2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10: Road Trip Part II: The Return
June 15, 2010
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.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant