2010 Dodge Viper SRT Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 8, 2009

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.

Editors from TheCarConnection.com have driven the latest Dodge Viper to bring you this road test. TCC's car experts have compared the Viper with other supercoupes and convertibles to suggest alternatives to the Viper, and have researched opinions from other respected car reviewers to give you a conclusive opinion about the new 2010 Viper-so you can decide if it's the perfect car for you.

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.

Review continues below

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.

10

2010 Dodge Viper SRT

Styling

The 2010 Dodge Viper has achieved icon status in record time, though its slapdash cockpit isn't nearly as fascinating as its vented, scooped, and wedged body.

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 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's 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. Cars.com sums it up nicely: "Look at this thing. It's not exactly unobtrusive." A slight redesign in 2008 brought it a bigger hood scoop and more louvers for cooling its big engine and brakes, and nothing's changed for 2010. Kelley Blue Book points out that the 2010 Dodge Viper's "more angular front end is highlighted by a large, functional air-intake scoop," and "on the hood are a half-dozen vents that let air out of the engine compartment." And while "some observers dismiss the Viper's styling as the stuff of grade-school boys' daydreams," Cars.com says, it's an icon to others, too. For even more boy-racer appeal, there's the Viper ACR, which adds "a number of aero elements," including "front 'dive planes' on either side of the front fascia, a variable geometry 'fanged' front spoiler," and an "adjustable rear wing," Motor Trend observes.

The Viper's interior begs for change-but like the body panels, it's also unchanged. 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-but the layout means "the oil-pressure, oil-temperature and water-temperature gauges are hidden behind the steering wheel," according to Kelley Blue Book. For its money, The Detroit News feels that the Dodge Viper's interior is "much cleaner and better made than the previous model," and "it's more refined."

10

2010 Dodge Viper SRT

Performance

The 2010 Dodge Viper flies in formation with the fastest supercars on the planet, but its handling and ride are closer to the edge than its competition.

Amateurs and Sunday drivers should look somewhere other than Viper territory for their next sports car.

Here's why: Just peek under the Viper's hood. That huge engine's monstrous power gives even experienced drivers 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, all sent straight "to the Viper's steamroller rear tires," according to Edmunds. 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. Cars.com contends the power "puts the Viper further into motorcycle territory." The Viper is "explosive," ConsumerGuide says, "even at part-throttle, and from modest rpm." Car and Driver declares it "monstrously fast from a standing start," and tests a coupe's acceleration to 60 mph "in 3.5 seconds and to 100 mph in 7.6 seconds." The convertible "managed 197 [mph] in Dodge's testing with the top down, which is pretty impressive," they add. Motor Trend asserts "most of the time, effort, and development dollars have been spent on stuff that makes [the Dodge Viper] go faster."

However, the Viper's not a sheer joy to drive. The gearbox feels right on the track, yet stiff and clunky on city streets, though other reviewers disagree with TheCarConnection.com's assessment. ConsumerGuide thinks the "clutch and gearshift demand deliberate action but are not taxing," and Cars.com says "much shorter throws and clearly defined gates" make the latest Viper transmission "a pleasure to operate."

The Viper is by no means a green machine, but it isn't as thirsty as its predecessors. Cars.com concedes that the fuel economy is "not great, but an improvement over the previous generation's 11/19 mpg." The EPA estimates that the big V-10 will get 13 mpg in city driving and an impressive 22 mpg on the highway, when it can cruise along in higher gears with little effort.

The growling V-10 engine loses its luster at half-throttle, and the ride goes jumpy at the slightest notion of road imperfections. Kelley Blue Book reports-contrary to several other reviewers-that the Dodge Viper now has acceptable ride quality. "Engineers have notably improved ride comfort," the reviewer says, and while "still harsher than an average sedan, the Viper's ride is now comparable with the Corvette Z06." Cars.com comments, "This is no luxury cruiser, but I was surprised by how livable the Viper's ride quality was." However, Edmunds advises that the Viper is "not comfortable enough to be used as a daily driver."

At high speeds, the Viper's handling can be 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 some instantaneous, disadvantageous oversteer. Snap off the throttle in a high-speed corner and the Viper will swing tail, no doubt. Cars.com attests that "the Viper has more lift-throttle oversteer than any production car I've driven, which creates a trap into which countless drivers have fallen." Though the new Viper is better than former models, it's still easy to "go sideways at every opportunity, in almost any gear, sometimes even when going straight." 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. Car and Driver reports that even the owner's manual advises that drivers "complete a high-performance driving school prior to operating this vehicle." Cars.com warns, "Know what you're doing, and pay close attention at all times. The word 'coddle' isn't in the Viper's vocabulary."

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 combination of performance tires and "massive four-wheel antilock disc brakes" can stop the car "from 60 mph in just 104 feet," according to Edmunds. The Viper SRT10 ACR drops 40 pounds and gets a racing suspension for even loftier performance that's only usable on a racetrack. Motor Trend details the ACR and explains its "brakes are upgraded as well, with slotted two-piece StopTech 14-inch rotors providing enough stopping power to bring the Viper ACR to a halt from 60 mph in less than 100 feet."

4

2010 Dodge Viper SRT

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Dodge Viper puts performance first; passengers are merely highly evolved carry-on luggage.

While its numbers are 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.

Edmunds understates the Viper's "small cockpit," while ConsumerGuide warns that the "cabin is cramped for tall occupants," but Kelley Blue Book appreciates that the Dodge Viper coupe's bubble roof means "even when the driver is wearing a helmet the Coupe still offers plenty of headroom." Car and Driver puts it bluntly when describing the bucket seats as "plain annoying, being too heavily bolstered and too long under your thighs." The vested hometown interests at the Detroit News disagree: "you'll feel your body conform to the racing seat," they gush, while adding the seat's "bolsters hold you snugly in a friendly embrace."

It's just a two-seater, yet entry and exit with the Viper has its own difficulties. The Detroit News points out the Viper's door sills hide its exhaust pipes, raising the temperature, and brushing against them isn't a good idea. "You wondered whether you were going to burn yourself," they ask, though they add the latest Viper's sills only get "toasty warm," as opposed to the "grilling temperature" of previous editions. Cars.com underscores the problem: "another of the Viper's charms is side sills that get hot enough to burn you, due to the exhaust pipes that run through them." The reviewer cautions, "I'd be careful if wearing shorts."

In back, reviewers discover a little more storage space than expected. Cars.com reports the "trunk isn't bad at all; it's large enough for golf clubs." ConsumerGuide finds "a few soft bags fit in the convertible's trunk," but moans that the "cabin storage is limited to a small center console and dashboard glovebox."

Build quality seems fine, but as mentioned before, material quality is a whole other matter in the Viper. The Detroit News says the interior is "more refined," but there's "still room for improvement." Edmunds agrees, noting the "cockpit is still rather blasé for a car whose price comes very close to $90K." ConsumerGuide absurdly suggests the Viper has "rich upholstery," but comes back to earth in noting the "cabin's only relief from hard matte plastic and textured vinyl are some metal trim pieces."

The most pressing concern for drivers, if they're not racing, is the ever-present din. It's a noisy ride, and the sounds aren't as well-tuned as those in other supercars. Car and Driver says that the Dodge Viper's engine note "trails those of Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis, and Z06s in aural excitement." Consumer Guide adds "wind and road noise are always present," and "even mild throttle application triggers an intrusive roar from the side exhaust outlets."

6

2010 Dodge Viper SRT

Safety

The 2010 Dodge Viper hasn't been crash-tested, and it doesn't offer much in the way of safety features.

There are no crash-test results for the 2010 Dodge Viper, from either NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). And while it offers standard dual front airbags and anti-lock brakes, its minimal safety gear and its purist approach to performance mean anyone shopping for safety features should look elsewhere.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Dodge Viper makes available very little in the way of safety equipment. ConsumerGuide says "dual front airbags" are standard, but Edmunds notes that "no stability control or side airbags" are offered. Cars.com adds "available safety features include all-disc antilock Brembo brakes and adjustable pedals," but that's it. The Viper offers no stability control or side and curtain airbags.

To make matters worse, visibility is remarkably poor. Cars.com says visibility is hindered by the fact that "the trunklid, head restraints and roll bars are pretty high" in the convertible, "so it's tough to see behind you by turning your head," but reversing is "workable through prodigious use of the rearview mirrors."

6

2010 Dodge Viper SRT

Features

Modern conveniences? The 2010 Dodge Viper thinks that stuff is for wusses, but it gives in on satellite radio and navigation.

You'll likely be shocked to find out 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 2010 Dodge Viper comes with few standard features, and even less on its options list. Edmunds lists standard "power-adjustable pedals, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel, keyless entry and a seven-speaker, 300-watt audio system with a six-disc CD changer." Reviewers from around the Web seem to accept the lack of features as part of the Viper's mission. Cars.com thinks the omission of this equipment "seems to say, 'if you disapprove, buy something else.'" Edmunds concurs that the Viper "makes no apologies for its lack of key luxury and safety features." And while the Cars.com reviewer confesses "that after a week I longed for a cupholder," they also "respect Dodge's exclusion of one." All of this makes it even more surprising, as Kelley Blue Book confirms, that "a navigation system combined with SIRIUS Satellite Radio" is on the options list. One downer is noted by Cars.com: "I'm a little disappointed by the lack of cruise control...I find cruise control helps me keep from inadvertently creeping above the speed limit...cruise would add little cost and practically no weight."

The Viper would rather you remove stuff, anyway. In the case of the 2010 Dodge Viper ACR, drivers can even choose to strip out some features. Motor Trend reports that "40 pounds can be removed by opting for the 'Hard Core' package, which deletes the audio system" and "underhood silencer pad, trunk carpet, and tire inflator" on the Dodge Viper ACR, making for an even quicker and more formidable racer.

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.

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