2009 Dodge Viper Long Term Road Test

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2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10: Skip-Shift Wastes Gas

August 09, 2010

Viper Shifter1.jpg

Let's be honest -- the shifer in ourlong-term 2009Dodge Viper kinda blows.

I'm sure there are all sorts of justifications for why it blows, and the Viper faithful will want to quote those reasonschapter-and-verse, but the way I see it there can be no acceptable excuse. A $90,000 performance car should have a great shifter, end of discussion.

I think the worst part of the shifter is the idiotic skip-shift "feature" that tries to save gas but fails miserably. It's frustrating because I began skipping gearsin manual-shift cars (without an electronic nanny)about 40 seconds after I learned to drive a manual.

But the Viper's systemtries to skip from first to fourth, which is too much of a ratiojump even for a car with this much power. I would argue the feature borders on dangerous, as more than once I've been accelerating from a stop,been forced into fourth gear, and found myself struggling to effectively get across a busy intersection or through an opening in traffic.

"Well if you needed to get across an intersection why didn't you keep your foot in it? The skip-shift only comes inat light throttle application?"

Because that's the curse of the system. You know how much power the Viper has and you know you could easily get where you need to gowith lightthrottle application-- if you could use second and third gear!

But you can't, so you either stay in first and give it more throttle than necessary (translation -- waste fuel) or you forget exactly where the skip-shift cut-off occurs and unexpectedly run into it, forcing you to bang around in neutral as youtry for second or third before the relay finally relents and lets you have the gear you wanted. At this point you're probably slowing someone down, or at least not getting through the opening in traffic you wanted, so you nail the gas to catch back up to where you wanted to be in the first place (translation -- waste fuel).

"Yeah, well anyone buying a Viper probablyisn't too concerned about fuel economy."

Agreed, so why did they put a skip-shift nannyin it?!!

I keep thinking I'll get used to the skip-shift silliness and learn to avoid it, butthen I fall back into logical throttle-gearapplication and ram into it palm first. Ugh!

But the skip shift is only one area where the shifter disappoints. Position? It's too high. Movement? It feelstoo clunky, without the satisfying "snick" I've come to expect in high-priced exotics. Audible cues? See "movement."

"Yeah, but none of that matters in a serious track car Brauer. Why don't you give the keys to someone with the testosterone level it takes to appreciate theViper?"

Again, that's what you have to argue to justify the car'smediocre shifter feel against it's near six-figure price tag.For Viper fans the argument works.For me, it doesn't.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor atLarge

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