Finding the Quickest, Fastest and Best-Handling American Supercar Our photo shoot was the only time the Viper saw the Z06's taillights. By Josh Jacquot, Senior Road Test Editor Date posted: 10-07-2007 We know you can't resist them, so here are the hard specs. First, the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe: 8.4-liter V10, 600 horsepower, 560 pound-feet of torque and an as-tested weight of 3,437 pounds. Those numbers, friend, are ridiculous. And they make the Viper the highest-displacement, most powerful naturally aspirated car we've ever tested. Combined with its crushing road presence, they define it as America's most soulful supercar. The 2007 Chevy Corvette Z06 is nearly as impressive: 7.0-liter V8, 505 hp, 470 lb-ft of torque and 3,222 pounds. Or, to put it another way, a sports car with a power-to-weight ratio marginally better than a full-blown monster truck. A very serious machine. Driving either is like combining that first date with a randy prom queen with the physics-defying performance of a 1,000cc sport bike. You can hardly wait to get to the action and then, when it starts, you're so scared you want it to stop. These cars are about speed. Pure speed. And so is this test. We set out to find the quickest, fastest and best-handling American supercar, which is why we've weighted the scoring a little differently. This time, performance makes up a full 50 percent of the points total. Fifty Percent. Cupholders and trunk space fall into the "who cares" category. More for Less There's a significant measure of exclusivity in the Viper's distinct lines that is sorely lacking in the Z06. Price, however, is always a factor. Our Viper wore the optional painted-on dual stripes and "razor" wheels and was socked with $1,300 in mandatory gas-guzzler tax. In total, these add-ons tally $5,000 and bring the Viper's as-tested price to $89,745. Not that it makes a difference in a contest where adrenaline matters most, but the Viper — in the grand Viper tradition — lacks any sort of creature comforts beyond the ubiquitous air-conditioning and power windows. Dodge also left out any kind of electronic lifeboats, like traction or stability control. The Z06 is cheaper. It's also packed with gadgets and gizmos that make it a more usable car. Our test car came with $8,585 in options, including a navigation system, chrome wheels, head-up display, heated seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, side impact airbags and steering-wheel radio controls. Traction and stability control systems are standard. At $78,225 it's a good value. No, it's a steal. And it's the only car to offer this kind of performance for under 80 grand. There are problems, however. Like the Vette's complete lack of exclusivity. The Z06 is stonk fast but, to most, it looks like any other Vette. And, to be completely honest, when driven back to back against a new Viper, it feels utterly emasculated. Meanwhile, nobody is going to mistake a Viper for anything other than, well, a Viper. Unlike the Z06, there's no watered-down sissy version in the hands of every Newport Ned who likes its image. The Viper only comes in one flavor: Hardcore. And there's no mistaking the sound, road presence and tarmac-twisting torque of this new snake. It's brashly American. It's unquestionably nasty. It's why the French hate us. Splitting Hairs at the Track The Viper might be the best burnout machine made today. It's also quicker and faster than the Z06. Push its start button and each and every one of the Viper's 10 cylinders comes to life with the subtlety of a 12-gauge blast. The Viper's massive pistons thump around with enough energy to shake the entire car, and its exhaust pops and bangs like a rusty Tommy gun. There aren't enough raw, rude and painfully fast cars like the Viper left, and that's precisely what makes it great. This is the big leagues. Before applying wide-open throttle on public streets, you'd better make damn sure your local constabulary supplies soap with a rope. First gear is good for 62 mph and 2nd will take you all the way to 90. So unrelenting is the Viper's acceleration that keeping it pinned will push the Coupe to 200 mph. In the limitless world of instrumented testing, the Viper bettered the Corvette at every opportunity. Its 11.8-second quarter-mile time and 3.7-second 0-60-mph sprint are just plain ridiculous. And its 125 mph trap speed is the fastest we've ever recorded for any car in the quarter-mile. Power-shifting through the gears of the Viper's six-speed Tremec transmission is like driving a D9 Cat through a mobile home: There's a lot going on, but hold the wheel straight and nothing matters except the thrill. Noise, Intensity, Risk of Death Now this is fun. Realistically, both of these cars have so much power that turning rubber into smoke is laughably easy. The Corvette is also very quick, but the experience doesn't pack the same buzz as it does in the Viper. There's less noise, less intensity and less risk of death. Although it crushed the 60 mph barrier in just 4.1 seconds and blasted through the quarter-mile in 12.0 seconds at 122 mph, the Vette finishes several car lengths behind the Dodge. Still, the Corvette's best feature is under its hood. The 7.0-liter all-aluminum V8 is a remarkable piece of engineering, pushrods and all. It shrieks its way to its 7,000-rpm redline faster than you can say Trans-Am race engine, but offers enough bottom-end torque to light the tires up off idle. At full throttle it sounds like you want a V8 to sound. It also gets remarkable mileage. On a long highway run it made 25 mpg and averaged 16.2 mpg during its week of mixed driving. The Viper averaged 14.7 mpg. Viper Handles Better, Too The Viper's long nose, driving position and small windows make it difficult to know where its corners are on tight roads. But once a driver adjusts, there aren't many quicker cars on any road. Drive the Viper hard in a series of corners and you won't settle into a smooth rhythm like you might in a less powerful, lighter Porsche 911, Ferrari F430 or even a Z06 Corvette. Rather, its power delivery, weight and high-effort controls make the driving experience more World of Outlaws than Formula 1. Still, its steering is direct and immediate when precision and placing the car matter, yet it never feels nervous in a straight line, even at triple-digit speeds. It might force its way down a twisty road like a parade of Nextel Cup cars, but manhandle it properly, and it does so faster than all of the above. Subtle? No. Effective? Yes. At 74.3 mph, the Viper is among the three fastest cars we've ever driven through the slalom — an impressive feat for a car this large. Its 0.99g skid pad performance reinforces the Snake's abilities. At 70.8 mph through the slalom and 0.93g on the skid pad, the Z06 isn't really in the same league as the Viper, and we have to lay some of the blame at the Corvette's Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, which perform like all-season rubber compared to the Viper's larger Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 rubber. In the slalom, the Corvette's balance tends toward oversteer, and its tail-wagging is disconcerting and keeps its pace down. At lower speeds, however, in a constant-radius turn, the Z06 is easily controlled. We could still be driving it in huge power-induced slides around the skid pad if we wanted to. Both cars also have exceptional brakes, but again the Viper's are just a little bit better. The Viper's 14.0-inch front rotors and four-piston Brembo calipers stopped it from 60 mph in only 104 feet. The Z06 also has 14.0-inch front rotors but uses six-piston calipers to stop in 106 feet from the same speed. No amount of hard driving on the street showed any weakness in either system. Making No Apologies With a softer suspension than the Viper, the Z06's around-town manners are better. If you plan to drive one of these cars around town, you should buy the Vette. The Z06 benefits from the economies of scale that come from sharing its platform with its more mainstream little brother, the LS3-powered standard Corvette. As a result, the Z06 is smoother, roomier and more refined than the Viper. It also has a more comfortable ride and far more cargo space. For mind-numbing traffic slogs, parking lot maneuvers or other unintended use, it's easily the more manageable of the two. Cupholders? There are two. Which is two more than the Dodge has. It's not that the Corvette isn't sharp. It's just overshadowed heavily by the Viper any time raw performance is a factor. The shifter for the Z06's six-speed, for example, is fine on its own, but compare it to the Viper's accurate shift linkage and it feels like it's been smoothed over by a committee meeting. The Corvette's steering also lacks the exacting precision of the Viper's and its large steering wheel and spongy seats didn't win it any fans. Inside the Viper, things are cramped and there's still no proper dead pedal, but it's fairly easy to find comfort in its heavily bolstered seats, which have suede center sections to keep occupants stuck in place. The dash houses more gauges than you'll find in some racecars, but manages to be well laid out, and the seating position is perfect. We're also fans of the Viper's signature side exhaust. It's part of what makes a Viper a Viper. It's also the reason God invented long pants. Burning your calf on the sucker is not fun. The Verdict This is what 1,105 horsepower looks like when it's not burning rubber. And that is why the Viper wins this test. Because it forces you to commit. Think of it like a bacon and egg breakfast. In a bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. Viper buyers take the plunge. They must commit. This car is just flat scary. Loud, rough, hot as hell and faster than a Z06, it wins this test because it deserves to — because it's badass and it's not afraid to admit it. The Z06 faithful, on the other hand, are simply involved. They walked the fine line between undiluted insanity and marginal practicality and decided that practicality was the better choice. Good for them. Their Z06 is among the quickest street cars ever built, and it'll never burn their legs. Bottom line: These are very different cars. And the easy and obvious conclusion is this: If you want a daily driver, buy the Vette. If you want the ultimate thrill, buy the Viper. We say, don't be a chicken.