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Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 vs. Dodge Viper

Let us begin by saying that Allpar is in an odd position when it comes to comparing the Viper and Vette, because we've only driven one of them. That said, we can make some observations.

The current generation Corvette is fresh from a 2001 redesign, which provided extra torque to the engines (and a little more horsepower), a new top-of-the-line Z06, and upgrades to the active suspension and traction control system. All together, the result is a car that's a lot easier to live with than the Viper - from what we know.

The top end Z06 moves from zero to sixty in a Viper-status four seconds flat, according to Chevrolet. Even the base automatic can get there in five seconds, which, given the heavy clutch and stick, is an argument for buying the automatic.

Both Viper and Vette have appropriate sounds for high-performance muscle cars. Both have excellent handling, the Corvette's aided by an active suspension. But only the Vette has a dry weather traction control that makes extreme acceleration easy even for the novice driver. The active handling also makes the car much easier to handle, an important consideration for drivers not trained to handle racing cars.

The Corvette provides spacious accommodations for two, but there's not much space for doodads and gizmos, and the hard-to-open center console is very shallow. Passengers can reach back into the trunk, since there's no partition, but nothing will stay in place just behind the seats for very long.

While the traction control and active suspension make some aspects of driving the Corvette easy, shifting is not one of them. It takes time to get the feel of the heavy shifter and clutch, not to mention the six-gear pattern. A first-to-fourth feature can sometimes get in the way, on both cars.

Both interiors are sporty and unique. The Corvette's instrument panel features a well-programmed and easily operated trip computer, alphanumeric readout, and easy to read gauges. The speedometer switches between mph and kph at the press of a button, swinging the needle around as needed (because of this, the speedometer goes up to 200). Pressing an options button allows the driver to set preferences for car locking, seat movement, and other features.

The Corvette's main control drawback is the cruise control stalk, which, in GM tradition, is hard to use, and on the same stalk as the windshield washer, wipers, and headlights. However, when activated - or when the speed is changed - the alphanumeric message area tells what speed it's set for, a nice feature.

Unlike the Viper, the Corvette comes in two flavors - base and Z06. The base model can get from zero to sixty in five seconds with an automatic, 4.5 with a manual, making it almost the equal of the Z06. (The Z06 also handles better). However, the base model has a smoother ride, and an automatic transmission for those who want it - in this car, not a major drawback.

So which is the king of the hill? In terms of being a daily driver, rather than a racing car, we'd say probably the Corvette. Its dry-weather traction control and active suspension make it much more forgiving for most drivers. It's also a lot less expensive than the limited-production Viper. On the track, though, we suspect the Viper will continue to take top honors for the foreseeable future.

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