The 2015 Corvette Z06 is So Incredible - It Could End the Current Horsepower War
I want to first start by pointing out that in no way do I think that the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 will do any real harm to the high performance street car market either in the US or around the world. Realistically, the new Z06 won’t have any impact on the muscle car segment (for instance) outside of technology from the C7 Corvette eventually ending up in the Chevrolet Camaro and the high tech advancements from the Z06 will likely influence other performance cars for years to come.
However, the 2015 Corvette Z06 might be so good that it could essentially set a ceiling on the realistic expectations of a street legal performance car that doesn’t cost a half a million dollars. The 2015 Z06 is slated as the most track capable Corvette of all time and if that proves to be true, it will beat out the C6 ZR1 which joins the Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR as one of the two greatest American performance cars of all time (again, we are talking purely street legal here).
The Dodge Viper and Chevrolet Corvette have battled head to head for the top spot in the American ultra high performance segment since the Viper was introduced back in the 1990s. In most cases over the years, the V10 Viper has had a decisive advantage in terms of all around performance over the highest performance Corvette of the time, but that performance advantage was as narrow as ever when the top two competitors from GM and Chrysler were the previous generation Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR and the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. The two were nearly identical in almost every performance measure with the biggest bragging right going to the Viper with its then-record setting Nurburgring lap time. The Viper set the bar very high in 2008 with a time of 7:22.1, but that mark was beaten by the Corvette ZR1 in June of 2011 when the Chevy ran a time of 7:19.64. Chrysler headed right back to “The Ring” in September 2011 and destroyed the Vette’s time, lapping the 12 mile track in just 7:12.13. Since then, the Corvette has not been able to knock the Viper off of its podium…but things look like they might be changing for GM.
Corvette Stingray Versus SRT Viper
When the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray was introduced, the lack of a high performance model meant that many publications were quick to compare the new Corvette “base model” to the 2013 SRT Viper. Surprisingly, the LT1 powered Stingray was able to closely compete with the newest Viper in a variety of tests, but the Viper still had some clear advantages. When the 2015 Corvette Z06 arrives, those advantages for the Viper will be all but gone and considering the fact that this new Z06 is promised to beat out the previous ZR1, we can almost surely expect a new Nürburgring effort from the GM camp. Based on the numbers that we have seen at other tracks around the US, the current SRT Viper GTS or Viper TA are likely not capable of besting the time turned in by the 2008 Viper SRT10 ACR so if the Corvette Z06 comes out and crushes the Viper’s Ring record – Chrysler may not have a good way to fight back outside of some big changes to their fabled supercar.
If the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 comes out and shatters the Viper’s track records around the world from Laguna Seca to the Nürburgring, the Viper as we know it may not be able to provide an adequate challenge without big changes. Of course with those big changes come more cost and – more importantly – more features which push the car more towards being a race car and further away from being a useful street car. Based on the current available technology, the SRT group might not be able to defeat the new Z06 and should that be the case, it could cause the current horsepower war between the two American supercars to come to a halt. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that the Viper will come to an end – not by a long shot – but it could mean that the constant battle of one-upping the competition might stall as automakers are forced to spend more time finding ways to improve performance without making the cars impossible for safe street use.
In a battle like the one being waged between the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper, it is all about adding more power, reducing weight and introducing handling technology to help make these cars some of the best performance cars in the entire world. However, there will eventually come a point where the companies simply cannot squeeze that extra performance out of the car without compromising drivability and I believe that with the introduction of the 2015 Z06 with 650 horsepower – we are getting ever closer to the point where supercars just can’t get any better without pushing them too far towards the world of race cars.
At this point, the challenge will soon be laid down by the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and it will be up to the folks at the Chrysler Group’s Street and Racing Technology division to come up with a street legal Viper that will defeat this new Z06. To do so, Chrysler will have to walk even further on the already fine line that separates the Viper GTS road car from the Viper GTS-R race car. It is easy to say “well, if the Vette has 650hp, then the Viper will get 700”…but at some point it might become impossible for a company to rely simply on weight reduction and more power to make their supercar faster than the competition while still being safe for road use.
In short, if the automotive world were a game of chess, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 puts the Viper in Check. It is now Chrysler's job to prevent that from being a Checkmate.