The engine has plenty of midrange grunt, with 500 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 3750 rpm. The GT doesn't sound as racy as the Corvette, its engine note soft and overlaid by the muted whine of the supercharger, but it is very swift--the quickest from 0 to 60 mph. All three cars are incredibly fast, with sub-ten-second times for the 0-to-100-mph dash and quarter-mile times of around twelve seconds.
With cars this quick, we're glad to be on some of the best, least inhabited, and most challenging roads in America, perhaps even in the world. The byways of southern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, northeastern Kentucky, and West Virginia form the greatest unknown sports-car playground in the United States. There's a sort of conspiracy that says that all of the good roads in the States are on the West Coast and in the Northeast--but we'd rather be here, especially since the cops seem absent.
Unfortunately for us, we're here when the remnants of Hurricane Katrina, downgraded to a tropical storm after laying waste to the Gulf Coast, sweeps in to deposit plenty of rain under leaden skies. Our appointment at BeaveRun, north of Pittsburgh, is washed out, so we head back to Michigan and GingerMan Raceway on the west side of the state. We have a little more than six hours to cover 460 miles. Then the heavens open, and we ply the freeways of Ohio and Indiana in a gray murk, peering through banks of spray and frenzied windshield wipers.
In the course of this epic journey, we discover that all three cars are, despite some flaws, quite practical and very safe. In the Viper, there is plenty of luggage space under the rear hatchback, although thieves will have little difficulty identifying your monogrammed Louis Vuitton gear. The radio and HVAC work fine, too. The Viper tends to bounce around over expansion joints but cruises quietly, thanks to a top gear that's suitable for land-speed-record attempts. The cabin gets incredibly hot unless you run with the air-conditioning on, and the seats have too much rib-cage bolstering and a cushion that's too long for people under six feet tall. Rear visibility is on the atrocious side of appalling, which makes merging onto freeways scary. The interior design is pleasing, but the decor is gloomy, and the materials just aren't up to snuff in a vehicle that, as tested, costs $87,890.
The Corvette suffers from that fault, too. The interior of the Z06 is crafted a gazillion times better than the old car's, but that's like comparing a mule to a donkey; they were both compromised to start with. For nearly $70,000, you expect some special touches and top-notch materials, but they're absent. Every time you drive a new Corvette, you wonder why General Motors didn't spend a little more money to make its top-line sports car a standout in all regards.
But the Corvette is a great everyday car. You can see out of it, for starters, and it rides quite well on the highway. There is space to stow stuff, and it even has cup holders. The trunk is a decent size, but your luggage is exposed. The Z06 is the only one of our three cars that has electric seat adjustment, although those seats lack lumbar support. The gauge cluster works fine, and we love the tri-mode head-up display--street, which shows your speed; track one, which has a circular tach, oil pressure, and lateral g's; and track two, which has the same information but with a linear rpm gauge. It allows you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, which is a beautiful thing when you're traveling fast.
Even the GT coped well in the deluge, but it is the least practical of the three. Rear visibility is even worse than the Viper's, the stowage space is scanty and awkward to use, the giant A-pillar creates a massive blind spot, and the roof cutaways in the doors mean that ingress and egress can be tricky--particularly when you park next to another car. The GT, though, is special, from the perforated seat covering to the bespoke toggle switches, from the carefully chosen typefaces on the gauge cluster to the view of the top of the Eaton supercharger in the rearview mirror. You can spot the odd low-rent Ford parts-bin piece, but this is otherwise a unique, lovely environment in which to spend time. The seats, too, are comfy, but the boniest of us find that those perforations dig in after three or four hours in the saddle. The GT is the noisiest car on the highway, with a lot of tire thrash, yet it rides in a supple manner.