We spent a lot of time looking at these cars in close company, and only the Corvette is a little anemic in appearance. The C6 looks good but isn't as flamboyant as it should be. It also takes a trained eye to spot a Z06, despite changes that include carbon-fiber flared front fenders, a different front fascia, lovely cast-spun-aluminum wheels, a tail spoiler, and four exhaust tips.
The Viper looks wonderful and is much sexier as a coupe than as a roadster. The front half of the bodies are identical, but the greenhouse and the modified, raunchier rear fenders make the coupe a real standout. The GT, however, is the best-looking of the bunch. It says a lot for the original GT40 that the shape looks modern--futuristic, even--and it says a lot for Ford's designers that they updated the detailing and looks without spoiling the purity of the original.
As we clear Ohio, the sun peeks from behind the clouds, and the pace increases. Somewhere, the Viper hits 170, and the GT makes it to 183 mph--the drivers will forever remain anonymous--but the Corvette driver chickens out at 140. All three drivers report awesome stability at high speed.
We arrive at GingerMan just in time to run some laps in the evening. We assume that many owners of these cars occasionally will steer them to a track to wring them out in a way that would be stupid in the public domain, and the track is also a good place to compare their ultimate performance.
All of them lap the track faster than any street cars we have driven previously at GingerMan. The Viper is the slowest (!) of the three but the easiest to drive fast. The steering, which is so nice on the street, loses a little weight on track, but the car is very stable. You might think that 500 hp would turn it into an oversteering monster, but the Viper has been house-trained. If anything, it understeers in the quicker corners, and its transitional movements are benign. The brakes are strong and don't go away, but the slow shifter is a bore on the track, and the car tends to spin the inside rear wheel in the tight stuff.
The Corvette is just awesome. It is the lightest of our three cars by more than 300 pounds, and that shows on acceleration down the short straightaways and on braking into the tightest corners. (The brakes do go away the next day, probably the corollary, as technical editor Don Sherman points out, of its slightly front-heavy weight distribution.) Man, this thing is fast. And it sounds fast, too. The handling is spectacular, with mild initial understeer and a very neutral stance that can be teased into power oversteer with provocation from your right foot. The steering really livens up at max attack and loses the artificiality we had noticed on the street. Driving the Corvette hard is a delight and a challenge--it's a world-class track car, as special when pushed as it is unexceptional when driving down the highway.
The GT, too, is magic on track. The steering, which is light on the road, weights up and reminds you of a good racing car's: totally intuitive, relaying everything that's going on. You notice that this is quite a heavy car when you bury the center pedal, but otherwise you can throw it around as if it were a Mazda Miata. It won't go as far sideways as the Corvette, but you can power-slide it, or you can simply revel in its superb traction and crisp turn-in. It also has the best gearshift of the three, as precise and light and fast as the Viper's is slow and clunky. We even get a Le Mans-style moment while heading down the back straight, lights aglow, staring at a brilliant red sun as it dips toward the horizon.