2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10: 1,100 Miles in Two Days
June 14, 2010
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.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant