AT THE WHEEL REVIEWS: PERFORMANCE
Pure Venom: The 2005 Dodge Viper SRT-10
By Frederick Staab Cruise Control Radio.Com
What if you were told you could build a street legal car that would push the envelope in styling, performance and handling? A clean sheet approach that would result in a automobile unlike anything found in your vehicle line-up?
Twelve model years later it was time to see how the Viper had aged. It is still a rare ride; well under 20,000 venomous cars have been bolted together since 1992. Last year saw a record build of just 1,875 cars. But had this snake become more civilized with age? Did it strike its prey just a little slower or with the same ferocity? Five-hundred miles later I would have the answer to both of those questions.
While the vast majority of Vipers are red, our SRT -10 test subject’s skin was coated with bright silver metallic pigment set off by a black convertible top. Over the years, Viper’s body lines have become crisper and more defined. Starting at the hood that stretches over 5 feet long, you’ll notice a slick hood scoop that allows a direct connection of air to the V-10 engine. Beyond that, a brace of louvres vent under-hood heat build up. Notice the pattern - every item on this reptilian car is functional; stick-on scoops or decal simulators are not in the Viper vocabulary.
The trailing edge of the fenders get a massive cooling slot that connects to an upraised styling crease carried over into the door. Out back, there's a small trunk-lid-integrated spoiler, and below the bumper, a multi-finned diverter that cleans up the air coming off the full aluminum belly pan. It looks just like those found on race cars running at Le Mans or Daytona.
Before we hit the road, it was necessary to pay homage to poison that allows this cold-blooded snake to strike. In 2005, it comes in the form of 505-cubic-inch V-10 with 500 horsepower and 525 lb.-ft. of torque at the ready. To stick all that power to the ground, the Viper wears a set of Michelin Pilot Sport Zero P tires with P345/30ZR18s in the rear. That piece of rubber is more that a foot wide - can you say “Contact Patch!”
Enough talk. I hit the red starter button which brought the V-10 to life. Immediately, I was transported back to memories of race cars I have driven in the past. The cackling side pipes, the throb and shake of a monster engine - how could this be a street legal car?
The dash is loaded with white-faced instruments including a 220-mph speedometer and a 6,000-rpm redline tach. Other gauges monitoring a variety of functions cascaded down the dash. Years of development and a wee bit of mellowing have allowed for comfort features such as air conditioning, (operated by controls that look like they came straight from a minivan), adjustable foot pedals including the clutch and a 310-watt CD changer that you can actually hear over the engine. Oh yes, power windows are now included as well.
At highway speeds, the Viper SRT-10 makes a driver work hard. Gear throws were found to be long even with its shorty shift handle. The ride was stiff and sometimes harsh, and let’s just say that V-10 is not a silent partner. No, the Viper is as close as you can come to an all-out race car and still sport a license plate. Since it was a true hot rod, there were the requisite squeaks and rattles.
The AC did manage to stay ahead of the drivetrain heat transmitted into the cockpit during our 500-mile road trip. And while the black leather buckets did their best to hold me in place, they lacked adjustability normally found in a car of this price range. By the way, if you are thinking of making a Viper your own, get ready to drop some big cash. Our tester came in at $84,795 including destination and a $3,000 gas guzzler penalty. As for miles per gallon - don’t ask!
Acceleration numbers are as follows: 0-60 goes by in less than 3 seconds, 0-100 happens in less than 13 seconds. Top speed (we knew you would ask) is 190mph. Hard cornering “G” enthusiasts will be glad to hear that the Viper can pull 1.15g's of lateral acceleration.
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