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."