You don’t so much drive a Viper as wear it; it’s a four-wheeled codpiece, the ultimate extension of machismo.
For those looking to spin their tires and turn some heads, it’s hard to find anything else that competes—certainly not for the price. “For my money, you can’t buy a better car, certainly nothing faster,” is how comedian, car collector and longtime Viper aficionado Jay Leno sums things up. And the long-running popularity of the original roadster—now the oldest passenger car in the entire Chrysler line-up—suggests there are plenty of “common” folk who would readily agree.
Those considering the menacing Dodge sports car should be aware up front that the Viper is a brute but charming anachronism in a world where high-tech has become the watchword, even for the “purest” of high-performance products. Chrysler’s big V-10 roadster often is compared to its cross-town rival, the Chevrolet Corvette. But Chevy’s latest sports car incarnation is a miracle of modern computer science. Microprocessors oversee every turn of the drivetrain. Grudgingly, the Viper team conceded the fight and accepted the addition of anti-lock brakes, but stability and traction control remain verboten on the low-slung Dodge.
Ten years after its debut, Viper remains true to the mission laid out by former Chrysler President Bob Lutz. This isn’t a sports car for poseurs. If you’re looking for a car to go cruising with your arm around your baby, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Stomp on the accelerator and Viper’s 450-horsepower, 488-cubic-inch V-10 roars to life with an intimidating burst of torque. It’s 18-inch Michigan Pilot Sport tires scream like a banshee, and the tail fishes from side to side, like an angry shark ready to strike. Push it to the rev limiter, and you’ll be running the risk of a ticket on most roadways even before you shift to second gear. If you’re fast with the shifter, you’re likely to leave rubber all the way up to third gear. Look through the haze in the rearview mirror and you’ll see even the mighty Corvette Z06 fading away.