2015 Dodge Viper GT: Toe-to-Toe With Z06 In the Mountains
by Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor on October 27, 2015
That the Corvette Z06's monster motor ever feels soft should surprise you. It surprises us. But with 8.4-liters of piston-pounding hate under its hood, our 2015 Dodge Viper has a way of recalibrating our view on just about everything. Even the Z06.
It's been hot. Really hot. About 100 degrees, in fact, in a Southern California summer that will never end. We've taken our long-term Viper and a short-term Corvette Z06 tester to the mountains to feel out their differences. We're driving hard. But the heat is making the otherwise-stunning Z06 seem surprisingly out of sorts.
Remember that these cars have horsepower ratings that are almost identical: 645 for the Viper, 650 for the Z06. But there's no doubt that the oppressive heat hurts the Z06. With coolant temps hovering around 255 degrees and oil temps well beyond 300 degrees, the Z06 was likely on the verge of limp mode for much of our driving. At these temperatures, self-protection measures surely limit its power.
So it's unsurprising that the Viper felt more powerful, particularly at high rpm. The Corvette's torque advantage, though diminished, was still present in the lower rev range. But when driven hard in these conditions, the Viper's engine was easily the more impressive, aided in part by hauling around 146 fewer pounds.
But the Z06 has a lot more going for it than just its engine. Its stickier rubber coupled with more intuitive steering feel and brake response don't hurt. The Z07 package on this Z06 provides Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires which are among the stickiest tires sold on any production car today. At the very least they're a good bit stickier than the worn-out Pirelli PZeros on our Viper. For this to be a fair comparison from a grip standpoint, we'd need the Viper's optional PZero Corsas.
Speaking of tires, it surprised me to discover that the transformation to Z06 has dulled some of the base Stingray's fantastic feedback. This is particularly true of the steering where massive, sticky tires are possibly the culprits. Though it's better than the Viper, steering feel isn't as good in the Z06 as it is in the standard Corvette. This is easily noticeable on a tight mountain road where small corrections are a constant necessity. The limits might be higher, but the confidence to approach them isn't as good.
Even so, the C7's fundamentally predictable, communicative nature shines when the car is pushed in this environment. It's easier to drive the big Vette quickly than it is to hustle the Viper. Better forward visibility factors into the equation, especially on public roads where blind corners and blind crests reveal every visibility woe.
Both cars have more headroom in their braking system than you need on a public road. Heat simply isn't an issue in either case, but the Z06's carbon-ceramic rotors coupled with stickier rubber provide a more responsive pedal which scrubs speed with less effort. And even though the Vette is the heavier of the two, it's stable and easily controlled under hard braking. Losing 40 mph in a few seconds is easy and comfortable in this car. The Viper, because of some lateral monkey motion, almost always makes me think twice.
Overall, there's plenty to appreciate from either driver's seat. But if I were tasked with reaching the other end of a mountain road as quickly as possible, I'd reach for the Z06 keys first. If it weren't 100 degrees, that is.
Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor