2015 Dodge Viper GT: Death Valley Break-in Road Trip
July 12, 2015
Well, frustratingly long if you're not me. I loves me a good break-in road trip. I like the long hours behind the wheel. I like that you can't stay at a certain speed for too long. I even like that you can't take full advantage of all the power. It keeps me from even needing the ol' radar detector.
The Viper needed 700 more miles when I got the keys. The loop from Los Angeles to Death Valley to Las Vegas and back is about that far.
From my apartment, the route starts out by simply getting out of L.A. and driving north on Highway 14. If you've never driven this road, consider yourself lucky. There's nothing interesting on it, there aren't enough lanes and it's one of the most heavily patrolled highways in California. I plopped the Dodge into 6th and, for the first time in my life, used cruise control on a Viper. It works.
A few hours later, the road turns into U.S. Route 395 and then, mercifully, about an hour after that you end up on Highway 190 which brings you through the meat of Death Valley. This road starts out flat and bland, but then come the mountains. The road twists and turns and undulates like a roller coaster. The Viper is unfazed.
I could be going twice the legal speed limit (usually 55 mph through the fun sections) without any stress. This thing's all torque and grip and unflappable brakes. My only issue is visibility. The roofline cuts off a quarter of my forward vision and the rearview mirror blocks most of the visibility to the right. But at least the Viper hates the chipseal pavement so much that the mirror is vibrating so harshly you can't see behind you. It's worse than in the Corvette.
This vibration continued throughout the next hundred-something miles. The tires roar. The engine kind of drones. Your eyeballs don't feel securely attached to your face. No part of this encourages long-haul travel.
Right around the border of Nevada, the pavement gets better and, like the earlier transition from 395 to the fun Death Valley road, my entire outlook did too. I was back in love with the Viper, a feeling that continued all the way into Las Vegas, which was only 112 degrees, and is where I dumped the car in a local lot and hit the closest, softest bed.
The ride home from Vegas is as bad as the drive out to Death Valley, except with more brodozers. It's nothing but highway, fifth and sixth gears (fourth if you really need to pass), motorhomes, tire noise, engine drone. More tire noise.
I considered going back to Nevada just to use their asphalt and give my ears a rest. I've done this route in our old C7 Corvette and in a GT-R a few years back and neither caused my ears to ache the way this did.
In the end, I cleared over 750 miles in two days and managed to set records for both highest and lowest fuel economy. More on that in a later post.
And yes, as soon as I was clear of the break-in rules and regulations, I revved up the V10, dumped the clutch and donated a few feet of rubber to a dead-end access road.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 1,706 miles