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?
September 13, 2010
This, or variations of it, was the view from our Dodge Viper last Friday afternoon. Nothing tells you that you're living the automotive dream (the dream, man!) better than driving your $95,000, 600-horsepower sports car at a bicycling pace for a couple of hours. At least in the Viper the gearing is so tall that you can avoid shifting and theoretically stay in first gear past 60 mph before hitting the rev limiter. So there's that.
Actually, this was my first experience driving the Viper. (Editor-in-chief Oldham's words to me before I left the office: "Be careful.") It's been a while since I've driven a Viper, and I've never driven the latest, second-generation car. Some things are still very familiar, though. There are the wide door sills and the requisite butt-plop to get in. There's the view of the long hood out of the windshield. There's the simplified dash and the tall shifter that you have to raise your right arm some to keep on top of. And there's the V10's sound, which will never win a Grammy.
August 28, 2010
On the drive back from San Diego, our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper and I stopped in San Clemente to refuel. Some Marines from Camp Pendleton were holding up signs for a car washfundraiserdown the street. I looked down at the Viper. It was due for a wash. Also, if the Viper was a person, I'm pretty sure it would love America and want to support the Marines. We pulled into the car wash.
Immediately, I knew the Viper was in the right hands. The men sprayed it down and then went at it with clean, soapy shammies. They sprayed it down again and lovingly dried it with cotton towels. Turns out the Marines are raising funds for an annual end-of-the-year ball, but it has been moved to September, because the unit is shipping to Afghanistan in October.
Back to the Dodge Viper: This thing isreally an enigma among sports cars. It may be out of production, but the mystique continues and people want to be near it. One of the Marines asked if we could go for a "hot lap" down the freeway. I said sure, and within seconds, he was buckled into the passenger seat and waiting. He had no idea who I was. I could have been anyone. Most importantly, I could have been a terrible driver. But he didn't care and off we went. I got him back in one piece.
August 23, 2010
The Viper purists are going to hate this one. Our 2009 Dodge Viper needs to have one button removed and one button added.
Removed? The Engine Start button. We're well past the day where this is a cool feature. After the third time you press the button it's just old. After you've dealt with a car with a keyless push button start, the "oh man I'm in a racecar!" push start feel is gone and you just want the Viper to start like a real car. Either keyless button or key-only. This halfsies stuff is irritating.
The other button I'm suggesting is the onethat'll really steam theVipernauts: A 'Sport" button. It can go right there where the Engine Start button used to be and it'll go a long way to make this 8.4-liter V10 feel more like the engine of a sports car and not like a massive V10 that got lost on its way to the Ram factory.
It's not that the Viper's motor doesn't have pull-- it does-- it's just that below about 3,000 rpm, the engine is a dog. You've gotta kick the gas hard and then wait before releasing the clutch. It's actually easier to bog the Viper than to spin the tires. A sport mode would tighten this up making the Viper more driveable at low speeds and moreappealing at high speeds.
Adding an electronic sport mode to the Viper is like adding low-end torque to an M3: Nobody will admit it would be better, but making it happen would make everyone happy.
Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line @ 15,258 miles.
August 19, 2010
After giving ourLong-Term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 aberating over its silly skip-shift feature I must admit to its impressive ability to motivate in top gear, even at a lug-worthy 1,200 rpm.
Some would argue a six-speed connected to a torque-monster V10 is akin tolaunching a smear campain against Mel Gibson -- a completely unnecessary effort. Be that as it may, the Viper can maintain highway speeds in six gear, though I wouldn't suggest climbing Vail Pass in this mode (though bump your speed up to an illegal 80 mph on that stretch of I70 and you'd likely do just fine).
I still find the skip-shift annoying and unrealistic in terms of going 1st-to-4th gear at low speeds, even with this much power. But6th gear isn't a totally unused gate in this car's transmission.
Be fun to fillthe Viper with gas in Kansas, put it in 6th gear ASAP after pulling onto the freeway, and see what kind of mileagethis 600-horsepower V10can get at 60 mph foran entire tank.
Not that I'm volunteering.
Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large
August 02, 2010
My favorite Dodge Viper moment of the weekend went like this: I pull into my driveway just after sunset. My neighbor's six-year-old, Austin, sees the Viper and starts jumping up and down. Immediately, he turns to his mom and says, "Can I ride with Erin into the carport?!"
Soon he's around on the passenger side. I remind him to be careful getting in, not to put his hands on the warm-hot sills because of the side-exit exhaust. The huge, bolstered seat swallows him up, but he doesn't care. He even manages to retrieve the seatbelt, which usually getsstuck behind the seat-back bolster, and buckle up.
I goose the throttle -- more than I need to for a 5-mph drive -- and Austin roars with appreciation. I goose it again as set up to back into my carport. He's delighted. We talk about V10 engines, and how cars with manual transmissions are the best, and when the Viper is parked and stopped, I let him pull up the big hand brake.
Total distance: About 100 feet.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,331 miles
July 15, 2010
Though we had to be in Byers, CO, by noon the next day, we'd made enough time by this point in our trip with the 2009 Dodge Viper to allow a foray off of I-70 into Arches National Park, located in eastern Utah.
We arrived at the park late in the afternoon, which turned out to be good timing as it's hellaciously hot there this time of year. We paid the fee at the gate and headed up the road into the park.
This is a spectacular park in all senses of the word. The scenery is flabbergasting, like you're on some alien planet, and the signage and campgrounds are well maintained. You can drive and drive, or pull over at any one of the dozens of scenic views and trailheads. Bring a hat and lots of water. And sunscreen.
Since we arrived late in the day, the roads were sparsely traveled and the scenery wasn't all washed out in direct sunlight. Very pretty. Look around, or drive? The day was running out, sowe decided to doa bit of both. The roads farther up in the park are fast and smooth -- they play to the Viper's strengths. The Viper is not a pointy, sharp weapon, it's more of a nuclear warhead that you deploy with forethought.
The rhythm of the corners is such that third gear is all that's really required. It's like a giant rubber band you stretch and release as the rev rise and fall. This car has a ton of grip, and the forward visibility is actually fairly decent. And the brakes -- outstanding. Naturally, we had to wait forthe remaininglooky-loos to pull off before stretching the Viper's legs.
We pulled off at the far end of the road and did a quick walk up the mile-long path to the Delicate Arch,which, despite its placard description, has a decidedly not-timeless battle with gravity. It's only a matter of time before that sucker crumbles away completely. Check it out before it's gone.
As we descended back to the main road, the setting sun's tangerine glow washed over the park's plinths and pillarsas if to provide a visual cue to the ever-present tomblike silence. This is an eerily peaceful place.
Diversions like this one are what make roadtrips memorable. Try doing that on a plane.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @11,966 miles.
July 15, 2010
I picked up Ryan at LAX in the mid-afternoon. The drive had us plodding the Viper up I-15 through the shame of our nation, Las Vegas, ending with dinner and sleep in a Mesquite, NV, casino. There's really nothing to see on this leg. Our goal for this day's drive was to get some miles in the bag so that we might be able to do a bit of exploring on the next day's drive.
The shot above was taken during a side jaunt on Highway 118 near Monroe, UT.
Road and wind noise isn't too bad. It's there, but not obnoxiously so. Strangely, when you get it into sixth gear at about 80 -- since that gear is utterly worthless at speeds less than this -- the moan of the lugging engine plus the wind noise at the A-pillar make it sound like you're in a Cessna. This is the surely one of the most unimpressive-sounding engines today, even when you wood it.
But, man, when you need to blast by a row of crawlers on the freeway, a downshift to third or even second gear is all it takes to make everyone warp backwards.
Also, the floor gets hot. Not Corvette-hot, more like an electric blanket-hot. The aircon's quite effective, though, so it's no problem when you're moving, even in summer-desert-at-midday conditions. If you park for lunch, the car feels like an oven when you return to it, though.
Also, the seatbelts havea half-twist in them. Both sides. Odd.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 11,701 miles.
July 02, 2010
The Dodge Viper SRT-10 has so much power and torque that the 6-speed transmission and final drive ratiowere set up to flirt with 200 mph on the top end.
Back here on planet Los Angeles,that means it's nigh on impossible to use 6th gear in real life. Above I'm cruising at 70 mph in 6th, and the engine is loping along uncomfortably at no more than 1,350 rpm. At 60 mph it lugs even worse at some 1,150 revs. Cruise at Sammy Hagar's hated 55 mph (I didn't bother) and I'm not even sure it would stay running at a mathematical1,060 rpm.
So here's a car that can'treasonably manage60 mph in 6th gear, but it can go 0 to 60 in first gear--and do it in less than 4 seconds.
Heh heh.I'll take some of that.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,907 miles
July 01, 2010
As big and bad as our Viper may be, add a little rain to the equation and it's rendered nearly worthless. As in, don't bother trying to go fast, or it will kill you right quickly.
Even with its ridiculously wide rear tires, trying to put down 600 horsepower on a slick city street is next to impossible. It makes for a bit fun as you try to harness that big V10 while barely even breathing on the gas, but even that gets old soon enough. Makes traction control seem like quite the magical thing. Then again, it rarely ever rains here so it's not much of a drawback. Lucky us.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 10,789 miles
June 10, 2010
It's not surprising, really -- this bonkers orange 2009 Dodge Viper has been in our hands for a few months, and we've kept it busy. Among other activities, it's been road-tripped, tested at the track, heck, we've even tried to set a burnout record in thing.
Really, the one place this over-endowed cornea grabber hasn't yet graced is the dyno. We've now righted that wrong.
May 26, 2010
Those of you who routinely check our news blog, Straightline, you've already seen the results of our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10's first trip to our test track. For everyone else, what's the holdup? It's free. Check it! But still, a long term car deserves a long term blog and the Viper is one helluva long term car....
Remember: This thing's got 600 horsepower from an 8.4-liter V10. It's got 560 lb-feet of torque. It's rear-wheel-drive, weighs just 3,400 lbs (yeah, that's a 'just' these days) and laughs in the face of lawmakers and their mandatory stability control reactionism. Live free or die, baby.
So what'd it do at our track? Follow the jump for results and a video.
May 12, 2010
Ever wonder what it's like to do an utterly guilt-free burnout in a 600-horsepower Dodge Viper?
So did I.
Until last week.
Accountability free burnouts after the jump.
Despite what some readers think, we don't do this stuff at every opportunity, so unwinding all 560 lb-ft of torque with impunity was quite the experience. Some editors questioned the Viper's ability to churn its meats given its rather undramatic track launch. After all, with zero wheelspin, this car hits 60 in 3.7 seconds. It doesn't need to burnout, they argued.
But it can.
Oh, yes, it can.What's it like? Well, have you ever rolled naked in a field of virgins covered in fairy dust? Me neither. But I'd guess it's nothing like that. It's probably more like driving a D9 Caterpillar through a brick building. Or at least it's accomplished with equalsubtlety. Even with stupidly tall gears and massive grip, the Viper's 8.4 liters overcome physics with the same effort Randy Couture might need to punch out a skinny Inside Line editor.
And it's fun. Fun like watching Nitro Circus while sucking back a quart ofVenom energy drink. Fun like a tandem BASE jump with Jolene Van Vugt. Fun of the sort that can't be had behind a keyboard. Or in a cubicle.
And when the party ends in first gear things only improve. Grab second, right foot still pinned to the floor and reignite 26 inches of rubber when the clutch comes out. It's one of my three favorite things in the whole world -- right at the zenith of the manliness scale withGrave Digger and pump-action shotguns.
What's more, doing burnouts in the aging Viper -- the last of its kind -- just feels right. This car, with its complete lack of electronic governance, is like a rolling middle finger to modern automotive convention. It's also the best thing to ever happen to the color orange. And I love it.
Burnouts in a Viper are the kind of thing I hope all of you -- every last one -- gets to experience some day. You all need to, whether you think so or not.
Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor
May 12, 2010
None of us got into this business to talk about headroom and seat comfort. Nope. We're here because there's a burning passion in our souls that has us pinning the tach and dropping the clutch. Just like you.
That means we sometimes toss science, prudence and responsibility out the window...and run them over with a smoking 345/30ZR19. Which is exactly what we've done in Burnout Supertest, Part Duh.
Hey, it's either that or stay home and watch Lifetime, surf iVillage.com and eat cheese sandwiches with our wives. What would you rather do?
Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor
April 30, 2010
Nothing with stripes, an 8.4-liter V10 andmeats as wide as your inseam could ever be described as "reserved."
At the same time, our longterm Viper's not some undriveable hellcat, either. In fact, it's a good bit more refined than the 1st-gen cars. You don't scorch exposed skin on the sills. The cabin doesn't spew stinky odors like a
Corvette bass boat. Most of its bits and pieces fit together like they were assembled by someone who was at least sober at the time.
Its throttle travel is a mile long, which will no doubt save ham-footed owners from inadvertently unleashing the Viper's billion foot-pounds all at once and sending them sideways across a county. Same goes with the drive-by-wire throttle calibration -- its manipulations in smoothing out the power delivery for your safety are obvious. Unfortunately, the Viper's throttle response is pretty terrible -- our 2002 Z06 is worlds snappier in this regard. Forget heel-toe downshifting this tiger with any kind of verve.
No, there's nothing subtle about the way a Viper wants to be driven. You have to plan way ahead if you want to wood the gas -- triple digits are always mere seconds away. You shove the shifter through its gates. The Viper wants you to bedeliberate with your inputs. Do so, and it delivers a driving experience that is simply staggeringly fast.
Even thoughthere are signs of taming this beast,it's still a freakin' Viper. And that is good.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor