No matter how many quarter miles we run and slaloms we navigate, the only sure way to find out the good and the bad of any high performance car is on a race track. So we’ve brought three of the best here to Roebling Road Raceway near Savannah, Georgia. The Chevrolet Corvette Z06, this Dodge Viper SRT-10 coupe, and the Porsche Cayman S. They all have stellar street credentials. But are they ready for the track?
“Race car with lights” is one of the oldest cliches in writing road tests, but if you review the specs for the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe, and Porsche Cayman S, you quickly realize that our trio of modern sports cars are as well equipped and tuned for competition as many pure racing machines. And our venue, Roebling Road Raceway, a fast two-mile SCCA-favorite road course near Savannah, Georgia, is the perfect place to put those specs to a real world track test. Starting with the Corvette Z06. This ultra-high performance coupe-only version of the latest Corvette is packed with technology transferred directly from Chevy’s championship winning C6-R race car.
The aluminum/magnesium chassis is Z06 specific, and it’s wrapped in aggressive aluminum and carbon fiber bodywork designed to maximize cooling and aerodynamics, while the huge 7.0-liter LS7 pushrod dry-sump V8 is built up from a unique aluminum small-block with titanium rods and intake valves, free-flow heads, and more aggressive cams, for a thumping 505-horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.
The 6-speed manual rear-mounted transaxle and limited slip differential are also beefed up and include a fluid cooler. And Z06 rolling stock includes stiffer rear suspension components, plus wider wheels with substantially larger disc brake rotors clamped by red painted 6-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, which all hammers to 60 in only 3.8-seconds and through the quarter mile in 11.9-seconds at 124 miles-per-hour.
The Z06 is super-solid, especially when the torque-monster V8 is pulling it out of the corners. The multi-mode stability system practically makes the rear tires one with the asphalt. It also garnered the fastest lap time of our group. But heavy steering and somewhat flat seats make this a very physical car to drive.
Still if you can wrestle the almost modest $65,690 out of your bank account, you can have the most potent Corvette ever built, and one that can keep up with exotics costing three times as much.
A car that has played a pivotal role in reviving the spirit and form of the American muscle machine is the Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe. Even in its second generation this is a far more bare bones sports car than the Corvette, yet it shouts classic performance loud and clear.
The coupe roof does a very noticeable job of reinforcing the already stiff Viper platform, all clad in still bulging aerodynamic body panels that actually do increase downforce and high speed stability.
Of course the Viper has always been built around its signature V10, and the latest 8.3-liter pushrod variant delivers a smashing 510 horsepower and 535 pound-feet of torque. From there it gets even simpler. Between the V10 and the rear wheels is just a 6-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential with no electronic driver aids.
While the chassis is supported by a lightweight aluminum suspension, and big 18- and 19-inch wheels stopped by 14-inch Brembo brakes.
With 3,450 pounds to move, the big V10 easily pushes the Viper to 60 in 4.0 seconds flat, and through the quarter mile in 12.5 seconds at 118 miles-per-hour. With its huge power, the Viper requires a carefully controlled throttle just to keep the rear end on the road.
However, light and sharp steering, and super responsive brakes, mean that the Viper Coupe is a less physical car to drive than you might think.
And even with a well-heeled price of $86,995, this reptile is still one of the purest driving experiences out there.
Of course not everyone wants American-style pedal-to-the-metal performance. Germany’s Porsche has been the consistent choice for Europhile sports car fans for over half a century. And their latest effort, the two-place Cayman S, is already a big hit.
Essentially a hard-top version of the popular Boxster roadster, the Cayman S is stronger, sleeker, and more powerful than its drop-top sibling. As with the Viper, the Cayman’s steel top adds substantial rigidity to the chassis. It shares the Boxster’s MacPherson strut suspension design, but with stiffer spring, sway bars, and our car’s 19-inch tires.
Cayman S is propelled by a new 3.4-liter flat-six engine that mixes a bored-out Boxster S block with top end bits from the 911. It yields 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque.
Combined with a 6-speed manual, a quick sprint to 60 takes only 4.8 seconds, with the quarter mile ending in 13.4 seconds at 105 miles-per-hour.
In corners, the Cayman is sharper than even the fabled 911, as well as the Z06 and Viper. The steering is super-precise, and the chassis superbly balanced. Body roll is almost non-existent, and the optional Porsche Stability Management system modulates all driver aids for maximum traction. The big vented cross drilled discs also pulled things down when needed without a fuss.
The Cayman S is also very driver adaptable; solid and stable for the more restrained driver, or light and tossable for the more exuberant. Either way, it’s a lot of exotic car style performance for $59,695.
But then all of our high performance trio are impressive; they filled our day at Roebling Road with driving nirvana. All three delivered top notch speed, agility, and braking, but each had its own unique performance flavor. And all are more than ready for a few round-de-rounds, whenever you are.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06:
Engine: 7.0-Liter Ls7 Pushrod Dry-sump V8
Torque: 470 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 3.8 Seconds
Dodge Viper SRT-10:
Engine: 8.3-Liter Pushrod Variant V10
Torque: 535 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 4.0 Seconds
Porsche Cayman S:
Engine: 3.4-Liter Flat-six
Torque: 251 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 4.8 Seconds