2009 Dodge Viper Long Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2009 Dodge Viper Long Term Road Test

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2009 Dodge Viper: Wrap-Up

November 05, 2010

There was a lone story scribbled on the back page of our long-term 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 test notebook:

"The first time I sat in the driver seat of a 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I turned the key and the engine exploded to life. I turned it off, picked up my phone and dialed my sister, a car junkie in her own right. She was laid off from work days earlier and due for some cheering up.

"Stacy picked up on the first ring. 'No, I don't want visitors.... I'm not in the mood to be cheered up right now.... Fine, you can stop by but not for long.' I pulled in front of her house and revved the Viper. A slew of holy expletives preceded her headfirst dive into the passenger seat. We drove straight to a favorite freeway on-ramp and brought the Viper to a stop at its base. Dump the clutch. First, 2nd, 3rd gear and then foot out to hear the V10 gurgle. Exit at the next ramp. We must've doubled back and repeated this 10 times. She mumbled, 'Dodge Viper SRT-10, I think I love you.'"

Why We Got It
This was the end of an era. The last Dodge Viper was scheduled to roll off the production line in early July 2010. Even with rumors of a Fiat-managed Chrysler building a new Viper in 2012 — later confirmed at a dealer meeting in September 2010 — there can never be another Viper like this one. America's favorite V10 supercar will never be as red, white and blue as we've known it. So when Dodge asked us last spring if we would like a long-term Viper to test, it may as well have been rhetorical.

Stability control systems are made to keep drivers away from situations that could compromise the integrity of the vehicle and its occupants. Such a system does not exist in the Viper. Before the PR manager at Dodge would release his grip on the key, we had to assure him the car would return in one piece. Thankfully we don't see a lot of rain here in Southern California. We charted our weather patterns for the past 100 years, drew up a schematic and convinced Dodge that winter doesn't show its face in these parts until late October. Our timeline was established.

We would test the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 for six months. When the skies of winter dropped their first tears from heaven, so, too, would they fall from our own eyes. This meant the end of our test. But our time together would live on across the long-term blog pages.

Inside Line Editor Ed Hellwig drove the long-term Viper on its first road trip to the World Superbike race in Salt Lake City. Hellwig blogged, "When I got into the Viper it didn't feel like a great road trip car. It was a bit cramped, hard to see out of and most definitely loud. But after a few hours behind the wheel, I got used to its tight cockpit and limited sight lines. It helps that the seat is comfortable and the satellite radio is hooked up. When you're on the open road, it's not exactly wide-open throttle the whole time."

Hellwig also drove the Viper on its final road trip to Las Vegas. "I'm reminded just how civilized this car can be. As refined as it can be, the Viper will still rip your face off with the best of them. After droning on the freeway for hours on end, I finally stopped for gas about an hour from home. As I pulled onto the freeway after filling up, I ripped through 2nd and hard into 3rd and completely scared the crap out of myself. Not that many cars are capable of this, and yet the Viper can do it in just about any gear. Gonna miss this thing."

We experienced no significant problems of note during our test of the 2009 Dodge Viper. There was a rear window strut that vibrated itself loose. And the dealer that wanted to cut it open to replace the strut. But this turned out to be a minor repair, requiring no more than a rivet gun to reattach the existing strut.

Otherwise we serviced the Viper at the prescribed intervals and received quite impressive service once we found a certified dealership. Our average service cost $230, which is the direct result of a 10-quart synthetic oil change each visit.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 6 months): $459.30
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Rear hatch strut bracket repair
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1 to address faulty rear hatch strut
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
We did our best to put the 2009 Dodge Viper through as much as possible during its stay. From the burnout super test to the comparison against a 1994 Viper RT/10 to its preliminary track test as a member of the long-term fleet, the Viper saw plenty of track time.

From the Dodge's first test at 6,000 miles to its final track test almost 14,000 miles later, only the tires showed signs of six months served. Tire wear may have helped improve lateral-g generation on the skid pad. Here, the Viper improved from 0.96g to 1.02g between tests. All other instrumented-testing categories favored the new tires. And in all those categories, the Dodge ranks among the best of any long-term car to date. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph took just 3.4 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout) and the quarter-mile arrived in 11.6 seconds at 125.7 mph. The Viper needed just 107 feet to reach a stop from 60 mph and slithered through the slalom at 74.0 mph. Impressive stats all around.

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton commented following testing, "This is so cool: 11.6 at almost 126 mph with virtually no wheelspin. Wow! Don't rush 3rd gear, however, or you'll find that its synchro isn't happy. Otherwise it's 60 in 1st and the quarter in 3rd. On the skid pad, balance favors understeer. No real shift in balance from lift-throttle at this speed either. It doesn't want to powerslide."

Best Fuel Economy: 25.1 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 8.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 15.7 mpg

Retained Value
When the 2009 Dodge Viper entered our long-term fleet, it had an MSRP of $97,360, of which just over $8,000 accounted for options and gas-guzzler tax. We racked up nearly 14,000 miles during our six-month test.

When it came time to dispose of the Dodge, the Edmunds TMV® Calculator valued it at $68,507 based on a private-party sale. That equates to depreciation of 30 percent from its original MSRP. Nostalgia has a lot to do with selling a car like the Viper. Much like our long-term Ferrari 308 GTSi (), which appreciated during our year of ownership, the Vipers of the world should eventually see a value increase with time.

True Market Value at service end: $68,507
Depreciation: $29,123 or 30% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 19,556

Summing Up
Dodge announced the end of the second-generation Viper and our collective hearts dropped. At the same time, our interest was piqued. We needed one in the long-term fleet to give it a proper farewell. When Dodge offered to make our wishes a reality, we seized the opportunity.

Our time with the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 made one thing clear. This exotic sports car is hard to justify as a daily driver. In its latest iteration, the Viper brought an air of civility to the underlying brute within. But these comfort items don't pretend to hide the car's true nature. This is a track car that is quick to school its driver in the art of physics if not respected. Its side pipes will burn your calves. Sight lines are minimal and the cabin is claustrophobic.

Negatives aside, the Viper is intoxicating. Its V10 is an audible delight. Giddy motorists at the red light beside you unconsciously rev their engines with the hope that you will return the favor. This is a special car. The hydrocarbon-fueled elixir exuded by the Viper reduces our vocal capacity to single-word grunts: smoke, rubber, burn, fast, happy. Over the past six months, we filled the cabin with multiple drivers, countless belly butterflies and miles of smiles. We're going to miss the Viper.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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