No one does "big" and "flashy" quite like the good olí U.S. of A. We love our super-sized combo meals, our 22" chrome rims, and 60 inch plasma TVís. In addition to our California King-size beds and gargantuan SUVís that carry our families of four, the Dodge Viper SRT/10 encapsulates Americaís love affair with all things that are blatantly large and ostentatious. This hulking, low-slung brute comes stuffed with a behemoth motor, immense power, rubber barrels for tires, and in-your-face styling that screams "Made in the USA." Nothing comes close to matching the Viperís inimitable combination of brute power, testosterone and sheer disdain for civility.
When the Viper RT/10 debuted in 1992, it wasnít much more than a modified 8.0l V10 truck engine (good for, at the time, a jaw-dropping 400hp) mounted on four fat wheels, big brakes and a couple seats. There was no ABS, no cruise control, no air conditioning, not even side windows. It was a modern throwback to the muscle cars of yesteryear. It may have seemed a bit crude, but once you strapped yourself in and ripped off a 4.6 second 0-60 run, all was forgiven. The super wide tires provided the Viper with immense grip; however, the handling could get squirrelly quite quickly at the limit and was often downright scary. Nevertheless, the Dodge Viper instantly gained membership into the exclusive supercar ranks once comprised solely by those of European descent such as the Ferrari F355, Lamborghini Diablo, and Porsche 911 Turbo.
Now in its 3rd iteration, the Dodge Viper SRT/10 has not strayed far from the original design philosophy of the Viper RT/10. With a stiffer chassis, lighter curb weight, lightweight independent front and rear aluminum suspension, 14 inch Brembo brakes all around along with ABS and brake assist, and push button ignition, the Viper gains some manners and a dash of up-to-date technology. Although the SRT/10 may be more civilized and sophisticated than its original brethren, it still hasnít lost its "I donít give a $%*#" attitude.
The heart of this snake is of course still its monstrous engine. 8.0 liters, rather 488 cubic inches (for the old school muscle car crowd) of displacement and 10 cylinders was ridiculously large back in 1992 and itís still huge 15 years later today in 2007. And of course, bigger still means better here in the USA. The SRT/10 was bored and stroked to an even larger 8.3 liters (505 cubes) of space for the ten coffee can-sized pistons good for an unbelievable 510 hp and 535 lb-ft of rubber melting torque. The Tremec 6-speed manual is still standard - no unnecessary sequential automatic, flappy-paddle tranny here to get in the way of experiencing the brute force of the V10 motor. Oh, and to make sure there is adequate rubber aiding the near impossible task of transferring all that power to the tarmac, the engineers at Dodge fitted the Viper with even fatter Michelin run-flat tires - 275/35ZR-18 up front and 345/30ZR-19 out back mounted on forged alloy wheels.
Weighing in at a relatively svelte 3424 lbs, the SRT/10 puts up mind numbing performance numbers. Dodge claims 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds, 1.05 gís of organ squishing grip on the skidpad, and braking from 60 to 0 in under 100 feet. The lawyers at DaimlerChrysler forgot to place a warning placard on the dash that reads:
"All riders should be in good health. Pregnant women, those with high blood pressure, heart conditions, neck or back problems; and those with any condition that would prevent normal seating or use of safety restraints as provided, should not board."
And just when you think it canít get any better, one of the shameful downfalls of the previous generation Vipers has finally been addressed. The first two Vipers may have made big horsepower, but their flatulent exhaust notes were always disappointing. In the past, each exhaust pipe hooked up to one bank of 5 cylinders and sang only half of the V10ís eight liter tune making for an exhaust note that was no more exciting than a Volvo inline-5. The SRT/10 finally makes amends for the lack of that guttural growl one expects from the huge V10 motor by adding a crossover in between the exhaust pipes so that all ten firing cylinders get to be heard from each pipe. No longer a castrato, this Viper finally bellows like it should.
Todayís Viper may be a bit more polished than when it was first introduced, but there are still some muscle car quirks that will keep this car from ever becoming your everyday driver.
The most notable foible, rather pain in your rearÖliterally, is getting in and out of this car. In addition to the dexterity required to board and exit a Viper, one should also consider investing in a Sparco fire-resistant suit or not wear shorts at the very least when driving this car as you will quickly realize that an exposed thigh will receive a second degree burn on the hot side sills adjacent to the seats that house one of the two exhaust pipes. Forget to caution the girlfriend or wife and you might get a swift slap to the face for the lack of warning.
All this heat also enters into the cabin after a few hot laps and makes for uncomfortable and sweaty long commutes. Finally, why is the steering offset to the right of the center-line of the driver?
In the end, these shortcomings are all a part of the incredible Viper experience. If you can swing the "cheap for an exotic" MSRP of $81895 all will be forgiven once you throw the top down, mash the accelerator into the depths of the hot firewall and have the massive torque squash you into the driverís seat as you approach velocities that will soon get your driverís license revoked.
GM and Ford have responded to the Viper with the excellent Corvette Z06 and GT500 respectively, both impressive efforts. But, if you are a glutton for an All American, head-turning, thigh-frying rocket with two extra pistons, the Dodge Viper may just be what youíve been looking for.