What's New for 2008
After a one-year hiatus, the Dodge Viper returns for 2008 brandishing a more powerful V10 engine, more aggressive hood styling, available two-tone cockpit accents and new colors that include "Snakeskin Green." The track-tuned Viper SRT-10 ACR also returns in its aero-tweaked glory later in the model year.
Within the realm of big-screen fighting heroes, styles can differ greatly. On one hand, you have the precise, almost dancer-like martial artists, where super-fit and acrobatic guys like Jackie Chan deftly neutralize their foes. On the other, you have big, muscle-bound tough guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger who simply pummel the bad guys into submission by dint of sheer brute force.
Make no mistake. If the 2008 Dodge Viper were an action film hero, its nickname would be "Ahh-nold."
After taking a year off to concentrate on getting even stronger, the Viper returns more buff than ever. Those of you who found the former 510-horsepower V10 somewhat lacking, you may have issues. But at least you should be thrilled with the new mill: an 8.4-liter V10 that sends no less than 600 hp to the Viper's steamroller rear tires. If that's not enough power, may we suggest something built by Bugatti or Boeing. Other hardware improvements for the newest Viper include an improved six-speed manual gearbox (more precise and less trucklike in action) as well as the fitment of non-run-flat Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s, which are lighter and more responsive than the previous run-flat tires. The big snake's exterior is slightly updated via a larger hood scoop, more aggressive hood vents and a choice of three wheel designs. Also, the cockpit gains newly available two-tone treatments.
Though side airbags are still not available, the front bags adopt multistage deployment and occupant-sensing technology. However, you "purists" who think stability and traction control are for sissies will be glad to know that those safety features still don't sully the spec sheet of this vicious snake. Without them, however, make sure you have enough driving acumen under your belt to prevent unwanted bouts of careening off canyon roads.
But this rather primitive nature is precisely where the appeal of the Viper lies. It's nothing less than a brash, muscle-bound and simple blunt instrument that in the hands of a skilled driver can cover blacktop, straight or curvy, at a ludicrous rate of speed.
In our 2007 Corvette Z06 versus 2008 Viper SRT-10 coupe comparison test, the Viper beat the mighty Vette in acceleration, top speed, braking and handling. The Viper can even hold its own against exotic cars costing twice as much. And there's no denying that the Viper has a certain visceral (and visual) charm about it, but be forewarned that the compromises are many. In addition to its lack of save-your-butt safety aids, the Viper also has a small cockpit with plenty of hard plastic and little in the way of luxury features.
All said, the 2008 Dodge Viper is the car to get if it's an all-American weekend or track-day toy you're lusting after. This is most definitely Arnold, circa his "Terminator"/"Commando"/"Predator" years. But if you're looking for a supercar that you can enjoy every day, then we'd have to say the somewhat less thrilling -- though still absolutely stunning -- Z06 or Porsche 911 Turbo would be our cars of choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is available as either a two-seat coupe or a soft-top roadster. Standard equipment includes heavily bolstered racing-style seats, 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. The wheels and tires are massive: 18-inch forged-alloy wheels in front, 19s at the rear, clad in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup PS2s sized 275/35 in front and 345/30 out back. The brakes are equally oversized, as there are 14-inch ventilated discs at all four corners.
Options include a couple of different styles of wheels, racing stripes, optional paint colors, available dash accents and a two-tone interior treatment. But apart from an optional navigation system and satellite radio, there's not much in the way of available luxury features. You won't find heated seats or steering-wheel-mounted audio controls on any Viper.
The eagerly awaited American Club Racer (ACR) package resurfaces later in the model year and is only available in coupe form. The street-legal ACR is clearly intended for track use with carbon-fiber aerodynamic additions including a massive, high-mounted wing on the the tail, front splitter, fender-mounted dive planes and additional underbody treatments. As a result, a claimed 1,000 pounds of downforce is generated at 150 mph. Lighter wheels with stickier tires (both slightly wider up front), lighter brake rotors, a stiffer suspension with 14-way adjustable shocks and deleted foglamps round out the ACR package. In the end, the ACR weighs in 46 pounds lighter than the standard coupe.
The ACR package can be further intensified with the Hard Core Package. The cost-free package removes non-essential items that include the radio, speakers, amplifier, trunk upholstery, hood pad and tire inflator. The additional 42 pounds pulled from the Viper may not sharpen the performance noticeably, but for those who live life to the thousandth of a second, it is well worth the sacrifice.
Powertrains and Performance
Under the long hood is an 8.4-liter V10 engine that puts out stupendous numbers: 600 hp and 560 pound-feet of torque. All that thrust runs to the fat rear tires through a six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission available) and can catapult the Viper to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and through the quarter-mile in only 11.8 seconds. Not much on the planet can touch this Dodge.
Apart from the mandatory front airbags (which now have multistage deployment and occupant-sensing technology), safety equipment on the Dodge Viper is sparse. There are no side airbags, no traction control and no stability control. Massive four-wheel antilock disc brakes assure rapid stops from 60 mph in just 104 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although the optional two-tone interior schemes (black with red, tan, blue or slate) and available graphite or "light arc" dash panel accents dress things up considerably this year, the cockpit is still rather blasť for a car whose price comes very close to $90K. The Viper just goes about its business, though, with a large center-mounted tachometer that sits next to a 220 mph speedometer. Additional gauges reside between the speedometer and center console, angled toward the driver. Pedals, which are power-adjustable, are placed directly in front of the driver, and there's also a dead pedal. Seat comfort is surprisingly good and the controls are user-friendly; there's even a real center console storage compartment (but no cupholders, as specifically requested by Viper owners). The audio system has a fully integrated head unit, complete with an in-dash six-CD changer. Adding to the racecar feel is a red starter button that's used to fire the beast's V10 engine. A word of warning: The Viper's signature side exhaust pipes make the side sills dangerously hot. Expect to occasionally singe your calves.
The 2008 Dodge Viper is one of the fastest production cars in the world. The V10's massive pistons thump around with enough energy to shake the entire car, and its exhaust pops and bangs like a rusty Tommy gun. Even without traction control, the massive rear tires make fast starts easier than you might think. First gear is good for 62 mph and so forceful and unrelenting is the Viper's acceleration that keeping it pinned will push the coupe to 200 mph.
Drive the Viper hard in a series of corners and in spite of its direct and precise steering, you won't settle into a smooth rhythm like you might in a less powerful, lighter Porsche 911 or Z06 Corvette. Rather, its power delivery, weight and high-effort controls make the driving experience more World of Outlaws than Formula 1. Still, it never feels nervous in a straight line, even at triple-digit speeds. Pushing the Viper to the limit still requires the skill of a seasoned driver, but even rookie pilots will admire the car's unbelievable abilities. It's not comfortable enough to be used as an everyday driver, but for those who can afford to have it as a plaything, this Dodge supercar answers to nothing.