantasies our wives condone.

Cruise control: It's sad, but you can't spend every moment in these cars blasting around the racetrack. Some of the time you have to drive to the track and back. Especially on the way home from the track, cruise control will help avoid the tendency to double the speed limit.

Midengine: A car doesn't care where its engine is located. Instead it worries about such things as polar moment of inertia and weight distribution. Still, every racecar is midengined unless rules prohibit it.

Space for two airline carry-ons: Unless you restrict yourself to day trips, you'll need room for a couple of small bags. Often this space will be used by your companion. An option: Leave them at home and put your helmet and fire suit in the passenger seat. We're convinced an exotic car will get you through times of no companion better than a companion will get you through times of no exotic car.

Dry sump engine: There are reasons virtually all racecars are fitted with dry sump oiling systems. Among them: Extreme cornering forces can starve oil pumps, which can mean instant engine death. Also, splashing oil creates drag on spinning crankshafts, which reduces power.

Engine under glass: Hey, it's a pain in the butt to pop the hood every time some yahoo wants to ogle your car. With the GT's engine-under-glass arrangement, you can just point. Apply Rain-X to ease removal of drool from said glass.

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
  Chevrolet Corvette Ford GT Dodge Viper
Personal Rating (10% of score) 78.0% 89.0% 33.0%
Recommended Rating (10% of score) 100.0% 67.0% 33.0%
Evaluation Score (20% of score) 78.0% 77.0% 66.0%
Feature Content (20% of score) 60.0% 40.0% 30.0%
Performance (30% of score) 90.0% 95.0% 78.0%
Price (10% of score) 100.0% 0% 78.0%
Total Score 82.4% 68.0% 57.0%
Final Ranking 1 2 3

Scoring Explanation

Personal Rating: Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating: After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment.

20-Point Evaluation: Each participating editor ranked every vehicle based on a comprehensive 20-point evaluation. The evaluation covered everything from exterior design to cupholders. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Performance Testing: All three cars were put through our standard performance tests, which include 0-60 and quarter-mile acceleration, 60-0 emergency braking and 600-foot slalom/handling tests. We also drove each vehicle around the nine-turn, 2.5-mile Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California, to record both lap times and general driving impressions when these cars are driven like they're meant to be in a controlled environment.

Feature Content: For this category, the editors picked the top 10 features they thought would be most beneficial to the consumer shopping in this segment. For each vehicle, the score was based on the amount of actual features it had versus the total possible (30). Standard and optional equipment were taken into consideration.

Price: The numbers listed were the result of a simple percentage calculation based on the least expensive vehicle in the comparison test. Using the "as-tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles, the least expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the remaining vehicles receiving lesser scores based on how much more each one costs.

Evaluation - Drive
Evaluation - Ride
Evaluation - Design
Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space

Evaluation - Drive
Engine Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 10.0 1
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.3 3
Ford GT 8.6 2
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 6.0 3
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.6 2
Ford GT 9.0 1
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.6 2 (tie)
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 9.3 1
Ford GT 8.6 2 (tie)
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.0 2
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.6 3
Ford GT 9.3 1
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.3 2 (tie)
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 8.3 2 (tie)
Ford GT 8.6 1
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.0 2
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.3 3
Ford GT 9.0 1
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.3 1
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.0 2
Ford GT 6.0 3
Fun to Drive
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 9.6 2
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 8.0 3
Ford GT 10.0 1

Evaluation - Ride
Seat Comfort Front
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.0 2 (tie)
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 8.3 1
Ford GT 8.0 2 (tie)
Wind & Road Noise
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.6 2
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.0 3
Ford GT 8.0 1
Rattles & Squeaks
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.0 2 (tie)
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 8.0 2 (tie)
Ford GT 8.3 1

Evaluation - Design lt;table cellspacing="0" class="chart"> Interior Design Vehicle Score Rank Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.3 2 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 6.3 3 Ford GT 9.6 1
Interior Material
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 6.3 2
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 4.0 3
Ford GT 8.3 1
Climate Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.3 1 (tie)
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 8.0 3
Ford GT 8.3 1 (tie)
Audio System Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.0 1
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 6.0 3
Ford GT 7.0 2
Secondary Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.6 1 (tie)
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.3 3
Ford GT 7.6 1 (tie)
Exterior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.3 2
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.6 3
Ford GT 10.0 1
Headlight Illumination
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.6 1 (tie)
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.6 1 (tie)
Ford GT 7.6 1 (tie)
Overall Build Quality
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.6 2
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 7.0 3
Ford GT 8.0 1

Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 8.0 1
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 5.6 2
Ford GT 4.6 3
Expanding/Loading Cargo
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.6 1
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 6.0 2
Ford GT 3.0 3
Storage Space
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 7.0 1
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 6.0 2
Ford GT 3.0 3
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 6.0 1
Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe 5.3 2
Ford GT 5.0 3
Model year2003
ModelCorvette Z06
Engine typeOHV V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)5.7
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)405@6000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)400@4800
Transmission typesix-speed manual
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)4.6
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.9 @ 112
60-0 mph (ft.)109
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)65.5
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)19/28
Edmunds observed (mpg)17
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3118
Length (in.)179.7
Width (in.)73.6
Height (in.)47.7
Wheelbase (in.)104.5
Turning circle (ft.)40.2
Legroom, front (in.)42.7
Headroom, front (in.)37.8
Shoulder room, front (in.)55.3
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/ 36,000 miles
Powertrain3 years/ 36,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/ 100,000 miles
Roadside assistance3 years/ 36,000 miles
Model year2003
ModelViper SRT-10
Engine typeOHV V10
Displacement (cc/cu-in)8.3
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)505@5600
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)525@4200
Transmission typesix-speed manual
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12 @ 120
60-0 mph (ft.)125
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)64.7
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)N/A
Edmunds observed (mpg)13
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3380
Length (in.)175.6
Width (in.)75.2
Height (in.)47.6
Wheelbase (in.)98.8
Turning circle (ft.)40.5
Legroom, front (in.)42.4
Headroom, front (in.)36.5
Shoulder room, front (in.)54.1
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/ 36,000 miles
Powertrain7 years/ 70,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/ 100,000 miles
Roadside assistance3 years/ 36,000 miles
Model year2003
ModelSVT Cobra
Engine typeDOHC V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)4.6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)390@6000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)390@3500
Transmission typesix-speed manual
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)5.3
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)13.6 @ 108.2
60-0 mph (ft.)125.1
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)63.2
Fuel Consumption
Edmunds observed (mpg)16
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3665
Length (in.)183.5
Width (in.)73.1
Height (in.)52.5
Wheelbase (in.)101.3
Turning circle (ft.)41.7
Legroom, front (in.)41.8
Legroom, rear (in.)29.9
Headroom, front (in.)38.1
Headroom, rear (in.)35.5
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/ 36,000 miles
Powertrain3 years/ 36,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/ Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance3 years/ 36,000 miles
Model year2002
Engine typeDOHC VTEC V6
Displacement (cc/cu-in)3.2
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)290@7100
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)224@5500
Transmission typesix-speed manual
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)5.2
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)13.6 @ 104.8
60-0 mph (ft.)116
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)65.1
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)17/24
Edmunds observed (mpg)18
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3153
Length (in.)174.2
Width (in.)71.3
Height (in.)46.1
Wheelbase (in.)99.6
Turning circle (ft.)38.1
Legroom, front (in.)44.3
Headroom, front (in.)36.3
Shoulder room, front (in.)52.5
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/ 50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/ 50,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/ Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/ 50,000 miles
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