2009 Dodge Viper: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2009 Dodge Viper as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- Reserved? Yeah, Right.
- "Is that the new Viper?"
- Put Down The Potato Salad, Let's Do Some Burnouts
- Side Pipes Still Rock!
- Florist & Farmer's Market
- Burnouts Are Fun. Get Over it.
- Viper Burnouts. From The Source.
- Let's See the Engine
- Parked Out Front in Beverly Hills
- 2009 Dodge Viper Goes to the Big A
- Warning! Lawyers Ahead.
- Service at DC Performance
- DC Performance Follow Up
- +1 for Ergonomics
- Track Tested
- Some Patience Required When Refueling
- WSBK in the SRT
- Not Such a Bad Road Trip Car
- A Visit to Salt Lake City and WSBK
- Making Time From SLC to LA
- Traction Control via 12s
- Rear Hatch Strut
- 1,100 Miles in Two Days
- 10,000 Mile Milestone
- Road Trip Part II: The Return
- Viper Visibility
- Viper vs. ZR1
- Road Trip Part III: By the Numbers
- Road Trip Part IV: Pictures
- Sir Mix A Lot Likes Orange Stuff Too
- You Want to do What?
- I Don't Know Why I Like These Gauges But I Do
- Neutered by the Rain
- I Can't Drive 55 (In 6th Gear)
- Our Favorite Caption for July
- You Write the Caption for July
- Viperoadtrip First Impressions
- Viperoadtrip in Arches National Park
- Viperoadtrip Fuel Peril
- Viperoadtrip Leg One Done
- Viperoadtrip Guess the Car? Game
- Viperoadtrip At LeMons in BFE
- Viperoadtrip Inevitability
- Viperoadtrip Wrap-up
- Does My Asp Look Big?
- Do the Un-Twist
- Directions or Music
- Checked Luggage
- Thirsty for Oil
- Paying It Forward
- A Daily Driver by Exotic Standards
- The Big Toy
- TV Star
- View Over the Hood
- Skip-Shift Wastes Gas
- The Good and the Bad
- Hello 15,000 Miles
- Hand Wash Only
- 6th Gear at 60=1,200 rpm
- Revisiting Its Birthplace
- Minus One, Plus One.
- Our Viper as TV Star
- Hello from San Diego
- Our Favorite Caption
- You Write the Caption
- Help from the Marines
- Seat Pros and Cons
- Steering Wheel is Crooked
- 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 versus 2005 Ford GT
- Throwout Bearing Noise
- Routine Maintenance
- Routine Maintenance, Pt 2
- Escaping LA and Envious Teens
- Neighborhood Ride
- Exhaust is Hot
- What's That Smell?
- Super Cool, But I Wouldn't Buy It
- Annoying Door Release
- Note from the Valet Desk
- 15-Year Reunion
- Opening The Hood Old School
- School Run
- Decisions, Decisions.
- Fuel Economy Update
- Hood Release No Locky
- Can't Miss Another Member of the Viper Nation
- Birthday Viper
- A Finger's Stretch
- Audio Review
- Our Favorite Caption
- The Viper's Last "Yee-Ha!" Part 1
- You Write the Caption
- The Viper's Last "Yee-Ha!" Part 2
- Thrifty Trip to Vegas
- Driving Off Into the Sunset
- Makes Driving "an Event"
While we were sitting vigilant on the front porch trying to keep our guns, the Government done snuck in the backdoor and took our cars.
"The last of the muscle cars!" "The end of the V8!" "We'll never see anything this good again." These tenets of the automotive world have been repeated and retracted more times than we can count, and knowing that, we're confident in saying that this, the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is certainly the last of the truly bonkers muscle cars and the end of the made-in-the U.S.A. V10 in a production passenger car.
In a time when unintended acceleration and wild oversteer are dominating the headlines, a Dodge Viper in our fleet of long-term test cars makes perfect sense. With 600 horsepower available from an 8.4-liter V10, unintended acceleration and oversteer should be a daily occurence. And that's exactly what we're hoping for with our new Long-Term Road Test toy, the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10.
Why We Got It
If you get the opportunity to drive a Dodge Viper for five minutes, jump at the chance. If someone offers you a couple of hours in one, make sure your will is up to date, grab the keys and kiss them full on the mouth before diving over this car's preposterously wide door sill. And if Dodge ever lets you know that it might have a 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 coming out of service elsewhere that might be available for some repurposing, well, make the vehicle testing assistant figure out a valid reason for why we got it other than, "Dude. It's a Viper!"
How about this? Sometime this summer, Viper production stops. Sure, Dodge promises the nameplate will slither back to life down the road, but the V10-powered all-American Viper — the performance icon that brought back side pipes, schooled the Corvette for two decades and spit in the face of Europe's best — is going away. And we want one last romp. A six-month going-away party to answer the question: What is life with a Dodge Viper really like?
That's right, six months. Dodge said 12 months just won't quite work. Fine with us. We stopped short at kissing the PR guy on the mouth, but promised we'd take real good care of her and feed her every day and take her for long, long drives. Since 20,000 miles in 12 months is our standard, 10,000 in six months should be easy — 20,000 in six could be epic.
But that is, of course, ignoring the history of the Dodge Viper, which dates to its first appearance as a concept car in 1989. You know, the involvement of legendary product czar Bob Lutz, the rejuvenation of Dodge as a performance brand and the allure of a throw-back performance deathtrap in a world that was then obsessed with the Ford Taurus. After all, this car dates to a time before everyone got all soft and made traction and stability control mandatory (full implementation by 2012). In April of 2010, Consumer Reports lists the Dodge Viper as one of the nine remaining vehicles for sale in America that is not available with any manner of driver aid, save of course for ABS. And while Consumer Reports had its protractors all in a knot, there were a bunch of guys who read that, furrowed a brow and thought that the list might describe the last nine good cars available to a new car buyer.
What We Got
The Dodge Viper comes pretty loaded from the factory. And by that, we clearly mean loaded with motor — a massive 8.4-liter V10 that makes 600 hp and 560 pound-feet of torque. The Viper is also loaded with tire. The wheelwells are huge and filled with Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 rubber, 275/35 ZR18 95Y up front and 345/30R19 105Y out back. That's a meaty contact patch roughly equivalent to your Uncle Louie's waistline.
Of course the Viper is also known for that which it is not loaded with: electronics. While our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 does have the optional navigation system ($1,700) with a screen about the size of your fist and only slightly better resolution, it doesn't have much else. No iPod. No heated seats. No Bluetooth. No streaming Pandora. Hell, this is a car that lists a tachometer as a feature. We're just lucky it has remote keyless entry.
The bright orange paint runs $600 and the stripes (which by our calculation cover only slightly less surface area of the Viper than the orange paint) run $3,000. That's $1,500 a stripe. Oh well, that's how you know it's a Viper, right?
But thankfully, we didn't shell out for that. Dodge provided us this vehicle for a slightly reduced long-term loan of six months. This 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 carries a base price of $89,340, but as equipped, including a $1,700 gas-guzzler tax, it runs $97,360.
Our Dream Date
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, wants to protect you from yourselves. He says, "Shortly, I will introduce legislation that will hold automakers to a higher standard and strengthen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's ability to more effectively protect Americans on the road."
We're all for safety, but with a tinge of personal responsibility every now and again. And now, again, we're going to rely on ourselves for our protection as we spend the next six months with the 2009 Dodge Viper. Devoid of electronic stability control, this is all on us, as it was and as it should be. No more wasting time to turn off traction control, no being interrupted by the Bluetooth and no worrying about what's stored on the Data Event Recorder.
Data event recorders on a Viper? It's got two; they're 345mm wide and say "Michelin" on the side and their record will be plastered throughout Southern California for all to see. Follow along with the Long-Term Road Test Blog to read more.
Current Odometer: 6,179
Best Fuel Economy: 14.6 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 14.6 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 14.6
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Nothing with stripes, an 8.4-liter V10 andmeats as wide as your inseam could ever be described as "reserved."
At the same time, our longterm Viper's not some undriveable hellcat, either. In fact, it's a good bit more refined than the 1st-gen cars. You don't scorch exposed skin on the sills. The cabin doesn't spew stinky odors like a
bass boat. Most of its bits and pieces fit together like they were assembled by someone who was at least sober at the time.
Its throttle travel is a mile long, which will no doubt save ham-footed owners from inadvertently unleashing the Viper's billion foot-pounds all at once and sending them sideways across a county. Same goes with the drive-by-wire throttle calibration — its manipulations in smoothing out the power delivery for your safety are obvious. Unfortunately, the Viper's throttle response is pretty terrible — our 2002 Z06 is worlds snappier in this regard. Forget heel-toe downshifting this tiger with any kind of verve.
No, there's nothing subtle about the way a Viper wants to be driven. You have to plan way ahead if you want to wood the gas — triple digits are always mere seconds away. You shove the shifter through its gates. The Viper wants you to bedeliberate with your inputs. Do so, and it delivers a driving experience that is simply staggeringly fast.
Even thoughthere are signs of taming this beast,it's still a freakin' Viper. And that is good.
I was dead tired after the marathon photo shoot we did for the intro. I had packed the gear away into the trunk and I was set to make the 45 minute drive back to office. I hit the start button, the gorgeous sound of the engine filled the air and I checked my side view mirror to see if it was safe to pull out into the lane.
Right there was a dude on a bike just about to knock on my window. "Hey! Is that the new Viper?" he asked as I rolled down the window. "Yeah, this is the Swan Song of this beauty" I replied.
We chatted for a few minutes about the car. Since I was so tired I apologized and told him I had to get going. "Yeah, sure. Lemme hear her!" was his last request as I hit the engine hard, pitching out the butt a bit and screaming down the street, leaving Lance in a cloud of dust and smoke. I could barely make him out in my rear view mirror, fist pumping in joy.
Right there with you brother. This thing is BAD ASS.
The first time I laid eyes on ourlong-term 2009 Dodge Viper, it was sitting under a tent, on carpet, surrounded by tables and chairs in the Dodge SRT owners hospitality area at the Long Beach Grand Prix.
I was told I could take the car home at the end of the day to begin our long-term test, but not before.
So for five hours I watched racing, ate the free food, mingled with Ralph Gilles the President and CEO of Dodge and got to know some of the SRT owners in attendance. Great people. Real car people. My kind of people.
And they all brought their cars. Challengers. Magnums. Chargers. And yes, Vipers. Both first and second generation Vipers. One guy even did big clutch-dump burnout when he left the party. Ralph just laughed and said, "They do that."
Gilles isreally getting to know his Dodge loyalists since taking the CEO job only months ago and to watch him interact with them is to see it done right. Ralphgenuinely likes and respects this crowd. (As he should, he's one of them. In his garage is a black Viper ACR.) He listens to their stories. Asks about their Dodges, both new and old. And he signs their t-shirts like any other celebrity.
As promised, when the party was over and the last race was run, the Viper keys were mine and our long-term test had begun. The car already had 5,000+ miles on it but Dodge was nice enough to throw on a new set of tires for us.We don't expect them to last long.
Last week I was fortunate enough to get a close-up look at a Marina Blue1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible. It was aclean,unmodified car with two NCRS Top Flight awards under its belt. Oh yeah, did I mention it was also an original427 car, complete with shiny side pipes that made it look (and sound) bothsexy and sinisterat the same time?
Last night I was looking at our new Long-Term DodgeViper SRT-10 and, yet again, found myself drawnto the side pipe design that helpsput the "bad" in this bad boy. There's something about a car that doesn't try to shuttlethe exhausttone under the rear bumper, but insteadjust spits it out right under the driver'swindow.That something would be spelled C-O-O-L
It's like the car is saying, "Hey buddy, there's a whole lot going on after thecombustion portion ofthis 600-horsepower V10engine, anddon't you forget it!"
Wouldn't think of it, Mr. Viper.
If you're used to exotic cars with minimal cargo space the 15 cubic feet offered up by our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 can make it seem like a super-speedy SUV.
On Saturday I had a number of errands to complete, not the least of which was a florist run for Mother's Day flowers. I also had one 12-year-old boy to bring along, as logistics didn't allow for leaving him at home. That meant I had to pick up a dozen roses andhalf-a-dozenfood itemsat the local farmer's market. It also meant I couldn't cheat by carryingsaid itemsin the front passenger seating area.
No problemo in the Dodge Viper. After wandering through the farmer's market and scoring a pecan pie, some dried fruit, a loaf of bread and two containers of flavored humus (mmm, the tomato and basil one makes bread taste like pizza) I then snagged those dozen long-stem roses.
These are all easily crushed items, but I could carefully load them into the rear, deep portion of the Viper's cargo hold and close the hatch without any getting getting "crunched." I even got my man-purse in there with plenty of room to spare. Heck, I could have picked up three pizzas on the way home,and put them in the shallower section of the cargo area, and still had room left over.
After constantly wrestling with the joke of a cargo area on a Ford GT (1 cubic foot, BTW), the Viper's storage potential feels like a small sports arena.
None of us got into this business to talk about headroom and seat comfort. Nope. We're here because there's a burning passion in our souls that has us pinning the tach and dropping the clutch. Just like you.
That means we sometimes toss science, prudence and responsibility out the window...and run them over with a smoking 345/30ZR19. Which is exactly what we've done in Burnout Supertest, Part Duh.
Hey, it's either that or stay home and watch Lifetime, surf iVillage.com and eat cheese sandwiches with our wives. What would you rather do?
Ever wonder what it's like to do an utterly guilt-free burnout in a 600-horsepower Dodge Viper?
So did I.
Until last week.
Accountability free burnouts after the jump.
Despite what some readers think, we don't do this stuff at every opportunity, so unwinding all 560 lb-ft of torque with impunity was quite the experience. Some editors questioned the Viper's ability to churn its meats given its rather undramatic track launch. After all, with zero wheelspin, this car hits 60 in 3.7 seconds. It doesn't need to burnout, they argued.
But it can.
Oh, yes, it can.What's it like? Well, have you ever rolled naked in a field of virgins covered in fairy dust? Me neither. But I'd guess it's nothing like that. It's probably more like driving a D9 Caterpillar through a brick building. Or at least it's accomplished with equalsubtlety. Even with stupidly tall gears and massive grip, the Viper's 8.4 liters overcome physics with the same effort Randy Couture might need to punch out a skinny Inside Line editor.
And it's fun. Fun like watching Nitro Circus while sucking back a quart ofVenom energy drink. Fun like a tandem BASE jump with Jolene Van Vugt. Fun of the sort that can't be had behind a keyboard. Or in a cubicle.
And when the party ends in first gear things only improve. Grab second, right foot still pinned to the floor and reignite 26 inches of rubber when the clutch comes out. It's one of my three favorite things in the whole world — right at the zenith of the manliness scale withGrave Digger and pump-action shotguns.
What's more, doing burnouts in the aging Viper — the last of its kind — just feels right. This car, with its complete lack of electronic governance, is like a rolling middle finger to modern automotive convention. It's also the best thing to ever happen to the color orange. And I love it.
Burnouts in a Viper are the kind of thing I hope all of you — every last one — gets to experience some day. You all need to, whether you think so or not.
I pulled up to my buddy's house in our2009 Dodge Viper the other day. "Oh, man," he said, "This thing is awesome. The hood is gigantic. Let's see the engine." I fumbled around in the cabin for a couple of minutes looking for the hood release before I remembered.
There is no hood release inside the car. It's tucked away in the front grille of the Viper. To me, this sort of thing is whatcar ownership isabout. The unique elements that make a car special to its owner. There are model-specific examples like this one, or say, thefuel door release hiddenbeneaththe center armrest ofour C5 Z06.If you don't own it, you probably don't know about it.
There are also car-specific examples. Maybe it's thehidden fuel cutoff switch you installed in your Pontiac Sunfire. Or maybeit's the rear door of your handed down Crown Vic - - the door opens just fine,so long asyou lift it up and simultaneously tilt ata 15-degreeangle. We all have examples ofquirks in cars that we've owned. Some we lived with because it gave our car character and others because we had no choice.
What are some examples from cars you've owned?
Take the jump for the fruits of my labor.
Last night I thundered into Beverly Hills with our 2009 Dodge Viper. There was a bunch of traffic on the drive there, but I didn't feel grumpy. Sure, clutch effort is on the heavy side, but I knew that going in, andwith a good portion ofthe 8.4-liter V10's 560 pound-feet of torque (at 5,000) working on my behalf, scooting along in traffic was easy, loud and satisfying.
Plus, the cool air was coming in off the Pacific Ocean, and as it mixed with the heat of the V10 expelling into the footwells, the cockpit ended up at the perfect temperature. It was like driving a convertible with the heat on, except I didn't have to turn the heat on.
After dinner, I walked outside to get the car from the valet, and I didn't have wait because the Viper was parked out front. Of course, the valet told me theyleft it there because they were concerned about the car'slow ground clearance which I'd pointed out when I arrived.
But when a bright orange Viper can sit out front as Porsches and Ferrarisspeed by, well, that can only be taken as a compliment.
I putabout 170miles on our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper over the weekend. The highlight of the weekend was a trip to Anaheim for Saturday's Angels/A's game where Kendry Morales hit two homers, andwhere the Viper was the second-most expensive car in the lot. Top honors went to a Bentley Continental GT.
The parking spaces were roomy enough and the crowd friendly enough that I didn't worry about leaving the Viper in the lot for 3 hours. There was only one instance of anti-Viper activity at the end of the night when a passerby shouted "It's an automatic!" to no one in particular. I watched as he proceeded onto his Honda Civic and wondered briefly whether he'd strain a calf muscle working the clutch of the Viper's heavy-dutyTremec gearbox.
I've managed to stay off the DL in that regard, but we did hit heavy traffic going to and from the game. And after a time, I did begin to tire of the car's wildly offset driving position that has you swiveling your hips and legs to the left while your arms reach right for the steering wheel. Also, the automated 1-4 upshift is tough to overcome in low-speed traffic, and the vast difference in gear ratio (2.66 vs. 1.00) has the engine lugging almost every time.
I still haven't tired of the loud loud loud V10, though, and the exhaust pops on downshifts inspire plenty of gratuitous heel-and-toeing. And considering the Viper is a toy car and comically large tires, the ride quality isn't half bad.
I wonder if 427 Shelby Cobras had warning stickers like this one back in the 1960's. Doubt it. You gotta love the lawyers.
"When you guys need service — or get tired of only 600 horsepower — you gotta hit DC Performance in LA." This guy was a viper owner we met when we picked up the car at the Long Beach Grand Prix. A long day of racing and potato salad means we're not sure if he's the one who left the party with a smoky burnout, but we hope it was. Because, if you'll remember, we've done some smokey burnouts with our Viper and now, at just over 6,000 miles, it needs its first service.
DC Performance, run by Dan Cragin, has factory trained Viper specialsts, does high-performance tuned snakes (they're known for their test-n-tune abilities), charges less than the Dodge dealer we spoke with, is on our commute home, has some 12 Vipers in the shop and was referred by a guy who does burnouts at picnics; it's perfect.
Dan and his team said they would need about a day to get this done, dropping it in the mornig would get our car back by 5. Unfortunately, that didn't fit our scedule so we dropped it off yesterday afternoon and will pick it up today.
DC Performance is the real deal. Our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 was ready earlier than expected and, somehow, came up $30 less than they originally quoted. The only thing they could've done better was make it free or surprise us with a reflash or upgraded exhaust...What a dream world that would be....
The Viper took 10 quarts of synthetic Mobil 1 0w40 at a cost of $92.50; an oil filter that ran $13.50 and then $33 for labor on the oil change — the inspection was free.
Add tax and the total comes to $149.34.
And while the Viper did sit out a night, that was due to our scheduling and was no fault of DC Performance or the Viper.
Follow the jump for another picture of their shop and a few stories from when I called local Dodge dealers to check on prices and availability for service....
me: I'm calling to check on the price and time commitment for the first service on a Dodge Viper.
Dealer 1: It's just an oil change and we'll rotate all four tires and check the belts. It's $50 and you can come in any time.
me: I don't think you heard me say "viper" please don't do that to someone's car. Have a nice day.
2 minutes later.
Me: Hi, I'm calling to check on the price and time commitment for the first service on a Dodge Viper.
Dealer 2: Does that have staggered-width tires?
dealer: Then it's $60 and should take half an hour.
me: ...what does that have to do with...huh?....I'm gonna go now.
Obviously, none of that happened at DC, the only thing they wanted to know is how frequently we tracked the car and if we wanted a dyno test and tune or a supercharger, too.
The weekend found me under the weather and too sick toput more than a few dozen miles onour 2009 Dodge Viper. I know. That's lame. But while adjusting the steering wheel's tilt, I found this button, which I never expected to find in the Viper.
It adjusts the height of the brake pedal andthere's quite a significant range of movement. I already like the close spacing of the brake pedal relative to the throttle pedal in the Viper. And after fiddling with the button a bit, I got it so that the brake and gas are now on the same plane (at least for my feet). The result? A near-perfect arrangement for heel-and-toeing. If I had it my way, this feature would be offered in all manual-shift cars purporting to offer performance.
Those of you who routinely check our news blog,Straightline, you've already seen the results of our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10's first trip to our test track. For everyone else, what's the holdup? It's free. Check it! But still, a long term car deserves a long term blog and the Viper is one helluva long term car....
Remember: This thing's got 600 horsepower from an 8.4-liter V10. It's got 560 lb-feet of torque. It's rear-wheel-drive, weighs just 3,400 lbs (yeah, that's a 'just' these days) and laughs in the face of lawmakers and their mandatory stability control reactionism. Live free or die, baby.
So what'd it do at our track? Follow the jump for results and a video.
If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.
Vehicle: 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10
Driver: Josh Jacquot
Base Price (with destination): $89,340
Options: Viper Very Orange Pearl Coat, Dual Graphite Painted Stripes ($3,000); Navigation System ($1,790).
As-Tested Price: $94,130
Drive Type: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: 6-speed manual
Engine Type: V10
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 8,383/512
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 600 @ 6,100
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 560 @ 5,000
Brake Type (front): 14.0-by-1.3-inch ventilated with 4-piston fixed calipers
Brake Type (rear): 14.0-by-1.3-inch ventilated with 4-piston fixed calipers
Steering System: Hydraulic-assist power rack-and-pinion
Suspension Type (front): Independent double-wishbone, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent double-wishbone, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 275/35ZR18 95Y (29 psi cold spec)
Tires Size (rear): 345/30ZR19 105Y (29 psi cold spec)
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Pilot Sport PS2
Tire Type: Summer
Wheel Size (front): 18-by-10-inches
Wheel Size (rear): 19-by-13-inches
Wheel Material (front/rear): Cast aluminum
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,436
0 - 30 (sec): 1.8
0 - 45 (sec): 2.8
0 - 60 (sec): 3.7
0 - 75 (sec): 5.2
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 11.6 @ 125.7
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 3.4
30 - 0 (ft): 27
60 - 0 (ft): 107
Braking Rating: Very Good
Slalom (mph): 74.0
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.96
Handling Rating: Excellent
Db @ Idle: 58.5
Db @ Full Throttle: 86.1
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 74.0
Acceleration Comments: This is so cool. 11.6 @ almost 126 mph with virtually no wheelspin. Wow! Don't rush 3rd gear, however, or you'll find that its synchro isn't happy. Otherwise, the Viper hits 60 mph in 1st gear and goes through the quarter-mile in 3rd gear.
Braking Comments: Immediate pedal. No fade. Very consistent.
Handling Comments: Slalom: Very high limits and impressive stability. Very secure and even relatively easy sub-limit driving. Attitude doesn't encourage exceeding those limits, though. Skid pad: Balance favors understeer at this speed. No real shift in balance from lift-throttle at this speed, either. Doesn't want to powerslide.
Already there are plenty of entries in the fuel logbook for our 2009 Dodge Viper with the following notations: "Not full?!" "Pump clicked off early." "Bad pump."
So it's probably not the pump, but the car. I've filled the Viper up three times now, and the one time I really got it full, the pump initially clicked off after a half-gallon had gone in, and then I said, "Oh, no you don't..." and proceeded to twist and caress the pump until over 12 gallons had gone in. The following fill-up I forgot and the pump clicked off after 10 gallons. I did the usual manual top-off, but still ended up with the tank only 7/8 full.
Moral of my only semi-interesting story? Refueling the Viper must be done the same way we did with our other exotic, the 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi: with care, patience and persistence.
For the uninitiated, WSBK is shorthand for the World Superbike Championship, a top-tier motorcycle series that's making its way to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah this weekend. Dodge is sponsoring the race so they offered to save us a spot in the parking lot as long as we park our long-term Viper in it.
No problem, it's only 700 miles from Santa Monica to Salt Lake and I have our trusty radar detector all packed up and ready to go. Given the fact that it's Memorial Day weekend, I might put the Viper on cruise control and not even deal with the hassle of trying to make time. After all, an orange Viper doesn't exactly blend in very well in the middle of the desert. Wish me luck, I'm going to need it.
When I got in the Viper to leave for Salt Lake City, it didn't feel like a great road trip car. A bit cramped, hard to see out of and most definitely loud, the Viper seemed like it would be one of those cars I looked forward to driving and then loathed a few hundred miles in.
Actually, it's not that bad. After a few hours behind the wheel, I got used to its tight cockpit and limited sight lines. It helps that the seat is comfortable and the satellite radio was hooked up. Sure, the thing has 600 horsepower, but when you're on the open road it's not exactly wide open throttle the whole time.
Oh yeah, the thing is bright orange too, so any attempt to blend in isn't really going to work. Figured that out when a highway patrol car blew by on the other side of the highway and then spun around, crossed the median and then tailed me for 20 miles or so. Felt much better when a guy in an SRT Challenger followed me to a gas station just to say hello. You meet the nicest people in a Viper.
After a full day at the wheel of the Viper on Sat., I arrived in Salt Lake City ready to take in the World Superbike race at the Miller Motorsports Park in nearby Tooele. As I noted before, Dodge was one of the title sponsors for the race, so it invited us out to see how it's trying to attract some new customers.
You've probably already seen the latest commercials, this is essentially another step in that direction. There were drift demonstrations in the parking lot, a full paddock area display and a couple of SRT-8 Challengers on the track as safety cars. Oh, and there was some motorcycle racing too. All good stuff, photographic evidence after the jump.
And a very focused Mr. Toseland for f1mom:
After the WSBK race wrapped up at Miller Motorsports Park (poor Mr. Checa) I decided to head home by driving south from the track instead of taking the interstate route through Salt Lake City. Aside from refraining from jalapenos on my hot dogs, it was the best decision I made all weekend. More after the jump.
Instead of the occasionally-populated and regularly-patrolled Interstate 15, I was practically all alone on the two-lane State Highway 36 before it turned into Highway 6 and then Highway 257, all desolate stretches of two-lane.
As capable as the Viper is on a racetrack, I'd say it's just as much fun on the open road. Get a nice wide open stretch and it just goes, in practically any gear. I didn't test its upper limits, but I didn't feel the need to as it's just as satisfying to roll up and down at considerably slower speeds. Third gear is a bit frantic and requires some restraint. Fourth gear is a good combination of meaty torque and smooth roll on. Fifth gear still goes pretty good and it feels like it will go on forever. Any one of them will pass a slower car in an instant.
The Viper doesn't beat you up either. Sure, the ride is firm, but it doesn't deliver the kind of punishing impacts that make a Porsche 911 GT3 a much less desirable road trip car. And even though the Viper's seats don't have much adjustment, they don't really need it, felt fine after 700 miles.
So what sucks? The old navigation/radio setup isn't very useful, got lost a few times and the maps are hard to see. Also, sixth gear is too tall which makes it kind of useless unless you're going slightly downhill. Gas mileage was pretty good though, got around 17-18 mpg most of the trip, not bad for a V10.
Best mileage on the trip was just over 23 mpg. I was trying though, lots of highway and sixth gear cruising.
I'm sure the Glendale Motel about an hour north of Las Vegas was a fine roadside stop at one time.
Saw this hay barn just outside of Milford, UT. Guess there was a little indecision on which color to go with.
No, he didn't ask to race me.
It takes more time when you're not on the interstates, but you miss scenery like this.
Hopping into the Viper after picking it up from DC Performance a couple of weeks ago, I had two real goals for my first time — not on a closed course — in our Long-Term Viper SRT-10: Don't stall. Don't spin into that Hennessey thing on the right. Pretty simple most of the time, but when you drive a few hundred cars a year, the first few seconds feeling out the engine and clutch can be tricky. I've yet to crash into a Hennessy, but I did stall our Mazdaspeed 3 the first time I pulled it out of our parking spots.
So I'm in the car getting the seat just so — much closer and much more reclined than I'm used to, but still workable — and the mirrors good before I stab at the gas only to find I can only manage about 1,500 rpm. Hm. I've driven a bunch of Vipers and most of them, at least I think, revved past 1,500. Stab again, 1,500. Hm. Once more? 1,500. A steady 1,500.
Turns out we don't have a measly 1,500 rpm rev limiter, but rather my shoe, with my heel placed dead between the throttle and brake pedals, catches the carpeting just forward and to the side of the gas limiting how much I can modulate that pedal.
Not the end of the world, I just readjusted my feet so that my heel was directly in front of the gas. Turns out, though, that trying to re-adjust your footing after a decade-or-so of driving is more difficult than simply taking your shoes off and driving in socks. At least for the 3 miles home.
In other pedal-placement news, trying to use the dead-pedal results in the clutch being depressed (probably due to loneliness — get it?) or if I slip my foot under the clutch to get the dead pedal, I can't get it back out. So that leg needs to stay bent at about a 90-degree angle which then interferes with my left arm.
I wore sneakers the following today and I'm going to keep some spares around just in case I ever get this car again because when you can work all of the pedals without getting trapped or limited or otherwise inconvenienced, this Viper is the coolest car in the world. It's fast. It's loud. It looks weird and unlike so many other cars on the road today, it does everything and only what you tell it to do. It's great. Just pack appropriate shoes. Like some Vibram Five Fingers pictured here, in our How to be an Automotive Journalist story
Last weekend Ed drove our2009 Dodge Viper to the superbike race in Utah. Yes, the trip with the umbrella girls. Somewhere between here and there, one end of the left-rear window strut popped out.
We took it to Glenn E Thomas Dodge in Long Beach for repair. "Let me see if we have the part in stock," our advisor began, "No reason you should leave it here if we can't fix it today." He returned a few minutes later, "Sorry, we don't have it.Unfortunately, neither do any of the dealersnearby. We need 5 working days to getone from the vendor. I'll call you when it arrives."
When we know more, you'll know more.
It's not surprising, really — this bonkers orange 2009 Dodge Viper has been in our hands for a few months, and we've kept it busy. Among other activities, it's been road-tripped, tested at the track, heck, we've even tried to set a burnout record in thing.
Really, the one place this over-endowed cornea grabber hasn't yet graced is the dyno. We've now righted that wrong.
Jump with me.
Any enthusiast worth his or her salt knows that Dodge pegs the Viper's output at 600 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 560 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. These numbers alone, however,don't tell the whole story. When you dyno test a car, you can glean insights on its engine's entire torque curve and run-to-run consistency.
So that's what we did. We strapped the Viper down to the rollers of a Dynojet 248 chassis dyno and made 'er sing. Er, blat. Let's be honest — the Viper doesn't sound the least bit melodic or impressive, but man,is it ever powerful.Hey, it's the automotive equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Case in point — the Viper's torque is simply devastating. The hulking 8.4-liter V10 power plant puts well over 400 lb-ft to the ground from 2,000 rpm all the way to its 6,350 rpm fuel cut (yes, Dodge's literature figures the rev limiter at 6,250 rpm. We measured otherwise.). Nutty.
Below is the Viper's stabilized output. There's a 2% SAE weather correction applied.
See the dip in the torque curve spanning 3,000 to 4,200 rpm?It was present in each of the six pulls we performed, so it's no fluke. You wouldn't know it was there by driving the car,though, owing to theveritableocean of sauce on tap. I did hear a few rattles of detonation during the first pull, so it's possible the Viper is knock-prone in this region, and the brain on board had to retard ignition timing here to snuff the pinging. Yes, California's best pump gas is 91 octane. Yes, it sucks.
Peak power and peak torque arrive right where Dodge said they would, so there's that.
As noted inearlier posts onthe subject, a chassisdyno is best when used in making comparisons like during tuning. Things get sticky when you instead attempt to deriveengine output bytaking the absolute numbers produced by a chassis dynoand then adjusting these results withsome guess atdriveline loss.
Now, we're guilty of doing this from time to time, butconsider thatinertia dynos are pretty simple and robust devices.As such there's minimal inherent variation from one to the next. They're even calibrated for life, according to Dynojet. The biggest wildcard is that induced by weather correction, and we're blessed to live in a climate that's nearlyidentical to those conditions outlined by SAE, so rarelydoes weather correction result in any significantadjustment.
We've performed a lot of pulls on the same chassis dyno. In comparing the output of different cars, using the same dyno is theway to go.Of course, you're fooling yourself if you compare results across different dyno manufacturers.
So with that in mind, here's how the Viper stacks up to another 600-ish-horsepower car we tested recently,the Callaway Corvette SC606. For perspective, I threw in our longterm 2002 Corvette Z06 dyno result, too. It's pretty crowded;click the image for a larger version:
The Callaway's supercharged low-end torque really magnifies the hole in the Viper's torque curve. One thing's for certain, though — the Viper's V10 is stronger above 4,100 rpm, culminating in an additional 16 horsepower compared to the ostensibly more powerful (by just a tick) Callaway.
It takes a hell of an engine to make the '02 Z06's 5.7-liter LS6 look flaccid, and that's precisely what the Viper's V10 does. Despite its trucky character andindifferent soundtrack,it is truly an epic engine, the likes of which we are notlikely to see again.
I don't know if you're aware of this or not, but California is huge. Huge. Especially if you're going in a North-South direction. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in an up-down way, California is the largest thing in The Universe. Look it up. It's true.
So when someone I know from the East Coast said, "Hey, we're attending a wedding in Central/Northern California(560 miles from my house-mm), you should come visit, we'll be in your neighborhood!" I said, "Yeah you will! I'll get the Viper and come see you guys."
It was then, three months before we actually had the Viper, that I put in my request.
My trip, I said, would take me up the famed Pacific Coast Highway from Ventura through San Simeon, through Big Sur — through an Elephant Seal colony! — to Santa Cruz. Look at that road on a map. With the exception of Big Sur, it's all on the coast. And with the exception of the times when 8.4-liter V10s go screaming through, it's a peaceful and serene getaway.
Thankfully, I showed up with a V10.
The two-lane road that paints the coast of California is a high risk travel route. Not because of cops (though they are there) and not because of rock slides (got those, too), but because of the infernal scourge of the modern not-quite-highway....the RVer. Recreational Vehicles clog this highway like so many fat guys on a lazy river. No ambition. No sense of purpose. If we'd left it to these folks, we never would've settled the west. They would have just stopped at some pretty flowers somewhere in Illinois and called it a day.
Don't ask me how, but I timed it perfectly. One RV the entire way and...by some stroke of luck...he let me pass mere seconds into my first tirade against those roving road blocks.
Now, as I mentioned before, this road may be as windy as a phone cord (remember those?), there are rocks in the road. And sand. And wet spots. And tourists taking pictures of rocks and wet spots and, that day, Dodge Vipers. The Pacific Coast Highway isn't a road you attack, it's a road you roll the windows down, keep the engine in as pleasant-sounding a gear as possible and cruiiiiiiise. In the Viper, on this road, that gear is 2nd. And sometimes third. (Of course this will mean running the tank nearly dry and paying exorbitant mid-coast gas prices of nearly $5/gallon.) This thing, though, it could be a two-speed: second and fifth cover every scenario you could ever encounter.
The Viper's suspension is perfectly tuned to this road. It's aggressive and firm, but not abrasive. Even the road noise from the 1/2-oil drum rear tires is muted by the ocean and the exhaust reverberating off of the cliff sides. As for overall grip: I didn't even get close. Sure, a tire-squealing launch or two, but lateral grip....on PCH...with a mountain on one side and a big, angry ocean on t'other? No thanks. Besides, to get to the Viper's limits on that road would require speeding of a degree that even my Valentine One couldn't warn me of.
When all was said and done and I had to move East, back onto a real highway towards my destination, it was 12 hours (I stopped a lot for pictures for you people) after I'd set out and I could not have been happier with the car or the route chosen. A Dodge Viper on an uncongested Pacific Coast Highway...it's the stuff car-guy dreams are made of.
Stay tuned for part II: The Return.
Duringmy morning commute, our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper broke the 10,000 mile mark. Remember, it had already covered 5,500 miles by the time we took delivery of the V10 supercar back in April. Hopefully it'll hit 20,000 miles before we return it to Auburn Hills.
We ended the first part of my 1,100 Mile Viper Trip somewhere in the upper-middle portion of California content and impressed with a dream drive up the coast.
This time, we're heading back to Los Angeles. But instead of another 12-hours of scenery, I decided to hop on I-5, hook up the radar detector and make a bee-line for home.Bad idea.
If RVs (and rental cars as eville_stu said) are the scourge of PCH, then truckers are the bane of my existence on the 5. Now, it's not that they're on the road that's the problem, it's a combination of their spacing and other drivers. Here's what happens: The trucks drive not in a tight caravan, but spaced almost exactly 1/4-mile apart for the entirety of the two-lane interstate. And that wouldn't be a problem if people would: a) pull over to let quicker traffic by or b) pass slower moving traffic — who won't get out of the left lane — on the right.
Neither of these things happen so you have one lane of trucks spaced pretty far apart, and one lane of cars going, give or take, 2 mph faster than the trucks. It's a nightmare.
Luckily(!) The Dodge Viper doesn't need a whole lot of room to make a pass. downshift anywhere between one and four gears depending on who you're passing, and that quarter-mile gap is more than enough to overtake...well...everyone.
So there's the power, that's nice. And the air conditioning is strong enough, even in 90+ degree heat to keep the cabin cold. And the cabin is quiet enough at 55 in sixth (it could've been first) to notice that there's some wind noise from the A-pillar. But once you hit 65, it's all down hill.
First is the tire noise. wwwwwwwrrrrrrrrrrrr. For hours. wrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Hours. Maybe if California used asphalt like a normal state instead of concrete it wouldn't be so bad, but they don't so it is. It kept my ears ringing for a few hours after the drive was over.
Next up on the complaint block is the engine noise at normal cruising speed. When the Viper is pushed or prodded on a windy road and the engine is kept above 3,000rpm, the V-10 sounds cool, like a factory that builds awesomeness. Below that, however and it's just a discordant vibrating/whirring/pulsing noise. It's not good.
Combine the lame engine note and the tire noise and you've got an acoustic mess that virtually cancels out the stereo. You can turn it up, but then you've got a third noise wreaking havoc on your ears instead of just two.
The final complaint is the range. I was really hoping that with tentative driving (ie: keeping the car in sixth/fifth instead of revving it out in first) I could manage a decent tank out of this thing. I couldn't. Resulting in a surprise warning alarm and this level of fuel.
If the first part of this trip was the dream come true, this 8-hour trek was one of those nightmares that starts out with a pretty lady and ends when she rips her own face off to reveal she's actually a horrible sea-monster bent on dragging you down to Davey Jone's locker and then you wake up in a pool of sweat and the odd, lingering smell of low tide. Or maybe those are just my dreams. You get the idea. It's not fun and it's not what you were expecting.
The moral of this story: Stay off the highway. Especially in a Viper.
Watch for Part II: By The Numbers coming soon.
High-end performance coupes aren't known for their outward visibility, but in our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 it's actually pretty good.
With its large rear window, well-placed (and relatively large)exterior mirrors and effective rearview mirror our bright orange Dodge isn't just about being seen, but being able to see. Sure, the A-pillars are pretty thick and you sit low, so it's not exactly atop seat at The Hollywood Bowl, but considering the vehicle's outward proportions it could be much worse.
You still have to be prudent when parking, as it's impossible to tell where the Viper's front and rear ends really end. However, once you're rolling there's little apprehension, even while navigating tight morning rush-hour traffic (as seen above).
Again, this is rare onmost high-end two-seaters with several hundred horsepower. If you've driven any exotic cars how did you find their visibility?
On the left is our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10. On the right is a 2010 Chevy Corvette ZR1.
1) Which one would you buy?
2) Which one would you drive home tonight?
Me? Well, I'm a huuuuuuuuuuge Viper fan and I smile everytime I drive our Orange Beast, but I would buy the faster and more comfortable Vette and I would take it home tonight. In fact, I think I will.
After the jump you'll find total distance traveled; best, worst and average fuel economy as well as gallons used; time travelend; the fantastic conclusion to the 'how far did the Viper go on one tank of fuel' cliffhanger;and, just to keep it interesting, some more pictures of a very orange Dodge Viper.
The EPA rates the 2009 Dodge Viper at 13 mpg city, 22 highway and 16 combined.
Over the course of 1,168 miles (8,807 - 9,975 on the odo) I averaged 18.2 mpg.
Best MPG: 20.2 (twice)
Worst MPG: 14.7
Best range: 253 miles. (The car then took 14.625 gallons meaning I had nearly 1.4 gallons left in reserve. I'm as disappointed as you are.)
Gallons of fuel used: 64.2
Look for Part IV: The PicDump soon.
I like orange stuff and I can not lie
You other colors can't deny
That when a car rolls in with a flame-hot grace
A massive orange thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your...
Yea, well, you get the idea. More after the jump.
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring...
Here isthe story. Thehatch struton our 2009 Dodge Viper fell out. So we ordered a new one. When parts arrived wemade an appointment to have it fixed. Simple, right?
Two and a half hours of sittingin the service department waiting room brought us to the magical moment,"Sir, they are pulling your car around now." Our advisor continued, "We can't fix it. There is no stud to attach the strut to. We think it fell inside the body panel. Our recommendation is to take it to our body shop. They can cut out a sectionjust big enough to fit a hand inside and retrieve the piece."
I gasped, "You want to do what?"
"If it's all the same to you," I toldour advisor, "I'd rathernot."And I left with no delay.
As it turns out, the vendorthatmanages Dodge pressvehicles (of which our Viper is one) resides justa mile fromGlenn E Thomas. So I stopped by to see our buddy, Carlos. He offered ahelping hand, the right tools for the job and most importantly, somebodywithwhom I could share thisridiculousdealer experience.
Now for the best part. It tookless than 15 minutesto fix the problem.
We peeled back this panel. Low and behold, the missing bracket was tucked inside. It took 5 seconds to find it, and3 more seconds to realizethe rivets were at fault,not the strut.
Buy some rivets. Pick up a little touch up paint.
Grab the rivet gun and dive in.
Reinstall theoriginal strut.
Add some Viper VeryOrange touch up paint.
And we are done. I never want to take another picture of this strut again.
The Viper's gauges are pretty rudimentary. (Not the most rudimentary, mind you, as that honor is reserved for my stepdad's Civic VX, which has gauges lit by a single Christmas light.) You have to adjust the brightness every time you turn them on, because you have totake the brightness to zero every time you turn off the car, or else the Viper's interior lights will stay on. Silliness.
Yet, somehow, whenever I crank the brightness all the way up, and see this, it kind of makes me happy. They're clean and simple, and they have a warm glow. Nah, you can't really read the speedometer, even when you're looking at it head-on while properly seated, but ifyou're watching your speedin a Viper, well, you're in the wrong car, no? Seriously, I'd take a secondary digital speedo if I could get it, but that's one of many modern conveniences that the Viper refuses.
As big and bad as our Viper may be, add a little rain to the equation and it's rendered nearly worthless. As in, don't bother trying to go fast, or it will kill you right quickly.
Even with its ridiculously wide rear tires, trying to put down 600 horsepower on a slick city street is next to impossible. It makes for a bit fun as you try to harness that big V10 while barely even breathing on the gas, but even that gets old soon enough. Makes traction control seem like quite the magical thing. Then again, it rarely ever rains here so it's not much of a drawback. Lucky us.
The Dodge Viper SRT-10 has so much power and torque that the 6-speed transmission and final drive ratiowere set up to flirt with 200 mph on the top end.
Back here on planet Los Angeles,that means it's nigh on impossible to use 6th gear in real life. Above I'm cruising at 70 mph in 6th, and the engine is loping along uncomfortably at no more than 1,350 rpm. At 60 mph it lugs even worse at some 1,150 revs. Cruise at Sammy Hagar's hated 55 mph (I didn't bother) and I'm not even sure it would stay running at a mathematical1,060 rpm.
So here's a car that can'treasonably manage60 mph in 6th gear, but it can go 0 to 60 in first gear — and do it in less than 4 seconds.
Heh heh.I'll take some of that.
Thanks to snipenet for this week's favorite caption.
Here are the others that made us smile:
Mike runs into Donna on her secret side job. (mcgs999)
The Viper gets pulled over by Adam & Eve-12. (ergsum)
Dodge puts the bailout behind them. (ergsum)
Cops hate finding Lipstick on their collar. (ergsum)
Felon and Louise (technetium99)
Kiss my gas (jeremiah4)
Pretty in Pink:Bad-ass in Orange (cello_one)
I said "Tail Him", not "Bail Him". (nullcode)
The Viper caught drag racing. (ergsum)
Radar Love (snipenet)
Get a Viper, snag a Bond Girl! (ergsum)
Is this some kind of bust? (ergsum)
Snake Charmer (alpine6speed)
What was your favorite?
Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt sent me this photo of the Viper parked near a pretty interesting vehicle.
I know you'll have fun with this one. What is your caption?
We'll post our favorite this afternoon.
The silver lining to our longterm Ram's departure is that I'm off the hook in schleppingmy team's 24 Hours of LeMons car from race to race. And that includes last weekend's race in eastern Colorado.
Decision time: fly from LAX to Denver and back,or drive the 2,200 miles?
The correct decision was as obvious as a skin-tight, bright orange zoot suit.
In our current fleet, our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper iseasily the car most ill-suited for a trip like this. Which also makes it the best.
See,this wouldn't be the first time I decided to make a long trip more, uh, challenging, as a couple years ago I drove our longterm Audi R8 to Seattle and back to LA all within six days. Call it a degenerative condition.
This time, thetrip will take me and my teammate plus our racing gear from LAX, up through that hellhole Vegas, across Utah and into the wide open views of eastern Colorado. There, outside of Byers, CO, the 24 Hours of LeMons plagued the countryside. Keep your modems tuned to this URL.
There are things you think you know when you decide to roadtrip in a 2009 Dodge Viper, like it has instant torque, cargo space is minimal, it's stiff and loud. Roadtripping lets you test those myths.
For instance, the ride is really quite fine. Firm, yes. Stiff, no. A GT-R rides more harshly than this car. In this respect the Viper is an attractive car for touring.
However, its limited cargo space undermines this possibility. Anticipating this, we economized our packing down as much as possible. We ended up with a duffel, a small rollaway,a driver's suit bag and two helmets, plus a couple of light jackets. Good thing we did, because that gear filled 'er up. You could conceivably fit items on the shelf below the backlight, but I didn't want to block rearward visibility for obvious pork-related reasons.
Space in the cabin is nonexistent, too. You get a glovebox stuffed with the owner's manual and a shallow, wide bin aft of the gearchange lever. That's it — no map pockets in the door, no cubbies in the dash and no usable space behind the seats. Not roadtrip-friendly. Odds and ends (snacks, drink bottles, maps) wind up in the passenger's lap or footwell. Suck it up, buddy.
Instant torque? Sort of. It's strange, but the Viper doesn't rock your head back like you might expect. The tall gearing and sluggish drive-by-wire throttle really dull the engine's perceived snap. The numbers on the speedo sure come upquickly though...
Previous Viperoadtrip entries: first
Though we had to be in Byers, CO, by noon the next day, we'd made enough time by this point in our trip with the 2009 Dodge Viper to allow a foray off of I-70 into Arches National Park, located in eastern Utah.
We arrived at the park late in the afternoon, which turned out to be good timing as it's hellaciously hot there this time of year. We paid the fee at the gate and headed up the road into the park.
This is a spectacular park in all senses of the word. The scenery is flabbergasting, like you're on some alien planet, and the signage and campgrounds are well maintained. You can drive and drive, or pull over at any one of the dozens of scenic views and trailheads. Bring a hat and lots of water. And sunscreen.
Since we arrived late in the day, the roads were sparsely traveled and the scenery wasn't all washed out in direct sunlight. Very pretty. Look around, or drive? The day was running out, sowe decided to doa bit of both. The roads farther up in the park are fast and smooth — they play to the Viper's strengths. The Viper is not a pointy, sharp weapon, it's more of a nuclear warhead that you deploy with forethought.
The rhythm of the corners is such that third gear is all that's really required. It's like a giant rubber band you stretch and release as the rev rise and fall. This car has a ton of grip, and the forward visibility is actually fairly decent. And the brakes — outstanding. Naturally, we had to wait forthe remaininglooky-loos to pull off before stretching the Viper's legs.
We pulled off at the far end of the road and did a quick walk up the mile-long path to the Delicate Arch,which, despite its placard description, has a decidedly not-timeless battle with gravity. It's only a matter of time before that sucker crumbles away completely. Check it out before it's gone.
As we descended back to the main road, the setting sun's tangerine glow washed over the park's plinths and pillarsas if to provide a visual cue to the ever-present tomblike silence. This is an eerily peaceful place.
Diversions like this one are what make roadtrips memorable. Try doing that on a plane.
Hey, do you remember if there was a gas station where we exited the freeway? 'Cuz all we've seen for miles and miles isa lot of this:
It's about 26 miles to this supposed gas station from where the low fuel light came on, right outside of Arches. I wonder how much reserve we have...
Finally we reach the freeway, and,like a glowing beacon on the horizon, we see it — Papa's Joe's Stop & Go. But, uh, there aresigns taped to all of the pumps. Crap, don't tell me they're out of fuel...
I picked up Ryan at LAX in the mid-afternoon. The drive had us plodding the Viper up I-15 through the shame of our nation, Las Vegas, ending with dinner and sleep in a Mesquite, NV, casino. There's really nothing to see on this leg. Our goal for this day's drive was to get some miles in the bag so that we might be able to do a bit of exploring on the next day's drive.
The shot above was taken during a side jaunt on Highway 118 near Monroe, UT.
Road and wind noise isn't too bad. It's there, but not obnoxiously so. Strangely, when you get it into sixth gear at about 80 — since that gear is utterly worthless at speeds less than this — the moan of the lugging engine plus the wind noise at the A-pillar make it sound like you're in a Cessna. This is the surely one of the most unimpressive-sounding engines today, even when you wood it.
But, man, when you need to blast by a row of crawlers on the freeway, a downshift to third or even second gear is all it takes to make everyone warp backwards.
Also, the floor gets hot. Not Corvette-hot, more like an electric blanket-hot. The aircon's quite effective, though, so it's no problem when you're moving, even in summer-desert-at-midday conditions. If you park for lunch, the car feels like an oven when you return to it, though.
Also, the seatbelts havea half-twist in them. Both sides. Odd.
On the return trip in the 2009 Dodge Viper, we took some good roads off of I-70. I'll tell you more about that, but first, check out this beaut we found disintegrating at a Shell station in Hanksville, UT.
Know what make and model it is? The sexay beast on the right, I mean
[Update: bobinsepa nailed this one — it's a 1958 Borgward Goliath 1100 Kombi. It has a water-cooled 1100cc flat four hung over the front axle, like a Subaru. There's a transverse front leaf spring and what looks like a rear beam axle. Very packaging-efficient — there's oodles of space under the hood and the cabin is quite roomy. The owner claims that with a new fuel pump and a battery that it runs just fine.]
Here'sa hint — it's German, has a flat four, and is not the obvious choice.
I'll check back in the comments, and later, update the post with more info and pics. This thing is so freaking cool I can barely contain myself.
At our destination, the 24 Hours of LeMons raceat High Plains Raceway,located 20 miles outside of Byers, Colorado, the 2009 Dodge Viper collected dust while I turned my attention tothis heap:
Five teammates and I comprise Eyesore Racing, and collectively we raced said eyesore for a total of 13 hours.
Actually it was more like 11 and 3/4 hours when you account for the time we spent in the penalty box for some boneheaded driving on Day One.The penalties had us parading around the pits behind a '47 Ford while dressed up first as a chain-gang and lateras the Village People, where we danced to Macho Man in full regalia complete with mustaches. Good times. We closed out Day One in 7th place as a result.
Day Two of racing was incident-free.The first stint of Day Two was manned by yours truly, during which I clawed back two places to put us in 5th. Hours later in the race, with 20 minutes remaining, we moved up to 3rd. And that's how it ended.
Oh, almost forgot.I was given the privilege of driving the Viper as pace car on Day One. AsI pulled up to the hot pits to stage the Viperbefore the entrants filed in behind me, the track marshal asked, "So, you're here to take a lap before the field shows up?"
Why, yes. Yes, I am.
Pics of the race from the LeMons staff.
So, this was predictable.
We were traveling on I-70 east of Grand Junction, CO (surprisingly good eats at Naggy McGee's Irish Pub, by the way) at an easy cruise when we slooowly reeled in a box truck, the back of which was emblazoned with the words 'Highway Patrol'. The side logo read 'Hazardous Materials Removal Unit' or some such. Huh, never seen that before. We continued oozing past the truck at less than ten over the limit.
They're cops on a freeway, so we should guessed havethey were more interested in harvesting revenue than removing hazards.
According to the patrolman in the Charger you see above, the truck had radioed ahead to him while he was perched in the canyon several miles up the road in order to alert him to our presence. That's wherethe limit drops to 60 mph, and conveniently enough, officers heavily patrol this area for
This one wrote us up for 73 in a 60.
Screw freeways. I wanted tohave some fun in the 2009 Dodge Viper during the long haul back to Los Angeles.
Highway 24,a long, straight stetch off I-70 about 12 miles west of Green River, UT, was the first leg in this side journey. Be aware that the Viper trulyhas a hunger for triple digits. Its high-speed stability and loafing engine makes 100 feel like 40, 120 like 60. On this road,the Viperfound speed of its ownaccord. I swear, officer.
In Torrey, UT, we took Highway 12 south. Now this is what we're after — the tedium of Hwy 24 makes this car guy's paradise that much more welcome, and it's the the kind of place to which you vow to return. Sinuous bends and turns and rises and dips etched through aspen woods and brutal rock outcroppings made bizarre by eons of erosion.Completely fantastic. Many passing zones, too. The Viper's massive thrust and grip flattened the hills with zero effort.
Portions of this gobsmacking tarmac bliss findthe Viper out of its element. Its huge proportions make it unsuited for threading the tighter segments, and it can become unsettled by bumps. There's also an apparenthitch in the steering off center, where the ratio seems to abruptly increase. In reality the ratio is constant and it is the loading that varies, but the resulting sensitivity to steering inputs requires some adjustment.
Still, enormous fun. We eventually hit 89 South to Zion and ripped out a couple-mile hike in our sneakers. Daylight lingers til 10pm, which really mucks with your brain's dinner bell.
We then found I-15 and headed south, with the memory of Highway 12 beckoning us back another day.
For the round trip in the Viper, we covered 2,326 miles,averaged 20 mpg, got shaken down by the fuzz once, consumed 14 liters of water and smashed 1,479 insects. We learned that roadtripping in a Viper isn't logical or the kind of thing you'd elect to repeat, but is an experience that shouldn't be passed up if the offer arises.
Huh. That's weird.In my mind, the first-gen Viper GTS coupes were always far sexier cars than the second-gen 2009 Dodge Viper like the orange leviathan in our fleet. The second-gen coupes, I recall thinking when they debuted, have too much S2000 influence and too few shapely curves.
Then I spotted this red first-gen Viper in the wild, and I was really taken aback by how much it has aged. Visually, it is far more dowdy than I remember. Frumpy, even.Amazing what time can do.
But that's just the back. From the front, the first-gen still makes an impact.
Or am I nuts? Talk to me — which looks better, the old or the new?
Few things are more aggravating to me than a twisted seat belt — at least in the automotive realm (don't get me started on stamped, unmailed letters...). This personal pet peeve weighed on me every time I drove our Long-Term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10. The driver's seat belt was twisted, and not in the "well, just flip it over" way but in the "looks like someone at the factoryscrewed up the seat belt installation" way.
After more than 10,000 miles ofmanaging the"twist" every time we buckled up (so it didn't fall across the middle of our collectivechests) I decided it was time to fix it.
The fix seemed simple enough. Just pull the bolt attaching the seat belt to the Viper's frame and flip it around. As Jeremy Clarkson might say, "How hard could it be?"
Well, first of all, said bolt is located in the narrow region between the driver's seat, the door sill and the cabin's rear wall. To even see the bolt you have to move the driver's seat all the way forward and then flip the seat back forward, too. At that point you can just reach the bolt — assuming you're shouldersaren't NFL-specand your knees aren't retired NFL-spec(I barely quality on both counts). Once you reach the bolt you quickly realize it's neither aPhillips nor flathead affiar,but a Torx bolt — a BIG Torx bolt. Do you keep big Torx drivers in your toolbox? Me neither. I tried the local hardware store first, then Home Depot, but still couldn't find a Torx driver inasize larger 40.I finally claimed the prize (Torx size 50)atHarbor Freight Tools for $2.99.
Removing the bolt proved challenging, given the tight quarters and tighter torque spec on the bolt. I had to get creative with vice grips to find any leverage, but once I did the bolt came out and the seat belt was free to flip around. You can see in the picturehow the vice grips slightlychewed upthe driver wheel included with the Torxkit. Beforere-attaching the boltI checked the passenger seat belt (which has never been twisted) to confirm the angle of the staggered mounting bracket and which side of the seat belt the buckle should sit on. Everything else was properlylined upon the driver's belt, it was just attached with the wrong side out (which further complicated getting at the bolt to loosen it).Maybe thisViper was built on a Friday afternoon...
That's not a bad picture, the resolution on our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10's optional($1,790 bundled with a'better' — read: bassier — stereo)navigation really is that bad.The system is DVD based, which isn't necessarily bad, but whatit means is that if you want to listen to a CD, you have to remove thenav disc in favor of your favoritemusic CD.
And then hope you don't get lost.
But, really,with that crazy knob/button combination to the right that 'controls' the thing, the nav is only really good for desperatesituations where your map's blown out the window andBlackberry/iPhone/Garmin has blacked out due to solar flare.
Our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper was waiting for me when I returned from vacation. And I assumed my 24-inch rollaboard bag, which is way too large to carry on to a plane, would be riding shotgun for the short trip home. But surprise, surprise, when I angledthe bagjust so, I was able to close the hatch securely. Wouldn't have been able to do this if the bag was inits"expanded" state, though.
I guess you'd call this anexample of the Viper'spracticality, though it's the only one I've found to date (though looking for practicality in a Viper is likely a sign of madness). It's pretty surreal and cool to drive around in a car with so much engine, but after a weekend of enduring theViper's narrow cockpit, wildly offset driving position and lack of an auto-dimming mirror (I know, I know, a petty complaint, but seriously, this car is low to the ground and it costs $94K) on LA freeways, the surreal coolness is starting to wear thin. Obviously, it's time for me to take my own Viperoadtrip.
I checked the tires and oil in our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 yesterday. I'd never actually opened the hood of the car before, and after feeling around for a hood release and finding nothing, I acquainted myself with page 81 of the owner's manual — a whole page devoted entirely to opening the hood.
Once the hood was open, reaching the dipstick was easy in spite of the car's super long nose and super north-south V10 layout. The oil registered low (below the "safe" zone on the dipstick), so I needed to add. And it just so happened I was 2 blocks from a Chrysler dealership.
The 2009 owner's manual stipulates full synthetic 0W40, suggesting you buy Mobil 1 or a comparable oil. At the dealer parts counter, though, I was handed a quart of European-formula Pennzoil Platinum full synthetic 5W40 with the assurance that the regional Viper tech now prefers this particular oil for the Viper. It was $9.49 plus tax — $10.42 total.
I added just under half a quart — without a funnel, thanks to the well located oil filler mouth.
I'm a 'clean windshield' guy. Any hint of grime and I'm on the squirters — provided nobody's behind me, of course.
So when our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10 started sputtering during my roadtrip to CO, I made certain to buy a jug of washer fluid and refill the reservoir at the next fuel stop.
Let's see, reservoir location is easily located, easy to pour into... but smallish. Took barely more than a quarter of a gallon. We had no space in the cabin to bring the rest of the bottle with us.
So I left the remaining (quite full) jug of fluid next to the tire fill pumps at the gas station. Enjoy your day, lucky next guy.
Fast as our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10is, I have to slow down the worldto enjoy it.
When I'm in a hurry to get somewhere, its seating position, limited visibility, sluggish off-the-line responseand lack of cabin lighting drive me up the wall. Yet, when I just forget about getting somewhere (like the office), and just sit back in the semi-reclined driver seat, take my time with the gearchanges, drop the windows to let some the engine heat out of the cockpit, and leave the worries of the law-abiding world behind, the Viper really does satisfy.
Driving it this morning, I thought of our old 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi. I liked that car best when I didn't care about where I was going, rather only about the road I was going on.
The Viper's V10 can't even be mentioned in the same sentence as the Ferrari's sweet, mid-mounted.... nope, can'ttype it. But you know, it sure is easier to get in and just drive the Viper. You don't have to bleed the cooling systemif it's been sitting for a while; all the electronics work; all the cylinders are firing. For now at least, starting up the Viper is as turnkey as starting up a Honda Fit.
And tomorrow I will take advantage of that and take the Viper on a good long drive. I'm thinking Cerro Noroeste.
My favorite Dodge Viper moment of the weekend went like this: I pull into my driveway just after sunset. My neighbor's six-year-old, Austin, sees the Viper and starts jumping up and down. Immediately, he turns to his mom and says, "Can I ride with Erin into the carport?!"
Soon he's around on the passenger side. I remind him to be careful getting in, not to put his hands on the warm-hot sills because of the side-exit exhaust. The huge, bolstered seat swallows him up, but he doesn't care. He even manages to retrieve the seatbelt, which usually getsstuck behind the seat-back bolster, and buckle up.
I goose the throttle — more than I need to for a 5-mph drive — and Austin roars with appreciation. I goose it again as set up to back into my carport. He's delighted. We talk about V10 engines, and how cars with manual transmissions are the best, and when the Viper is parked and stopped, I let him pull up the big hand brake.
Total distance: About 100 feet.
Our Dodge Viper had a bit of a television career before joining our long-term fleet. Tanner Foust and Paul Tracy put our Viper against a Corvette ZR1 on Speed Channel's Battle of the Supercars.
Episode 4 of Battle of the Supercars: The Ultimate American Supercar will air on Speed Channel Thursday, August 5 at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
See if our Viper's got talent.
Among the many items I consider when driving a car (seat comfort, ride quality, road noise, does it mess up what's left of my hair with the driver's window down at 60 mph, etc.) I always consider the view over the hood.
Vehicle designers, if they're smart, know this about customers (particularly performance car customers) and take it into account when designing a vehicle's fender and hood shape. The Viper folks clearly knew this, asour long-term caroffers a crisp view over the bulging hood scoop, between the raised fenders.
In a perfectly fitting way, the view over the Viper's hood is akin to staring down the barrel of a high-caliber weapon.
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.
Check it. I went to the swanky hotel Shutterson the Beachin Santa Monica on Sunday and the valets kept our long-term orange beast up front. That was good. Then, when we were leaving, a women in her late-60s ask me if I would give her a ride in my Ferrari. That was bad.
This morning our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 clicked past 15,000 miles. That means we've driven it just shy of 10,000 miles since we got the keys fromDodge back in April.
If you're interested, there's a shaky video of the magic momentafter the jump.It's a good insight into the Viper's ride over rough road.
Yesterday I tried to put our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 though my regular automated car wash. This is as far as it got. Turns out the Viper's rear tires are just toowide for the track that drags the car along.
By the way, our long-term Z06 and a 911 Turbo have been through this car wash with no problem.
After giving ourLong-Term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 aberating over its silly skip-shift feature I must admit to its impressive ability to motivate in top gear, even at a lug-worthy 1,200 rpm.
Some would argue a six-speed connected to a torque-monster V10 is akin to launching a smear campain against Mel Gibson — a completely unnecessary effort. Be that as it may, the Viper can maintain highway speeds in six gear, though I wouldn't suggest climbing Vail Pass in this mode (though bump your speed up to an illegal 80 mph on that stretch of I70 and you'd likely do just fine).
I still find the skip-shift annoying and unrealistic in terms of going 1st-to-4th gear at low speeds, even with this much power. But 6th gear isn't a totally unused gate in this car's transmission.
Be fun to fill the Viper with gas in Kansas, put it in 6th gear ASAP after pulling onto the freeway, and see what kind of mileage this 600-horsepower V10 can get at 60 mph for an entire tank.
Not that I'm volunteering.
Earlier this week I got an invitation to visit Metalcrafters in Fountain Valley, CA, which is 45 miles from our Santa Monica office. I drove there in our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10.
Our Very Orange Viper is one of the last of its kind, since Viper production stopped this summer. And the craftsmen at Metalcrafters built the very first Viper Concept for Dodge more than 20 years ago.
The Viper's homecoming was low key. No balloons. No marching bands. It was just me and the car celebrating its 20 year reignas America's supercar.
The Viper purists are going to hate this one. Our 2009 Dodge Viper needs to have one button removed and one button added.
Removed? The Engine Start button. We're well past the day where this is a cool feature. After the third time you press the button it's just old. After you've dealt with a car with a keyless push button start, the "oh man I'm in a racecar!" push start feel is gone and you just want the Viper to start like a real car. Either keyless button or key-only. This halfsies stuff is irritating.
The other button I'm suggesting is the onethat'll really steam theVipernauts: A 'Sport" button. It can go right there where the Engine Start button used to be and it'll go a long way to make this 8.4-liter V10 feel more like the engine of a sports car and not like a massive V10 that got lost on its way to the Ram factory.
It's not that the Viper's motor doesn't have pull — it does — it's just that below about 3,000 rpm, the engine is a dog. You've gotta kick the gas hard and then wait before releasing the clutch. It's actually easier to bog the Viper than to spin the tires. A sport mode would tighten this up making the Viper more driveable at low speeds and moreappealing at high speeds.
Adding an electronic sport mode to the Viper is like adding low-end torque to an M3: Nobody will admit it would be better, but making it happen would make everyone happy.
Our Viper as TV Star
Before we began beating on our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper back in April race car driver Paul Tracy had his way with it filming Speed Channel's new show Battle of the Supercars.
Here's a clip. Should get the nod come Emmy season. And Paul Tracy should get a full face helmet.
I've taken our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 to San Diego. I'm here to drive a minivan (first letteris "h," last letter is "y"), so the comparison is apt, no?
Actually, I know some minivans with better off-the-line torque response than our Viper, but I digress. The Viper is not an ideal heavy-traffic car, but you knew that, and as expected, it bucked over the expansion joints and rain grooves that define LA's freeways. Once we hit South Orange County, though, the pavement smoothed out and the Viper mellowed out in the ride quality department.
It's also a relaxed cruiser in its tall 6th gear. Once you're up to your65-70-75-80-mph pace (take your pick), the fact that you can't really accelerate in-gear doesn't matter. But I went down to 5th and often 4th whenever I wanted to pass, or when traffic slowed, or when I just wanted to remind myself that I was in the most fun car on the road. Heel-and-toe downshifts aren't that fun to execute with the Viper's six-speed, but the resulting exhaust sounds of asmooth shift downare a decent reward.
It was a hot day, but the air-conditioning kept my hands icy while engine heat permeated the firewall and made my feet sweat. Yum, eh? Also, the not-quite-Z06-toasty transmission tunnel kept my tall coffee (secured in its cozyin the half-holder) warm for the duration of the drinking experience.
The traffic and the constant A/C use relieved the car of fuel at a rapid rate, but there's a still quarter of a tank in case the valets at my hotel want to do burnouts tonight.
After the jump, spotted on I-5: the most unusual Prius I've ever laid eyes on... and undoubtedly a kindred spirit to the Dodge Viper.
Thanks to Franchitti27 for this week's favorite caption.
Here are the other brow raisers:
Another attempt at low-brow automotive humor... (technetium99)
Mad Max Factor (ergsum)
Snake Eyes! (ergsum)
Competition in for a Brow Beating (mcgs999)
The Fast and the Follicles (snipenet)
Hair today, gone in 60 seconds tomorrow. (technetium99)
Can you make them match the roofline? (felonious)
Just browsing. (felonious)
Must... out race... papyrus font! (questionlp)
Pluck, Pluck, Goose the Throttle (rayray633)
Viper waits patiently for it's star pupil, Iris. (mnorm1)
Hurry up, I have a 7-o-clock with Lipstick Bail Bonds (mustang5507)
What was your favorite?
To the winner:
You can select one of these two prizes:
Stig keychain (Just like mine. Yay!)
Top Gear Complete Season 10 DVD (A little outdated but still fun.)
Send your choice and your address to dderosa (at) edmunds.com
Erin sent me this picture of our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 at a very specilized shop.
Make your captions extra special good this week. We have a prizes! So, don't miss the caption contest on the Straightline blog, too. That'll give you two chances to win.
On the drive back from San Diego, our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper and I stopped in San Clemente to refuel. Some Marines from Camp Pendleton were holding up signs for a car washfundraiserdown the street. I looked down at the Viper. It was due for a wash. Also, if the Viper was a person, I'm pretty sure it would love America and want to support the Marines. We pulled into the car wash.
Immediately, I knew the Viper was in the right hands. The men sprayed it down and then went at it with clean, soapy shammies. They sprayed it down again and lovingly dried it with cotton towels. Turns out the Marines are raising funds for an annual end-of-the-year ball, but it has been moved to September, because the unit is shipping to Afghanistan in October.
Back to the Dodge Viper: This thing isreally an enigma among sports cars. It may be out of production, but the mystique continues and people want to be near it. One of the Marines asked if we could go for a "hot lap" down the freeway. I said sure, and within seconds, he was buckled into the passenger seat and waiting. He had no idea who I was. I could have been anyone. Most importantly, I could have been a terrible driver. But he didn't care and off we went. I got him back in one piece.
It's always neat to be around people who dig on the car you're driving.
After I left the Marines, I did the Viper a favor and paid $4.75 to take the Highway 73 tollroad north through Orange County. With few exceptions,the 73 isbaby-butt-racetrack-smooth and in the middle of a weekday, it's light on traffic.
There was room to open the throttle, let the 8.4-liter V10 wind out a bit, upshiftwith some authorityvia the industrial-grade shifter and clutch. If you can't make it to a racetrack, this isa pretty goodpublic road for a Viper. The chassis is perfectly at ease here, and the roadstretches out before you — all rolling hills and gentle sweeping turns. It's only 15 miles long, though, and in a Viper, those go by pretty quickly.
Let me be clear — I'm not one of those "lumbar guys" who complains that every seat in the butt-sitting world "needs more lumbar." It's generally a non-issue for me. However, this squooshy pad really worked for me in our longterm 2009 Dodge Viper during my long roadtrip a couple months ago.
During that trip, I learned that the Viper's seats have some great aspects and some areas that don't suit long distance travel. The long thigh cushion and lateral support get high marks. The big holein lieu of alumbar support, not so much.
The biggest surprise was that the seat's shoulder wings really bugged me after several hours in the saddle — they force my shoulders to rotate forward, which gave me all kinds of trouble in my left shoulder for days afterward. It's something I never even noticed during my prior short trips in the Viper.
Also, see thosepseudo-suede insertsat the butt and lower back?Theydo more than feel nice to the touch; they're functional — the fabric acts like velcro when placed in shear so you stay in place during hard cornering.
This drives me crazy. The Viper is overdue for a service anyway. We'll get the steering wheel straightened out when we take it to the dealer.
It's a good question, as both vehicles slot intothatnarrow field ofU.S. exotics produced on a limited basis (relatively speaking in the Viper's case), and both models are now officially out of production.
They're also both "stripey!"
So if you're looking to supportthe home team whileenjoying the most "Event-worthy" ownership experience, which one wins?The result may suprise you...
Let's analyze the major elements that make up an exotic car driving experience andsee how they match up:
Head Turning/Crowd Gathering: I've had both of these cars parked in my driveway while cleaning them or working on them, and they both cause passersby to stop, stare and often pose questions.The attention the Ford GT draws hasalmost become passe, so maybe that's why the Viper's draw has a bigger impact on me. And maybe it's the screaming orange color, but the Dodge easily pulls in the locals aseffectively asthe Ford. I'd almost call this a draw, but I think I have to give it tothe Viper (at least in this color). Winner: Viper
Driver Engagement: I'veoften said the Ford GT is a Mustang with poor visibility. That's not tosuggest the Ford GT is simply a glorified pony carbut merely to make the point thatit's extremely easy to drive. Basically, if you canhandle the demands of driving a Ford Mustang with a manual transmission you can handle the demands of driivng a Ford GT.The Dodge Viper is an entirely different animal. It is not a Dodge Challenger with poor visibility. It's a cantankerous, loud,fussy attention hog. When you drive it, you're engaged — whether you want to be or not. And if you relish the engagement it's pretty rewarding.The GT'seasy-going nature gives the Fordan advantage in terms of being a true gran turismo car (fitting given its name). In terms of driverengagement? Winner: Viper
Performance: There are always two elements to vehicle performance. There's the statistical, numbers-game element that is easy to record on a spreadsheet. And there's the more fuzzy aspect relating to everything from steering feel to backside feedback to throttle response and clutch take-up. You can't easily put numbers on those, but if you're a true enthusiast they matter as much (or more) than the numbers-game.
On the numbers side, the two cars are pretty close.The Long-Term Ford GT pulled zero-to-60 in 3.7 seconds and the 1/4-mile in 11.8 seconds at 124.4 mphin stock form (it shaved 2/10ths off those numbers with the slight mods we later did, but that doesn't count because we're putting it up against a stock Viper). When we track tested our long-term Dodge it pulled zero-to-60 in 3.4 seconds and the 1/4-mile in 11.6 seconds at 125.7 mph. Like most sub-4-second cars the conditions and driver skill make a world of difference when you're talking tenths of seconds, but suffice to say both arequick and the Dodge appears slightly quicker. Viper also has an advantage over the last GT we tested in the slalom (74 mph versus69.5 mph) and braking (107 versus 115 feet).
Stepping beyond the numbers the Viper has the advantage in terms of pure torque because of its increased diplacement and cylinder count, not to mention its normally aspirated engine. But this is offset by the uneven throttle response offered by the snake. It seems Dodge really wanted to protect imprudent drivers from themselves, so the Viper's throttle tends to feel lazy until you push it past 3/4 travel. Other than torque few would argue the GT's advantages in terms of steering feel, shifter refinement and overall driver feedback. If the other two categories are close (and they are) this one is razor thin. Winner: Viper
Not everyone's definition of head-turning style, driver engagementandoverall performance is identical, so your results may vary.Butas someone who hasexperienced both cars recentlyin a variety of conditions the more "Event Worthy" car is the a bright orange 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 that can pull bothcrowds and zero-to-60 timesin under 3.5 seconds; all while forcing you to pay attentionthroughoutevery secondof the process.
I'm a big fan of the Viper's gauges. I like the layout and the like the dials themselves. But I don't like the way the secondary bank of gauges reflect up in the windshield at night. And the whitefaces of those instruments makes itthat much worse. Annoying.
As you engage the clutch in our longterm 2009 Dodge Viper on any kind of hill in first gear — especially when the car is cold — the clutch's throwout bearing makes a pronounced "wooooo!" noise. At least, I think it's the TOB — maybe one of our Viper-owning readers could shed some light on this if it's a common thing.
It's been doing this since day one and hasn't become noticeably worse or different, so I'm calling it "normal."
The moment the clutch is fully engaged, the noise stops and you can continue with your plans of terrorizing the county's inhabitants.
We dropped our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 off atGlenn E. Thomas Dodge in Long Beach for service this morning. Yep, these are the same guys we've usedbefore.We opted for a new service advisor this time and expect it will make a difference.
Based on mileage, the Viper fallsbetween the 12- and 16,000-mile service intervals. That makes itdue foroil anddifferential fluid change. Edmunds Maintenance Schedule estimates it will costabout $288.
We'll let you know how it goes.
No sooner did we post that our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 was at the dealer than the phone rang. "You're Viper isready for pick up."
Our Viperwasat Glenn E. Thomas Dodge less than2 hours. That is good service in my book. And especiallyconsidering wetold them we'd come back to get it in the late afternoon. I attribute this to our service advisor,Roger. A small portion of the credit also probably goes to the dealer wanting tomake up for our last, less impressive visit. Thumbs up.
We spent just over our estimated cost for the service.
Total Cost: $309.96
Total Days out of Service: None
This, or variations of it, was the view from our Dodge Viper last Friday afternoon. Nothing tells you that you're living the automotive dream (the dream, man!) better than driving your $95,000, 600-horsepower sports car at a bicycling pace for a couple of hours. At least in the Viper the gearing is so tall that you can avoid shifting and theoretically stay in first gear past 60 mph before hitting the rev limiter. So there's that.
Actually, this was my first experience driving the Viper. (Editor-in-chief Oldham's words to me before I left the office: "Be careful.") It's been a while since I've driven a Viper, and I've never driven the latest, second-generation car. Some things are still very familiar, though. There are the wide door sills and the requisite butt-plop to get in. There's the view of the long hood out of the windshield. There's the simplified dash and the tall shifter that you have to raise your right arm some to keep on top of. And there's the V10's sound, which will never win a Grammy.
Separated at birth: The sound of the Viper's V10and a UPS truck.
On the highway, our Viper doesn't seem to attract as much attention as some other exotics we've had in the fleet recently, like the Audi R8 or Ford GT. Maybe it's because seeing a Viper isn't really fresh or original nowadays? Still, it's a lot more "look at me!" than most other cars out there.
Around dusk during my highway drive (once I was clear of Los Angeles), a white previous-generation Ford Mustang with three teenage boys pulled up alongside. I could just feel them all staring at me. Then the driver nailed the throttle (showing off the fury of his 190-hp V6) backed off, let me catch up, and did it again. Oh, how I love me some teenage driver chest thumpin'.
So what did I do? That's right, I dropped the Viper down to 2nd gear, nailed the throttle and rifled past the hapless Mustang while simultaneously yelling out: "How do you like them apples!" Or maybe that was me in Macho Man World. Actually, I did nothing except keep driving. I'll admit it was tempting to play along — if you've got 600 hp, why not use it? But there was nothing to gain. I knew the Viper was wicked fast. They knew it. And I want a speeding ticket like I want a colonoscopy.
Finally, they got bored and exited the highway. And I was left with open road ahead.
"Nolan's been eyeing the Viper ever since you brought it home. Can he come over and take a look?" This was a neighbor of mine referring to his nine-year-old son yesterday. Heck yeah!
I gave Nolan a quickrundown of the car and asked him if he wanted to sit in the driver seat. Curiously, he said no, so I told him to sit in the passenger seat and we'd go for a quick ride. Because of its high cowl, the Viper seems to just swallow up the little people (just like Erin mentioned) but the engine start button was a hit. I then burbled the Viper out of our neighborhood and did a couple quick acceleration blasts on an empty street. After we were coasting down from the second one, I looked over and asked Nolan what he thought. "Cool," he said, beeming. There's an understatement for ya.
I'm sure we all have memories of fun rides in hot cars when we were kids. I suspect this will be one for Nolan.
I drove our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 home from work the other day. While the Viper was still at operating temperatureI grabbed my newfavorite toy, theinfrared thermometer. Exhaust is hot. The picture below was taken immediately after the first.
A 115-degree rocker panel isstill warm enough toget your attention, but it won'tdecimate epidermis quite like the bareexhaust. Rocker panel = good.
Oh, that'd be me singeing the hair off my leg because of the Viper's exhaust. I was going to the gym and pulling some gear off the passenger seat after parkingthe carand started to get a whiff of, well, you know. I didn't even feel any heat on my leg, butsome hair must have been rubbing up against the exhaust tip without me knowing it.That's what I get for having hairy chicken legs. Too bad Schmidt wasn't around with his pyrometer to measure at what temperature you singe leg hair.
For better or for worse, our 2009 Dodge Viper is true to itself. Dodge's sports car has always made performance a top priority. You're getting a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds, a quarter mile of 11.6 and a slalom speed of 74 mph. Heady stuff. You can even go by Nurburgring lap times and argue if you want that the Viper (in ACR trim) has the quickest confirmed real production car lap time. All of this for fewer than $100,000.
But if I were going to be buying a $100,000 sports car, a Viper wouldn't be my top pick. Or third, for that matter.
There's a difference between booting our Viper around for a weekend and the concept of actually owning it. This is where the single-minded focus on performance starts to become a liability. The Viper's biggest letdown for me is its interior. I've spent 100K and I'm stuck with Neon-style window switches, lots of hard plastic and dubious build quality? When a Corvette's interior is better in terms of quality, you know there's a problem.
The Corvette also shows how much more practicality you can get from a sports car. It has a roomier trunk, easier ingress/egress and a more functional gauge cluster. The Nissan GT-R has a back seat. A Porsche 911 is nicer than the whole lot. And all have stability control which you can turn off if you want to live your life without a safety net. And it's not like these cars are hugely deficient in terms of performance or fun.
I do admire our Viper. It's a blast to drive and fun to show off to friends. But if I were spending my own money, I'd get a Z06 or a GT-R on the lower end or a 911 GT3 or Audi R8 on the higher end.
It seems to me that the Viper's door releases could have been thought out better. They're locatedon the upper part of the doors, which is fine for opening. But because there's no handle, there's no ideal place to close the door without touching the car's paint. Making the problem worse is that the Viper's doors require a significant shove to get them to fully close. A video follows after the jump to show you what I mean.
After a few days with the car, I found pushing against the window was the best way to avoid touching the paint. This might seem like a nitpick, and it would be if this was a regular, $25,000 car. But if I owned a Viper and liked keeping it looking immaculate, I'd definitely be annoyed. I remember the first-generation Viper had little button releases on the door frame. Those weren't ideal either, but I'd chose that design over the current one.
It doesn't matter really matter which hotel it was, since all the resort hotels in Orange County look the same, a kind of faux Tuscan architecture that they must get from somefranchise outlet, like the company that does Starbucks stores. In any case the valet guys were wildly excited to have the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 parked in front of their hotel.
This is kind of interesting, since Orange County here in Southern California is the country's capital of self-indulgence, so there are plenty of cars with breathtaking price tags on the street. And yet the valet guys were way more interested in the Viper than some boring old Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG and they were very disappointed to hear that this car is going away. How can it be that old, one of them said to me.It's like it just got here.
It's a reminder of just how well this car turned out. Not that any of us would have guessed as much when it first started banging around the Chrysler design studios in 1988 (the 1989 concept car is pictured below). And in 1991 when we were all standing there in the old Hill & Vaughn vintage-car restoration shop in Venice, California, as the production car was introduced after years of hype that recalled the Chrysler TC by Maserati, the Viper seemed like little more than a marketing excercise.
Phil Hill's old shop was just a mile or so from the old Cobra facility at 1042Princeton Drive and we all squirmed as Chrysler trotted out one ex-Cobra racer after another to help energize the Viper's long-awaitedunveiling in production guise. (We even got a souvenir pencil sketch of the event to commemorate the moment.) Of course Carroll Shelby was there to give the car his endorsement, which even then wasn't exactly a rare thing. Lee Iacocca was still leading Chrysler in those years, and it seemed like yet another publicity stunt from the man who brought us the Ford Mustang — and the Chrysler K-car.
How wrong we were. Bob Lutz, then Chrysler's product czar, was always a sucker for anything with a big motor (as you'd expect an ex-fighter pilot to be), and he was right. Tom Gale, Chrysler's design chief, might have started out as a humble body engineer at GM, but he was right, as he was with all the great designs he and his staff developed in thelate 1980s and 1990s that ultimately saved Chrysler from the trash heap of history. And the 85 guys that Chrysler chief engineer Roy Sjoberg put on the project of making a car out of some wacky ideas from a bunch of executives were also right.
The Viper has done everything Chrysler hoped. It created a tough image for the company. It gave the company international credentials when it won its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And most of all the Viper became a car that everybody wanted but not everybody could buy, something very different for Chrysler. Since Viper production began late in 1991, something more than 25,000 examples have been built. Think about how much they have accomplished.
We're going to miss this Viper when the lighter, Euro-style Viper now being developed replaces it for 2012. Especially the guys at the valet desk.
Disregard the cars behind the curtain, a guy's gotta keep some secrets, right?
So anyway, this happened the other day. Our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 ran into this immaculate '94 Dodge Viper RT/10 roadster. It even had the sweet, three-spoke wheels that were dated then and so-dated-they're-cool today.
15-years, 0.4-liters, exterior door handles, aroofand 200 horsepower separate the two.
Which do you prefer?
Just how old school is our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper? Well, its hood release is on the outside. That's right, it's in the Viper's grille, just like in the old days. You don't get anymore old school than that. Gotta love it.
I forgot I took this picture a couple weeks ago. I had to pick up my 3-year-old daughter at her preschool for a few days in the Dodge Viper.Our long-term program is all about real-life experiences. And when you have a Viper and nothing else to drive, well, offto school it goes.
Of course, it was a blast to be pulling up into the school parking lot in the look-at-me! Viper. I see your silver Honda CR-V, fellow envious father, and raise you by, oh, some 440 horsepower and about a factor of 100 on the coolness scale. And as long as you only have one kid to haul around, the Viper's great!
My daugther loved being in the Viper, too. "Daddy, the orange car goes fast!" she'd say. Yes, yes it does.
200 horsepower v. 600 horsepower. Four seats v. two seats. Rear drive v. front drive. Turbo or N/A. Pretty solid iPod connection or an antique Confuse-o-tron-5000 radio. Non-disableable traction control or complete freedom.
I've got a weekend full of nothing and a decision to make: The keys to the GTI are already in my hand, but the Viper...that orange tempmtress....is just sitting there waiting for someone to steal the keys. That someone, I think, should be me.
Oh, one last thing, it's raining in LA this weekend,
What would you do?
For some reason, our 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 didn't make the big list of September Fuel Economy this month. So here are the stats:
Avg MPG: 15.9 mpg
Best tank: 25.1
Worst tank: 9.1
Longest range: 287 miles
EPA: 13/22, 16 combined.
And for those who wondered if my "GTi or Viper" post was sincere — Absolutely not. The Viper is a kitten in the rain and, while I did miss having my iPod all weekend, the few hours of driving a Viper in the rain more than made up for it.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about the unusual exterior hood release of our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper. Immediately someone asked if it locked when the car was locked or could somebody open the hood of a parked and locked Viper.
Well, yesterday I checked and was surprised to find that it does not lock. Viper owners beware.
Viper owners are a bit of a different breed. They're successful enough to afford a $90K sportscar, but they don't like the idea of buying something typical like a Porsche or a Ferrari. They're not the conservative, old money crowd and they seem to want people to know it.
Case in point, the fellow Viper driver I saw on the freeway this weekend. He was driving a SRT-10 convertible in Anaconda Green. He pulled up alone side me, gave me a wave and a nod and continued to dice through traffic like he was having the time of his life. Nothing too crazy, just making use of the Viper's nearly limitless supply of torque.
I paced him for awhile and we had fun finding holes in traffic that the Viper could exploit. When it was time for me to peel off, he slowed down, gave another friendly wave and sped off. It was a fun 10 or 15 minutes that probably wouldn't have happened in any other car. Nice to know there are still cars out there that inspire that kind of camaraderie.
Last night I was on my way out to (quietly) celebrateanother year of my life on this planet. Just as I was about to load my bags into one of the more pedestrian vehicles in our fleet, one of my esteemed colleagues happened to comment, "What, no birthday Viper?"
Well, no. I'd figured I might need to street-park whatever I was driving, and since we don't normally do thatwith our Viper, I'd picked out a less interesting car. I stood there for a minute, weighing my options, then got back in the elevator and came back down, Viper keys in hand.
It was the right choice. What better car to drive on your birthday that one that reminds you that time is short (you could be out of production before you know it, and perhapsfind yourself reincarnated with two pedals instead of three), so you'd better live it up tonight.
Also, I always like driving the Viper on cool(ish) fall nights in Southern California. Put the windows down and enjoy the breeze, because the 8.4-liter V10 and the Tremec transmission provide for all the cabin heating you'll need.
One thing I like about the our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper's cockpit is the close proximity of the center stack to the steering wheel.The audio and climate controls are justa finger's stretch from the 3 o'clock position. This is a good thing, because as you can imagine, the Viper isn't the kind of car where you can rest a hand on the top of the steering wheel and keep it pointed straight down the freeway. Rather, it's pretty much a track car, and minute steering inputs (intended or otherwise) will immediately affect its heading.
That's why I like the three large climate dials. They're scaled like fat crayons for preschoolers, and they're easy to adjust quickly. The fan speed dial is hidden by the shifter in this shot, but once you're in fifth or sixth gear, it's mostly unobstructed.
The audio controls are another matter. This is Chrysler's old-style head unit where you'll find such anachronisms as a two-state procedure for storing radio presets. It's a mess to use while you're driving a Viper, but this wasn't a problem over the summer, because I'd just put on a baseball game on AM radio, and forget about it.Even with the season is over for my teams, I'm still (wisely) leaving the head unit alone. It's either public radio news now or just the rumbly Viper soundtrack all the way down the freeway.
Having a premium branded audio system in our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is the epitome of putting lipstick on a pig. While the Viper can't be considered porcine performance-wise, its 600-horsepowerpower plantmakes such a raucous grunt even at idle that any improvement in sound quality the Alpine components can muster is effectively drowned out and muddied. And when the tires start to squeal, forget about it.
I put the Viper's stock Alpine system through a full audio eval nonetheless. But I may have well just left it on the Sirius E Street Radio channel that was tuned in when I fired up the engine. Hmmm ... wonder who on the staffhas such an affinity forThe Boss?
The Alpine system is standard on the $94,130 car, but our Viper is also equipped with the $1,700 AM/FM CD GPS Navigation Radio option with Sirius satellite radio. The audio system consists of seven speakers powered by 310 watts. The speakers include a 6.5-inch woofer in each door, a 1-inch tweeter at each end of the dash, 2.5-inch midranges behind each seat and a 6.5-inch subwoofer in a vented enclosure between the seats.
Same with every audio system I sound check, I listened to about a dozen musical tracks in the Viper to analyze clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. I also used non-musical tracks to further gauge soundstaging and imaging and to test for linearity and absence of noise. For more details on the audio-system testing process and the tracks used, click on the Edmunds.com article Sound Advice.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the Viper's extreme exhaust note while sitting still makes null any significant sound-quality improvement of the Alpine setup. Plus, the subwoofer between the seats creates such in-your-face low frequency that I turned the bass on the head unit's tone control almost all the way down — once I figured out how to do it via an irritating interface and a tiny screen that looks straight out of the late '80s.
But even with the bass lowered to near zero, low frequency still overwhelmed the system and skewed tonal balance. And the bass was mostly boomy and distorted, which also took away any true timbre and tonal accuracy and dulled dynamics. Soundstaging and imaging didn't fare much better; the stage was severely constricted in width and had no real depth, and imaging was seriously side-biased. Linearity was poor at low- and mid-volume levels, but at least the system passed the absence-of-noise test.
The available media options are as limited as the system's sound. As the name implies, the AM/FM CD GPS Navigation Radio option tunesin terrestrial radio, and our Viper also has Sirius sat radio. The only other music source is old-fashioned CD. But if you also want to be guided by the nav system, you have todecide between directions or music since the head unit's disc drive doubles as home to the mapping DVD. If you're looking for iPod integration, don't forget your FM transmitter. And for Bluetooth, you better bring along a headset or speakerphone. Better yet, leave those at home and concentrate on just driving this beast.
What We Say
Normally this is where I'd say that this car's stock audio calls — or in this case begs — for an aftermarket upgrade. And if you're serious about sound, you can probably throw enough speakers, amplifier power and money at the problem to get an appreciable increase in sound quality. But with the sonorous snarl created by the Viper's 10 cylinders when the pedal is to the metal, why bother? Save your money and your hearing.
Source Selection: D
Thanks to stpawyfrmdonut for this week's favorite caption.
Here are the others that made us coil up with laughter:
That time of year again: Viper Springs forward, Toyota fails back. (ergsum)
Snake on a Chicane (ergsum)
Viper's calm before the storm (captobvious)
It's about to rain on Toyota's parade. (vt8919)
This, literally, is a Snake on a Plane. (vt8919)
Point of Hisstorical Interest (ergsum)
Crouching Viper, Hiding Camry. (ampim)
That Viper just ate my Prius! Look, you can see the shape of it in its belly! (ampim)
Fangs for the memories, Willow Springs. (ergsum)
Snake on a Hydroplane (ergsum)
Days of Thunder (technetium99)
The fastest road in the West!....to nowhere (mrryte)
"Viperidae Fastus Acceleratis" in its natural habitat. (ergsum)
It's Feeding Time. (sherief)
Hey kids: History can be fun! (felonious)
Storm chasers, meet the Storm catcher! (gmanaed)
Dessert in the desert! (snipenet)
Toyota pace car, my Asp (mnorm1)
What was your favorite?
To the winner:
You can select one of these three prizes:
- A shiny BMW X5 messenger bag
- Two Audi model cars
- A Stig keychain
Send your choice and your address to dderosa (at) edmunds.com
As we enter the last precious weeks of our Dodge Viper long-term test, we thought: "Why not send America's meanest supercar out with a bang?" In our case, that means joining a bunch of Viper owners for a weekend of track driving at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, during a Viper Days event.
But before I hit the road with Dodge's 600-hp V-10 beast, I got the new-guy-on-the-staff "Don't crash the Viper" talk from Editor in Chief Scott Oldham. Never mind the fact that when he handed me the keys, it was raining out and all four of the Viper's Michelin Pilot Sports had seriously worn outer edges. Yeah, no chance of it getting seriously sideways in the wet...
I'm especially looking forward to this weekend for two reasons: First, any track time is good track time, and second, I've always wondered exactly what type of person buys a Viper. If I don't figure that out by the end of the weekend, I never will.
There are three main facets to Viper Days: 1) The Viper Cup spec series, 2) The Viper Racing League and 3) Viper Driver Education — the last is what I'll be taking part in with Edmunds' orange long-termer. The purpose of Viper Days, according to Chrysler's Scott Brown, is "to help our Viper drivers advance and hone their racing skills." There are multiple run groups of varying skill level, instructor ride-alongs and classroom sessions for the more novice drivers.
As a bonus, Dodge president and CEO (and certifiable Viper nut), Ralph Gilles, will be on hand the whole weekend, racing an ACR-X in the Viper Cup event. My simple plan is to glean as much info. as possible related to the future Viper out of Gilles, while I follow him around in the paddock. That is, until he has me arrested for stalking, since he has no idea who I am.
Should be a fun weekend. Stay tuned.
On a slightly separate topic: Does anyone know the connection between Edmunds' long-term Viper and Cook's Corner? See photo above.
Editor in Chief Scott Oldham sent me this photo of our Dodge Viper in the rain at a point of historical interest.
Got a caption?
We'll post our favorite this afternoon. And don't forget, we have exciting prizes.
Our long-term Dodge Viper and I made it safely to the beautiful desert town of Pahrump, Nevada, about a four-hour drive from southern California, ready for the Viper Days event in which I'd be taking part in a Performance Driving School.
Not much to note on the road, other than the fact that the Viper's cupholder is completely useless at holding drinks in place during any kind of spirited acceleration — it's more of a "cupstander" than a holder, as I have yet to find a drink that won't fall out. Also, sixth gear is so tall it's utterly uselessat anything near legal speeds, while any kind of large bump sends the Viper's rear end a-rockin.'
Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch has quickly become a top-notch facility, location notwithstanding. For the Viper Days weekend, we used a 3.1 mile configuration that is without doubt the most technically challenging track I've ever driven. Even the most serious Viper racers said thetrack's combo of high-speed and low-speed sections and multiple super-late apexes was giving them headaches.
Things kicked off with a driver's meeting explaining the day's events, followed by the chance to drive a few laps around the track at street speeds to see the layout. Drifter and rally racer Tanner Foust, who was on hand as a Celebrity Driver in the Viper Cup series, was kind enough to give myself and another journalist a ride around the track in a Dodge Ram. Although Foust had only driven a couple of rainy sessions the day prior in his Viper Cup car, he already seemed to have the track dialed and was extremely giving of useful information regarding line choice, braking points andthe proper gear to be in.
While this was going on, the Dodge race crew was looking over Edmunds' long-term Viper, getting it tech'ed, numbers affixedand tire pressures set. In the process, they determined its clutch is just about done, guessing it wouldn't make it through the weekend. I blame Paul Tracy, as he drove this exact car during the shooting of Battle of the Supercars.
My instructor for the day, the very lively Jim Garrett, an ALMS racer and Viper GTS owner from Austin, Texas, was easy to work with. Unfortunately the first two sessions were kept at a painfully slow pace. The first session because instructors needed to gauge their students competence level; the second session because apparently some people have a hard time with the concept of "point-bys" to let faster folks pass. Frustrating!
Garrett's instruction washelpful, even if his suggested lines didn't always match up with Foust's from earlier in the day. More than anything, it was educational toexperience just how insanely late you can brake in a bone-stock Viper. One other tidbit: While the Viper-loving instructors will be the first to tell you that Dodge's supercar has few peers when it comes toaccelerating,turning and braking, they also admit that part of what makes a Viper so hard to master is that, unlikemany cars, the Viper isn't good at doing anytwo of those things at the same time.
As far as the students: All manner, young to old, men and women, and from varying drivingbackgrounds. But they all seemed to share one common goal: Tame the beast that is a Viper.
The Viper driving school is fairly reasonable cost-wise. A single day costs $300, which includes fouron-track sessions with an instructor as well as three short classroom sessions throughout the day; the two-day event will run you $450. For added fun, drivers can compete in the Challenge Series (a solo, timed format event) once they'vesuccessfully completed the driving school.
And for sure,$300 beats wrapping your Viper around a telephone pole, no?
The Viper coupe ready to go through the tech line. And yes, that's a Panoz two cars behind it; Viper Days isn't exclusiveto Vipers.
Driver's meeting first thing in the morning.
The Edmunds Viper getting its lucky number 27.
Tanner Foust givespointers as to the fast way around Spring Mountain, while driving a Dodge Ram pickup.He said he could takethe scary "Drop" section of the track atfull throttle in his Viper Cup race car.
Took the Viper out to the SEMA show this week. Figured, if anything would fit in at SEMA, it's a 600-hp, orange sportscar. Along the way I exercised serious restraint, after all, the highway patrol wasn't oblivious to the fact that thousands of car nuts would be making the trip from L.A. to Vegas.
It paid off. Not only did I not get a ticket, but I'm pretty sure my lazy pace returned around 20 miles per gallon. Not bad for an 8.4-liter V10. I'll get the final numbers after I make the return trip.
And by the way, I wasn't the only eye-catching, orange vehicle on the road. Click through to see who else was making their way up I-15 on Monday. Utah game I presume.
No big secret that the Dodge Viper is on its last legs. Production officially ended months ago, and even our long-termer is due back in Michigan soon.
Made me glad that I took it on one last run to Vegas before it goes. It was a good reminder of what a civilized car it can be, reasonably frugal too, as V10s go at least. I averaged a not-embarrassing 19.3 miles per gallon for the trip.
As refined as it can be, the Viper will still rip your face off with the best of them. After droning along on the freeway for hours on end, I finally stopped for gas about an hour from home. As I pulled back onto the freeway after filling up, I ripped through second and hard into third and completely scared the crap out of myself. Not that many cars are capable of this, and yet the Viper can do it in just about any gear. Gonna miss this thing.
Makes Driving "an Event"
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."
There was a lone story scribbled on the back page of our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 test notebook:
"The first time I sat in the driver seat of a 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I turned the key and the engine exploded to life. I turned it off, picked up my phone and dialed my sister, a car junkie in her own right. She was laid off from work days earlier and due for some cheering up.
"Stacy picked up on the first ring. 'No, I don't want visitors.... I'm not in the mood to be cheered up right now.... Fine, you can stop by but not for long.' I pulled in front of her house and revved the Viper. A slew of holy expletives preceded her headfirst dive into the passenger seat. We drove straight to a favorite freeway on-ramp and brought the Viper to a stop at its base. Dump the clutch. First, 2nd, 3rd gear and then foot out to hear the V10 gurgle. Exit at the next ramp. We must've doubled back and repeated this 10 times. She mumbled, 'Dodge Viper SRT-10, I think I love you.'"
Why We Got It
This was the end of an era. The last Dodge Viper was scheduled to roll off the production line in early July 2010. Even with rumors of a Fiat-managed Chrysler building a new Viper in 2012 — later confirmed at a dealer meeting in September 2010 — there can never be another Viper like this one. America's favorite V10 supercar will never be as red, white and blue as we've known it. So when Dodge asked us last spring if we would like a long-term Viper to test, it may as well have been rhetorical.
Stability control systems are made to keep drivers away from situations that could compromise the integrity of the vehicle and its occupants. Such a system does not exist in the Viper. Before the PR manager at Dodge would release his grip on the key, we had to assure him the car would return in one piece. Thankfully we don't see a lot of rain here in Southern California. We charted our weather patterns for the past 100 years, drew up a schematic and convinced Dodge that winter doesn't show its face in these parts until late October. Our timeline was established.
We would test the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 for six months. When the skies of winter dropped their first tears from heaven, so, too, would they fall from our own eyes. This meant the end of our test. But our time together would live on across the long-term blog pages.
Inside Line Editor Ed Hellwig drove the long-term Viper on its first road trip to the World Superbike race in Salt Lake City. Hellwig blogged, "When I got into the Viper it didn't feel like a great road trip car. It was a bit cramped, hard to see out of and most definitely loud. But after a few hours behind the wheel, I got used to its tight cockpit and limited sight lines. It helps that the seat is comfortable and the satellite radio is hooked up. When you're on the open road, it's not exactly wide-open throttle the whole time."
Hellwig also drove the Viper on its final road trip to Las Vegas. "I'm reminded just how civilized this car can be. As refined as it can be, the Viper will still rip your face off with the best of them. After droning on the freeway for hours on end, I finally stopped for gas about an hour from home. As I pulled onto the freeway after filling up, I ripped through 2nd and hard into 3rd and completely scared the crap out of myself. Not that many cars are capable of this, and yet the Viper can do it in just about any gear. Gonna miss this thing."
We experienced no significant problems of note during our test of the 2009 Dodge Viper. There was a rear window strut that vibrated itself loose. And the dealer that wanted to cut it open to replace the strut. But this turned out to be a minor repair, requiring no more than a rivet gun to reattach the existing strut.
Otherwise we serviced the Viper at the prescribed intervals and received quite impressive service once we found a certified dealership. Our average service cost $230, which is the direct result of a 10-quart synthetic oil change each visit.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 6 months): $459.30
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Rear hatch strut bracket repair
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1 to address faulty rear hatch strut
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
We did our best to put the 2009 Dodge Viper through as much as possible during its stay. From the burnout super test to the comparison against a 1994 Viper RT/10 to its preliminary track test as a member of the long-term fleet, the Viper saw plenty of track time.
From the Dodge's first test at 6,000 miles to its final track test almost 14,000 miles later, only the tires showed signs of six months served. Tire wear may have helped improve lateral-g generation on the skid pad. Here, the Viper improved from 0.96g to 1.02g between tests. All other instrumented-testing categories favored the new tires. And in all those categories, the Dodge ranks among the best of any long-term car to date. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph took just 3.4 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout) and the quarter-mile arrived in 11.6 seconds at 125.7 mph. The Viper needed just 107 feet to reach a stop from 60 mph and slithered through the slalom at 74.0 mph. Impressive stats all around.
Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton commented following testing, "This is so cool: 11.6 at almost 126 mph with virtually no wheelspin. Wow! Don't rush 3rd gear, however, or you'll find that its synchro isn't happy. Otherwise it's 60 in 1st and the quarter in 3rd. On the skid pad, balance favors understeer. No real shift in balance from lift-throttle at this speed either. It doesn't want to powerslide."
Best Fuel Economy: 25.1 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 8.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 15.7 mpg
When the 2009 Dodge Viper entered our long-term fleet, it had an MSRP of $97,360, of which just over $8,000 accounted for options and gas-guzzler tax. We racked up nearly 14,000 miles during our six-month test.
When it came time to dispose of the Dodge, the Edmunds TMV® Calculator valued it at $68,507 based on a private-party sale. That equates to depreciation of 30 percent from its original MSRP. Nostalgia has a lot to do with selling a car like the Viper. Much like our long-term Ferrari 308 GTSi (), which appreciated during our year of ownership, the Vipers of the world should eventually see a value increase with time.
True Market Value at service end: $68,507
Depreciation: $29,123 or 30% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 19,556
Dodge announced the end of the second-generation Viper and our collective hearts dropped. At the same time, our interest was piqued. We needed one in the long-term fleet to give it a proper farewell. When Dodge offered to make our wishes a reality, we seized the opportunity.
Our time with the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 made one thing clear. This exotic sports car is hard to justify as a daily driver. In its latest iteration, the Viper brought an air of civility to the underlying brute within. But these comfort items don't pretend to hide the car's true nature. This is a track car that is quick to school its driver in the art of physics if not respected. Its side pipes will burn your calves. Sight lines are minimal and the cabin is claustrophobic.
Negatives aside, the Viper is intoxicating. Its V10 is an audible delight. Giddy motorists at the red light beside you unconsciously rev their engines with the hope that you will return the favor. This is a special car. The hydrocarbon-fueled elixir exuded by the Viper reduces our vocal capacity to single-word grunts: smoke, rubber, burn, fast, happy. Over the past six months, we filled the cabin with multiple drivers, countless belly butterflies and miles of smiles. We're going to miss the Viper.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.