DODGE VIPER SRT-10
Nauman Farooq checks out Dodge's agricultural open-top rocketship
America doesn't have many sports cars -- not many that should get any attention anyway, but there are a few exceptions. The Chevrolet Corvette is the longest running, the Ford GT is the most dreamy, and then there is this, the Dodge Viper SRT-10, the most insane car of the bunch.
In your face
This Viper is loud, and in your face, like an automotive equivalent of Kidd Rock (who? Ed.).
It is also fast, make that very fast. With an 8.3-litre, V10 engine under its long bonnet, producing 500bhp and 525lb-ft of torque, in a car that has a curb weight of 1,500Kg this thing can only be fast.
To judge its performance in numbers, it will blast from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and onto a top speed of 194 mph. That makes this faster than France's TGV (high speed train).
That means it is scary fast, and for more than one reason. Yes, high speed can scare you on its own, but this car adds its own drama with the speed. You see, unlike most other supercars built today, the Viper is about as sophisticated as a skate board. While most of todayís supercars have traction control and stability control, and some of them even have active all-wheel drive, the Viper has none of that. Its just a big powerful engine upfront, you in the middle, and rear wheel drive, and thatís it. This means its performance on the road is courtesy of the driver's own talents. Exceed your driving abilities, and this venomous snake will sting you, and the results can either be very scary or very fatal.
If you are going to drive this car, know your limits, and respect its power. Drive it well however, and it will reward you in ways most modern supercars just can't. This might well be a beast, but it can be man-handled.
It can also handle corners surprisingly well. Its big, fat tyres (345/30ZR19 in the rear), 13.5 inches wide to be exact, grip the tarmac like ketchup to a blanket. Sure, you can always unstick the back end if you give it too much juice, but if you feed the throttle in smoothly, rather than jabbing it, it will go around corners surprisingly well. There's very little body roll, and thanks to a good driving position; it really allows you to sink it into a corner with great speed and poise. I certainly didn't expect it to behave like this.
The only thing you have to be aware of (apart from the power) is its tendency to tramline. With those fat tyres, it likes to follow the ridges on the road, especially under braking. So you really have to be alert. But that is what makes this car so much fun to drive, because you drive it, rather then it driving you.
So far you have learned that this car is very fast in a straight line and can even handle corners very well, what you donít know is, that the Viper also has the best brakes in the business. This car stops so fast, it can squeeze the air out of your lungs, so this extreme machine decelerates even faster than it accelerates. Great for when you want to come back down to sane speeds.
In fact, it is very easy to drive it at sane speeds. Just put the six speed manual gearbox in sixth gear, and it becomes almost a relaxing grand tourer. I use the word almost, because there is no escaping the fact that this is a muscle car of the new era. And it's not as relaxing a true grand tourer like the old Jaguar XKR -- the Viper is just too loud to be that. It also gets quite hot in the cabin, especially in the footwell. My advice, always keep the a/c on towards your feet or you'll end up with toasted toes.
Other than that, the cabin is quite a pleasant place to be. With comfortable leather/suede bucket seats, it's decently spacious for a two-seater, and with power adjustable pedals even short drivers can find a decent driving position. However, the seats adjust manually and there is only basic adjustment available.
Other amenities include electric windows and an AM/FM stereo with a six-disc CD changer -- but who wants to listen to the stereo in a car that sounds this good? Plus, with those loud side-exiting exhaust, the speakers have a very hard time delivering you any music, once you've hit the bright red "Engine Start" button.
As for other complaints in this £69,990 car, the largely plastic interior rattles a bit, the gearbox feels like it came out of a tractor, and there is no wind-blocker for the times when you want to drive it with the top down, which will be how 90 per cent of the time you would want to drive it. Maybe Dodge thought that a wind-blocker might ruin its looks, after all it does look very good indeed. Trust me, if you have only seen the new Viper in pictures, you have no idea how fantastic it looks in the flesh. I sure loved seeing it parked on my driveway.
For 2006, Dodge has just released a more focused, more hard-core Coupť version of this car, with 10 extra horses, designed to appeal to trackday enthusiasts. However, don't think the convertible version is a bit soft around the track. I have driven this car around Mosport International Raceway and it was just fantastic.
Yes, it might not be as well sorted as European sportscars like Porsche's 911 and Ferrari's F430, but it is cheaper, it has more power and it doesn't disappoint on the thrills chart either.
The Viper is in no way the world's best sportscar, it might not even be America's best sportscar, but it sure is huge fun, and I would never turn away from a chance to drive one again.
Thanks to Dreamrides, Toronto for the loan of the car.