Model Engine Transmission
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The engine is addictive and sinful – you could say it’s outdated but I would disagree.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.