Story and photographs by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/NewsCenter/NewsCenterDetails.aspx?mmysid=3954
The Dodge Viper is an unapologetic beast that demands respect and your constant attention. Driving a Viper at a high rate of speed reminded us of our first time at the shooting range. It is exhilarating, but you are aware that pushing the envelope of your skills is like, well, playing with a loaded gun. The 600 horsepower and 560 foot-pounds of torque created by the massive 8.4-liter V-10 engine that sits just in front of the passengers can easily overpower the rear-driven wheels. With no traction or stability control systems in place, you must modulate the throttle to keep the rear tires planted. Of course, it is almost inevitable that the back end will get squirrely here and there, and this is where the real danger of the Dodge Viper can raise its slithery head. Lift-throttle oversteer is caused from the transfer in weight from rear to front when the throttle is suddenly lifted during acceleration. This condition is exacerbated by lifting off the throttle and then hitting the brakes. Once weight moves from the rear wheels to the front, the back end loses traction. At mid-corner and at a high rate of speed, the results can be disastrous.
If you treat the Viper like the serious race-inspired, self-restraint-required two-seater that it is, however, you are rewarded with stunning performance numbers. How does skidpad grip of 1.0g, 0–60 mph in fewer than four seconds, quarter-mile time in the mid-11-second range, 60–0 mph in fewer than 100 feet, a 0–100–0-mph time of 11 seconds flat, and a top speed of 202 mph sound?
New across the Viper lineup for 2010 is a shorter fifth gear ratio (changing from 0.74 to 0.80) for improved high-speed acceleration and higher straightaway speeds. As a result, acceleration from 0 to 200 mph has improved by 14 seconds. This improvement is a direct result of time on the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in Germany.
The car rides flat and its command of the pavement is so tremendous that we were unable to approach the limits of its grip during our around-town driving. The suspension is stiff, causing reverberations through the chassis on harsher parts of the road and a springy up-and-down bounce when traversing uneven pavement. It is really an underrated ride that provides decent comfort with tons of confidence thanks to its high levels of traction (so long as the V-10 engine is not trying to break that traction).
The Viper has never been comfortable and the last year of the current Dodge supercar is not going to change our minds. In the 90s Viper, you sat close to the ground. The current Viper provides a higher seating positioning. This works out great if you are a man of shorter stature; however, anyone over six feet in height will have his (or her) forward outward view encroached by the top of the roof, necessitating a slumped-over driving position to see traffic signals and far down the road. The seats, too, are not designed for the larger American, with side bolsters close enough that we noticed we sat on them instead of in them. The rest of the interior is functional and well-designed but very utilitarian. For example, depressing the unlock button in any other car would result in the movement or sound of a door unlocking. Not in the Dodge Viper, where nary a sound nor movement of a switch can be heard or seen. Your only clue is a simple light on the dash that lets you know the door is unlocked.
Rumors say the Dodge Viper will live on in 2013. Until then, the Viper will finish out 2010 with the availability of both roadster and coupe models along with the ACR (American Club Racer) package. Approximately 500 vehicles have been built for the 2010 model year. 2010 also saw the introduction of two new exterior colors: Toxic Orange Pearl Coat and Bright Silver Metallic Clear Coat.
600 hp @ 6,000 rpm
560 lb-ft @ 5,100 rpm
Front: 275/35ZR-18, Rear: 345/30ZR-19
Nearly unmatched performance in the right hands
Self restraint (and maybe a course on performance driving) required