I was driving our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper yesterday and realized I'd gone over halfway home (25 miles) without turning on the audio system. Very unusual, as I tend to get my in-car entertainment handled right after the seatbelt is secured.
It's such a cliche to say, "I don't need no audio system, 'cause my car's drivetrain provides the music," and, honestly, I've never bought into that mentality. Whether driving an old muscle car or a new Ford GT, even the best exhaust note won't keep me satisfied for more than a few minutes.
But the Dodge Viper has more than an exhaust note to keep you entertained, actually much more, which is good because the exhaust tone is pretty mediocre by supercar standards. Driving this car is what's known in exotic car circles as "an Event."
I've heard people argue about the advantages of driving something like a Ferrari over a Mercedes-Benz AMG. Often people, certainly the Ferrari people, claim that even if the AMG pulls the same performance numbers the Ferrari driving experience is much more of "an Event."
Defining what transforms a driving experience into "an Event" isn't always easy, but it relates to everything from exhaust note to performance and handling dynamics to visual impact. A easy measurement can be taken by simply driving a car into a busy parking area. The more heads that spin and/or the larger the size of the crowd that gathers, the more likely you're driving "an Event."
In the case of our long-term Viper, the car never fails to turn heads. But that alone doesn't make me forget to turn on the audio system. For me it's the car's combination of potential performance balanced against its potential for disaster if you don't get it right.
You can't just get into a Viper, lean back, and put your left arm on the window sill. The car demands more of you and will quickly teach you the folly of treating it like a standard form of personal transportation. The shifter is inherently clunky, but if you focus you can avoid the worst of it. Of course the power is monstrous, but accessing it can be risky and it's not something you do blithely.
Even more unexpected, the Viper is unequivocally growing on me and not in the "somebody get me a disinfectant cream for this!" kind of way. I wasn't too impressed after my first drive several months back, and like any car with foibles (inconsistent throttle response, cantankerous shifter, darty steering, etc.) these faults could have gone from mildly annoying to overtly frustrating over time.
But they didn't. Instead, they simply taught me to pay attention and treat the car with respect.You can't make phone calls in the Viper. You don't need audio accompaniment. And don't even think about texting. You have to focus and actually DRIVE this car. What a concept, eh? And if you don't you'll hate it.
But if you do, the Viper will guarantee "an Event."
Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large @ 15,639 miles