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 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
September 04, 2010
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.
September 02, 2010
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.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 15,706 miles
September 01, 2010
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.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
July 22, 2010
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?"
June 30, 2010
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.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,801 miles
June 05, 2010
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.
May 24, 2010
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.
May 10, 2010
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.
Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 6,820 miles