November 04, 2010
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.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 19.011 miles
November 02, 2010
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.
October 25, 2010
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?
October 22, 2010
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:
October 22, 2010
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.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 18,076 miles
October 22, 2010
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.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
October 20, 2010
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.
October 15, 2010
One thing I like aboutthe 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 just a 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.
October 13, 2010
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.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor
October 12, 2010
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.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 17, 322 miles