2015 Dodge Viper GT: Finishing the Year With a Bang
by Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant on January 11, 2016
I'd previously written about my weekend with our long-term 2015 Dodge Viper and how long I'd waited to get behind the wheel. I came away supremely impressed and, despite some flaws, I wanted the keys back in my possession.
My Christmas wish was granted: two full weeks with the Viper to finish out the year.
In reality, I didn't have much of a choice. Everyone had picked a car for the holidays and I was left with a choice between the Viper and the Yugo. Since my wife has already expressed her disdain for the latter, I grabbed the keys to the Dodge.
I didn't have anything big planned. I just wanted to use the Viper as my daily driver and finish the year on a high note. Plenty of people drive Corvettes and 911s daily. It's not an outrageous notion to purchase a Viper for that purpose.
Several things came to light during those two weeks.
First off, it gets a lot of attention. Far more than any other car I've ever driven. Los Angeles is lousy with Corvettes and 911s. Seeing a Viper is like finding a unicorn. I've passed more McLaren P1s in Southern California than I have Vipers.
People will try to take photos while you're in traffic. I'll see thumbs up from the backseat or a wave from the front. Strangers come up to you in parking lots with questions, comments or a chance to take a photo with the car. I overheard a couple of teenagers behind me discussing the Viper while I was waiting on my coffee.
Even if someone doesn't know exactly what it is, they know it's something special. It just makes the right sort of noises and it has the right proportions. When someone asks, I leave out all of my complaints. If seeing a Viper gets a kid into cars, I'm not going to ruin that. The Viper is a romantic, aspirational machine and I want to keep it that way for most people.
Second, it's more practical than it gets credit for. There's plenty of room for groceries or luggage for a relatively short trip. It fits into most parking spots, though parking requires some finesse. It might be hard to see out the window when the Viper's fully loaded, but since rear visibility is so bad to begin with, you're not losing much. It's limited, but not horrible. I never once had to change my plans because I had the Viper instead of something larger.
Third, the Viper requires a lot of effort to drive. A Corvette is near effortless. The Viper requires force. It likes to pick up grooves in the pavement, so you constantly need to muscle the heavy steering to keep the car straight. Maneuvering a parking garage means dealing with the long nose and subpar turning radius.
The clutch is long and on the heavier side. The shifter is short and accurate, but it's not the kind you can gently move with two fingers. As others have described, looking out of the Viper is like looking out of a mail slot. It's even worse when the sun is both shining in your face and reflecting off the hood. I began to plan my day around the direction of the sun.
Lastly, this thing is tremendously fast. There is enough power to easily send the traction control into full alert. With traction control turned off, this will spin the P355/30R19 rear Pirellis PZeros through third gear. Gaps close quickly and any on-ramp becomes a runway. It doesn't take much to suddenly become the fastest and loudest thing on the road.
It's no secret the Viper isn't the easy or safe choice. There is no such thing as casually driving one. It's loud, hot, stiff, and has poor visibility, but I didn't get into this business just to drive the latest compact crossover. The things this car excels at are in my opinion worth it. Speed is intoxicating and in our current long-term fleet, nothing satisfies more than the Viper.
Would I spend my money on one? I honestly don't know. But I'll sure as hell enjoy this one.
When everything was going right, I was in love. The Viper made me believe all of life's problems can be solved with more power. I didn't care about all the flaws. I just wanted to keep on going until the tank ran dry, which it eventually did. Several times.
I've been with Edmunds.com since May 26, 2015 and in that time I've had the opportunity to drive a lot of amazing vehicles. This life is everything I hoped it would be and to finish the year on a high like this is something I won't ever take for granted.
Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant