- Brash American style
- Fear-of-God power
- Great handling-to a point
- Uncivilized city-driving manners
- Uncivilized cockpit
- Rough and loud-always
The 2010 Dodge Viper is truly, truly outrageous, from its ground-shaking performance to the paucity of space and comfort it doles out to its owner.
The 2010 Dodge Viper is one of the unforgettables; a late entry into the world of supercars, the Viper's taken its place among Chevy Corvettes and Porsche 911s in the history and racing books though it's only been on the market since 1993. Built in Detroit as a two-seat coupe or convertible-or a club racer, straight from the factory-the 2010 Viper stickers for just under $90,000 and competes directly with the 911 and the 'Vette, though penny savers might also compare it to Ford's Shelby Mustang GT500.
The Viper's been a brashly styled supercar from the moment it was born. Only two generations old, the Viper has been offered in the original, more cartoonish body style from the 1990s (which also came, briefly, as a roofed coupe), and in today's composite-fabricated shape, which is significantly cleaner, more streamlined, and maybe a little less outrageous than before. The shape bowed in 2003, and it's still the stuff of dreams for countless teenagers over the years. Its long, curvy hood and bubble-shaped roofline continue to look the part. A slight redesign in 2008 brought a bigger hood scoop and more louvers for cooling its big engine and brakes, and nothing's changed for 2010. The Viper's interior begs for variation-but it's unaltered. The tight two-seat cockpit remains a mishmash of pieces from the Dodge parts bin, all cloaked in varying qualities of black plastic. The white-faced gauges are big and clear, though, and the ancillary gauges arc down the center console, dead-ending in a big, red Stop button. It's so simple a child could run the Viper-though that's obviously not a great idea.
Here's why: Just peek under the Viper's hood. That huge engine's monstrous power gives even experienced drivers some new lessons in control. In 2008 the Viper adopted this new 8.4-liter V-10 and saw horsepower balloon to 600 hp and torque rise to 560 pound-feet. With a six-speed manual transmission and a heavy effort in the pedal and shifter, the roaring, bellowing V-10 will slingshot the Viper to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds-911 Turbo and ZR1 and GT-R territory. The power's stupendous, but few dare to take the Viper to its nearly 180-mph top speed. The handling's a little treacherous for the inexperienced; all that weight on the front end and all the power laying down burning stripes of rubber at the rear end make for instantaneous, disadvantageous oversteer. Snap off the throttle in a high-speed corner and the Viper will swing tail, no doubt. It's among the most difficult cars of its kind to drive at its outer limits of traction, and it demands respect in a way a four-wheel-drive 911 Turbo, for example, has finally gotten out of its system. Big Brembo 14-inch disc brakes front and back blunt the Viper's speed in huge gulps; they pull it down from 60 mph to a stop in less than 100 feet, which puts the Viper's 0-100-0 mph time at 12 seconds-and that's the street version. The Viper SRT10 ACR drops 40 pounds and gets a racing suspension for even loftier performance that's only usable on a racetrack.
While those numbers are all amazing, the Viper isn't as much of a thrill to drive in traffic on the daily commute. It's uncomfortable, cramped, noisy, and poorly ventilated even with the roadster's top lowered, and it demands constant attention. The gearbox feels right on the track, but stiff and clunky on city streets. The growling V-10 engine loses its luster at half-throttle, and the ride goes jumpy at the slightest notion of road imperfections. It's great fun on a track, but for everyday driving the Viper's a literal pain in the back. Build quality seems fine, but as mentioned before, material quality's a whole other matter.
You'll likely be shocked to find that the 2010 Viper is still around-it survived Chrysler's bankruptcy by the skin of its fangs-and stunned that it offers niceties like satellite radio, power windows and locks, and a couple of airbags for good measure. There's even an option for a navigation system. The Dodge Viper offers more finishes and customization options than it did just a few years ago, and a tan interior package lifts some of the gloom that a black-upholstered Viper can show. It's not luxurious by any means, but it's a big improvement over the first Viper-and with its recent reprieve from death row, maybe the Viper will grow up like the Corvette and 911 have.