Model En­gine Trans­mis­sion

Friday - - Motoring - 640bhp @ 6,150rpm 814Nm @ 4,950rpm 331kph Low threes Dh519,999

be­hind small pools on the in­side of sev­eral cor­ners. Mak­ing an abrupt turn with that heavy, phys­i­cal steer­ing sends the trac­tion con­trol light hay­wire in half-off mode and the weight trans­fer does nasty things to the rear end.

It’s a light car at just over 1,500kg, and that’s a feat in it­self. SRT has evolved the pre­his­toric old Viper with a light­weight com­pos­ite in­take man­i­fold; a new alu­minium im­pact beam at the front and about 40kg shaved off the chas­sis; Kevlar-backed Sa­belt seats; light­weight wheels and brakes; car­bon-fi­bre bon­net, roof, deck­lid and alu­minium doors. The car­mak­ers say that cheap parts like the plas­tic air vent bezels help the Viper stick to the diet, but these sort of things need to be brushed alu­minium for half a mil­lion big ones.

The en­gine is ad­dic­tive and sin­ful – you could say it’s out­dated but I would dis­agree. Al­though based on a decades-old de­sign it’s been sig­nif­i­cantly re­vised and it’s the car’s ma­jor ca­chet. The Corvette im­presses with its pack­age, but the Viper en­thrals with its pow­er­train and that short-throw, close-ra­tio Tre­mec. Oh, and I can’t stop look­ing at it with glazed eyes. ny­way, the en­gine, blar­ing deaf­en­ingly through the side ex­haust, con­stantly threat­ens to rip those car­bon pan­els off and strip it­self free. It’s an im­pris­oned psy­chopath.

SRT does it in all-alu­minium, hand­craft­ing the V10 with forged pis­tons, sodium-filled ex­haust valves (two valves per cylin­der, and stop snig­ger­ing), new cat­a­lysts to ease back­pres­sure and a lighter fly­wheel.

In fact all that hand­craft­ing could be its bur­den. People aren’t buy­ing Vipers. People aren’t buy­ing them so much, that they straight up stopped mak­ing them. That’s a shame. The world is a bet­ter place with a Viper in it. They wanted to sell up to 2,000 a year. They man­aged a quar­ter of that. You could at­tribute this to many fac­tors, and US deal­ers are re­luc­tant to let just any­one waltz into a show­room and take a 640bhp rear-drive car out for a spin.

The Corvette be­gan pro­duc­tion later, and al­ready there are six of those to ev­ery Viper on the Amer­i­can street. Per­son­ally I don’t re­ally get it. This is a V10 su­per sports car at half a mil­lion dirhams. The prob­lem is, per­haps, not that the Viper is ex­pen­sive. It’s that the Corvette is too darn cheap. And no­body re­ally knows how GM does it.

In­fin­itely eas­ier to live with, the ’Vette tack­les to­day’s moun­taineer­ing ses­sion with just a shrug of its shoul­ders. It’s so rounded, it can do any­thing, un­fussed, and with a 455bhp 6.2-litre V8 and al­most iden­ti­cal weight to the Viper – so, a much poorer power-to-weight ra­tio – it won’t just run with its coun­ter­part; it’ll outrun it. I don’t get it ei­ther…

Bal­anced per­fectly, with drive modes that never stran­gle the driver but rather arm him with more ‘skill’, the ’Vette slips up only with its slightly clumsy rein­ing in of a drift­ing tail. It’s not a lin­ear cor­rec­tion, but even if you catch it with the steer­ing, the car seems to hop and skip two or three times back into line rather than smoothly slid­ing into it. Sure, it could be the brand new su­per sticky rub­ber that’s been thrown on for this drive that sim­ply doesn’t like to slip.

Every­where else the ’Vette is com­posed and cos­set­ing, and not at all in­tim­i­dat­ing. You step into it af­ter the Viper and there’s al­most a sigh of re­lief, “I’ve made it, I’m alive.” That’s not how I re­mem­ber it. I first thought the Stingray was pretty wild, but I guess SRT has rewrit­ten that rule book.

With an alu­minium frame and com­pos­ite body pan­els and a se­ri­ously good au­to­matic trans­mis­sion (not to men­tion a vastly im­proved in­te­rior), the Corvette is an all-new de­vel­op­ment that points the Amer­i­can sports car to­wards the fu­ture. I’ll never get used to its new elec­tric steer­ing, not af­ter the Viper’s wel­come and nat­u­ral feel but, well, I just don’t know how they do it for 250 grand. I’m con­vinced GM must be los­ing money. But still, what a way to lose…

I’m tired. Hon­estly, I have spent 80 per cent of the day in the Viper and it’s taken its toll on me – 102 goes both ways, un­for­tu­nately.

It’s an eye-open­ing drive, the ’Vette and Viper in these moun­tains, an echo of 18 cylin­ders prob­a­bly still lin­ger­ing be­tween the rocks be­hind us. I’m go­ing to need a strong an­tide­pres­sant.

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