2009 Dodge Viper Long Term Road Test - Introduction

2009 Dodge Viper Long Term Road Test

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2009 Dodge Viper: Introduction

April 25, 2010

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.

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