The updated-for-2008 Dodge Viper still isn’t at home on the street – it bucks and hunts over road imperfections, constantly fills your ears with driveline and suspension noise, and has one of the most ergonomically challenged interiors of any car on sale today.
Despite this, we like the mega Dodge. And we like it even more after driving it at Virginia International Raceway. It was there that we learned that the gang responsible for the Viper, Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) group, has gently massaged this man’s-man of a car into a true track weapon. As long as you respect the 8.4-liter V-10 in the lower gears, the Viper is very friendly and rewarding to drive on a racetrack. Much of this improvement is due to the fitment of a new, speed-sensing limited-slip differential, bespoke non-run-flat Michelin tires, and a retuned suspension. No, it’s not a tactile dancer like a Porsche or a Lotus, but it’s amazing how good this Dodge feels lap after lap. Plus, the engine now puts out an impressive 600 hp, which never hurts.
But the most endearing aspect of the Viper is that it remains a gruff beast. Viper aficionados need not worry: your baby has lost none of its “Viper-ness.” There are very few new cars that are as visceral when you rev up the monstrous V-10, dump the clutch, smoke the tires, and blast past 150 mph – our tests reveal that the trip to 60 mph flashes by in four seconds flat, and the quarter mile is history in only 12.1 seconds at 123 mph. There also are few cars that overheat their passengers like the Viper, despite a reduction in thermal soaking due to a replumbed exhaust system.
As we’ve said many times, modern sports cars tend to lose their focus with each new generation. But the SRT group has managed to keep the crude and rude hooligan nature of the Viper while fine-tuning it into a better vehicle. Fifteen years after the first Viper went on sale, it is still the car that Dodge always intended it to be.