2015 Dodge Viper GT: 5 Things I Learned About the Viper Fighting Juvenile Diabetes
by Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor on June 8, 2016
The LA Car Connection and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have hosted an annual track day for the last five years to raise money for the fight against Type 1 Diabetes. The event draws a good crowd and with it a good group of cars — the types of cars that are too often locked in temperature-controlled prisons rather than running wild as they were meant to.
But not today.
For the second consecutive year, Edmunds was invited to join the good battle for the cause. So, we brought the along the most potent weapon in our arsenal, the 2015 Dodge Viper.
At the typical club-organized track day, a Viper is a Great White among guppies. But the waters at Willow Springs were especially chummy for this event, attracting the likes of more than a few late model Porsche GT3 RSs, Chevrolet Corvette Z06s and a scattering of other exotic species.
Despite the wealth of eye candy rolling around the pits, the lowly Viper managed to draw a good share of curious passengers, many of which were convinced shortly after that it could warp the laws of physics. Having never driven our Viper on a track before, I learned a few things myself after turning fun laps for four sweaty hours in the saddle.
1. The seats are great for the track, but suck on the street.
I agree with both Magrath and Reese on some levels, but have a few of my own thoughts regarding the Viper seats. The two hours or so I spent driving from our office to the track, were in some ways more brutal than my four hours of track time. I actually found the lumbar support to be insufficient in my usual "cruising" seat position, or maybe it's supporting the wrong area. Either way, it took a toll on my lower back. On track, adopting a more vertical seating position, like Magrath mentioned, provides back support where it's wanted along with proper steering wheel leverage. I'm 5'9" and sit with the seat as low as it goes, so the head clearance isn't an issue even with a lid on. This is comfortable from a support standpoint, and best experienced in intervals lasting 20-30 minutes tops.
2. It needs door padding.
As good as the seats' bolsters may be they don't fully counteract the g-forces the Viper generates while cornering. This became apparent when I got home at the end of the day and thought someone had taken a hockey stick to my left knee. The bruise was from subconsciously bracing off the door as I lapped around a track comprised primarily of long-sweeping right turns. The hard speaker surround lined up perfectly with my knee contusion, and a steady drip of the adrenaline throughout the day kept me from noticing until later that night.
This is not a new concept. In fact padding is sufficient for the right knee along the center console where most would likely lean against.
It would be ideal to have something similar to what Scion did with their FR-S.
3. The steering wheel radio controls are poorly placed, especially for track use.
When negotiating a turn at 120 mph, something that isn't conducive to hitting your apex is a sudden crescendo of Mariachi band music blaring in the cabin. Like many other Dodge/Chrysler vehicles the volume and station controls are directly behind the 3- and 9-o'clock wheel spokes.
This also happens to be the exact space your fingers occupy if you're gripping the steering wheel properly.
This may make for easy stereo adjustments while idling through traffic, but they were hugely distracting when I kept pressing them inadvertently, resulting in the scenario above. For a vehicle as track focused as the Viper, these buttons have no business hanging out here.
4. The pedals are closer together than you think.
This is not a complaint, but rather an observation. Have a look at the pedal arrangement below and you'll see where the brake and accelerator live in relation to each other.
We've blogged about optimal pedal placement for heel-and-toe shifting before, and the Viper is a textbook example. However, after running a bunch of laps on a hot day, even the Viper's rock-solid brake pedal will begin to soften a little. It was here that I ran into the occasional issue of just grazing the accelerator under maximum braking.
If you aren't careful with your foot placement, or wear wider shoes, this can happen to you, too. The sensation feels a little like sudden-onset brake fade which is frightening, when in reality you're really just pitting the brakes against the engine momentarily.
As soon as I figured this out I paid extra attention to my foot position while braking and it was no longer an issue.
5. Opening the hood is an easy way to inspect front tire wear.
Checking rear tire wear is as easy as putting an ear to the ground at the rear bumper, but often times front end overhang makes it harder to see the front tires following the same method. The Viper is a perfect example here.
The solution for this is to crank the steering to full lock to get a better peek at the front tread — but oh, what a hassle! Behold the Viper hood, unlatched.
By popping the hood, you gain instant and full visual access to both front tire treads. Your freshly caned V10 will also welcome the breathing room.
Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor @ 20,003 miles