As a thinly camouflaged Fiat 500 made its way down Ann Arbor’s Main Street yesterday, crowds pointed and young boys cheered, “nice car!” A rather encouraging sign for a car that’s supposed to rejuvenate Chrysler’s image, don’t you think? Only one small problem: they weren’t buzzing about the little Fiat. No, all the attention was raining on me, as I pulled up right behind the 500 in a Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR. Oh, how I love the symbolism!
Chrysler is now relying on its new masters in Europe for salvation, but the Viper reminds us that there certainly is a lot of talent back home. OK, so maybe it’s not all that great a car in the traditional sense — the interior is lousy, the noise is deafening, the heat in the cabin nearly insufferable. But that’s all part of its character. And in terms of character, the Viper is still a home run. Chrysler aimed for a modern day Cobra, and that’s still the overwhelming impression — a very refreshing contrast to cold capability that defines most modern wundercars.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Good Lord. The Dodge Viper, especially in ACR trim, is the most masculine vehicle on the road. You can watch the heat rise through several large and functional vents in the enormous hood while you reflect on the fact that 600 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque is on tap from the 8.4-liter V-10. This is a good time to ponder the lack of traction or stability control. The only way to save yourself is quick reflexes and a lots of driving skill.
Despite the huge power and lack of modern electronic aids, the Viper is quite manageable. If you respect the power and acknowledge your own skill level, everything is fine. But, like the namesake, this Viper is venomous and can strike an inexperienced driver with a vengeance. At least there aren’t any distractions in the cabin. A basic stereo and set of HVAC controls are about all you get.
It’s sad to see the Viper heading out of production, but I’m happy to have had a chance to experience the final iteration. Even if the Viper name manages to survive, it won’t be the same car. Federal requirements are making electronic stability control mandatory by 2012, and the lack of electronics has been a staple of the Viper’s identity. If you aren’t at least a little scared the entire time you’re behind the wheel, you shouldn’t be driving a Viper.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Producer
Phil is right: the Viper is the most masculine vehicle on the market today. I’ve had similar thoughts about Aston Martin products recently, but whereas Astons are strong and gentlemanly and sexy, the Viper is raw and rude and a bit ugly (especially in ACR trim). The Viper wins.
Like Phil, I, too, am very glad that I had a chance to hop behind the wheel of a Viper before the storied model goes on what I hope will be just a short sabbatical. I didn’t have much of a chance to drive this Viper, unfortunately, but I was quickly reminded of its superstiff clutch; potentially vicious handling attributes; hot, bare-bones cabin; beefy rock-crusher gearbox; and wonderful (but at the same time trucklike) engine with lots of aggressive back-pressure popping noises.
The ACR has a stiffer suspension, which made me wonder whether I would survive the drive over our parking structure’s numerous speed bumps. Like the base Viper SRT10, though, the ACR has crazy long gear ratios that permit 60 mph in first gear. In fact, this is the only car I’ve driven where I thought I might be lugging the engine enough to stall at 70 mph in sixth gear, since the revs are less than 1500 rpm at Michigan’s posted speed limit. Not that any Viper should be driven at the speed limit very often…
, Copy Editor
The Lotus Elise is pure unfiltered, and connected. And while the Dodge Viper ACR is just as visceral as an Elise, none of those descriptors apply. Rather, the Viper conjures words like raw, bestial, and distant. It is one of the more challenging modern cars to drive hard. Beyond the ludicrous, intoxicating capability of a 600-hp car riding on a race-ready suspension, the Viper’s appeal is quite shallow. Still, the Viper is a car worth celebrating for being one-of-a-kind. Dodge isn’t just pulling the Viper off the market next year, they’re killing an entire one-vehicle segment. No other sports car is this single-minded or so demanding.
It’s not fun to watch the Viper fade from existence, but it’s easy to see why Chrysler has made that decision. It would take a sizeable investment to update the Viper to the standards that the buyers, competition, and government require. The interior is two generations behind what anyone expects in a modern car. Even the driver’s connection, the steering wheel, is cheap and outdated. The long, imprecise throws of the shifter are unacceptable in a sports car. And the Viper’s lack of advanced electronics means the engineering team would have to assemble a stability control system to meet pending regulations. No, the Viper doesn’t deserve to die. It deserves a second chance at life with a significant redesign. But without the ability to finance basic improvements, perhaps it is best that the aged Viper retire while the memories are still good.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe
Base price (with destination and guzzler tax): $91,970
Price as tested: $108,820
8.4-liter V-10 engine
6-speed manual transmission
Dual side exhaust
Speed sensing limited slip differential
3.07 axle ratio
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Power rack-and-pinion steering
Tilt steering column
Leather-wrapped shift knob/steering wheel
AM/FM stereo with CD player and CD changer
7 speakers including subwoofer
Front power windows
Options on this vehicle:
Customer preferred package 21B (ACR package) — $13,550
18×10-inch front, 19×13-inch rear forged wheels
Ultra-high performance tires
Two-piece, lightweight, slotted rotors
Stiffened front stabilizer bar
Carbon fiber front splitter
Carbon fiber rear wing
Painted stripes — $3300
Key options not on vehicle:
13 / 22 / 16 mpg
Size: 8.4L V-10
Horsepower: 600 hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 560 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Curb weight: 3408 lb
18×10-inch front; 19×13-inch rear forged wheels
295/30ZR-18 front; 345/30ZR-19 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup ultra-high performance tires
Competitors: Chevy Corvette