2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 vs. Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The history of high performance cars is one of great rivalries: Porsche versus Ferrari; Mustang versus Camaro. But today one of the most heated driving disputes is a humdinger: the Chevrolet Corvette against the Dodge Viper. Well, we couldn’t resist a 4-wheel feud like that, so we decided to pit these super car rivals against each other in a true performance arena.
And that arena would be none other than our favorite winter proving grounds, Savannah, Georgia’s Roebling Road Raceway. When we last pitted these two super cars together in 2001, the Z06 could muster only 385 horsepower from its 5.7 liter V8, and the 460-horse Viper ACR coupe had just been updated with ABS brakes. Despite having a deficit in raw acceleration, our staff still preferred the Corvette for all-around competence and superior lap times.
This time around, the Viper SRT-10 is an all-new, more refined roadster and boasts an incredible 500 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque from its 505 cubic inch all-aluminum V- 10. It shifts through a 6-speed manual exclusively, with a mechanical limited slip rear end. That power is harnessed by a new steel space frame chassis that’s substantially stiffer than before. The all-independent suspension is tuned for improved responsiveness at the limits of adhesion. Which are quite high thanks to massive 345/30ZR19 Michelins in the rear and 275/35-18s up front. All four corners feature 14-inch brake rotors and ABS for maximum stopping power. Still, it takes a brave driver to get the most out of the Viper as it communicates so little of what’s happening next.
Cloaking these improved mechanicals is a handsome and uniquely aggressive body. Gone are the brash, cartoonish curves, replaced by a more mature, self-confident stance. Lowered fender lines and deep side scallops update the classic performance look, while a partial under tray and improved aerodynamics add much-needed functionality. A well-designed soft top is operational, finally, as are the side exhaust pipes, once again.
Our praise is not quite so high for the Viper’s new interior, however. The control layout and material quality are much improved, as is leg room, but cabin access remains awkward and the general feeling inside remains claustrophobic due to its high center tunnel and narrow foot well.
But there will be plenty of space between the SRT-10 and other cars that may try to follow it. Our 1/4 mile course was covered in 12.4 seconds at 116 miles per hour. Gentle launches are needed to avoid massive wheel spin, and returned a 0 to 60 measure of a mere 4.0 seconds flat.
Those times put the Viper less than a blink of the eyes ahead of the 2003 Corvette Z06, which mustered a 4.1 0-to 60 sprint and found the end of the 1/4 mile in 12.9 seconds, at 113 miles per hour. The Corvette delivered those numbers despite giving up 95 horses to the Viper. For 2003, Chevy’s LS6 5.7 liter pushrod V8 produces 405 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.
Given the disparity in engine size and output, this test should be a lopsided blowout for the Viper, but where the Corvette makes up ground is in the intelligent use of its power. Out on the road course, the Z06 bestows confidence on the driver, by keeping the pilot involved in what’s happening. Every move of the wheel is transferred quickly to the road, adhesion limits are reached progressively, and the car gives plenty of warning before stepping out of line. The Corvette is a car you can step into and immediately feel comfortable driving at high speeds. Chevy’s clever Active Handling system and ABS are unobtrusive safety nets that help both car and driver reach their performance potentials.
For 2003, all Corvettes gain a few more standard convenience features as well as the option of Magnetic Selective Ride Control. The Z06 package is still available only on the hardtop coupe body style and only with a 6-speed manual transmission. Electronic traction control, however, is standard.
The SRT-10, despite its newfound refinement, remains true to the Viper’s original design philosophy of being a back-to-basics American Muscle car. It is an uncompromising, non- negotiable performance machine that makes the driver sweat for every ounce of adrenalin it delivers. It is the ultimate expression of American automotive muscle. But as the line goes, power is nothing without control, and in the modern automotive world, few vehicles exhibit that philosophy better than the Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
Price notwithstanding, the Vette is just a better all-around performer than the Viper. But price is something we can’t afford to ignore. The 2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 lists for $80,795, with choice of paint color being the only option. The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 stickers for $52,095. You do the math!
But for those who can afford it, the second generation Viper retains its exclusivity, raw performance and loads of attitude, but in a much better executed package. This car is no longer a toy. The Corvette Z06 counters with a strong performance of its own, but balanced by daily- driver utility and honest value. But choosing between the two is a tough choice to have to make for any enthusiast, and it’s a debate that will gladly occupy our minds for many laps to come!
Dodge Viper SRT-10
Engine: 8.3 liter V-10
Torque: 525 lb feet
0-60 mph: 4.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 12.4 seconds @ 116 mph
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Engine: 5.7 liter pushrod V8
Torque: 400 lb feet
0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds
1/4 mile: 12.9 seconds @ 113 mph