The Dodge Viper was created like a modern interpretation from the classic muscular American sports vehicle. Debuting like a concept in 1989 to large consumer enthusiasm, everything concerning the production Dodge Viper was perfectly outrageous, including its cartoonish styling, giant 335/35-series rear tires and thumping 400-horsepower V10 engine.
Saying a Dodge Viper looks "too wild" is like saying the American flag looks too patriotic. In both cases, it would be impossible for the appearance of said items to overachieve its intended purpose. The American flag is an unmitigated symbol of our patriotism, and the Dodge Viper is likewise symbolic of uncompromised automotive performance. At least that was its original mission when it arrived in showrooms back in 1992 as a targa-style roadster sporting a 400-horsepower V10 under its cartoonishly long hood. All that tail-wagging power and a lack of electronic driving aids such as traction control and ABS made the Viper a supercar that didn't suffer fools gladly. Eventually, "luxuries" such as real windows (that replaced the clear vinyl side curtains) and ABS made their way into the Viper roadster. But still, the car was obnoxiously loud and fast, the way fans liked it. The 2003 model year saw a full redesign of Chrysler's icon. Sure, the 1996 release of the Viper GTS coupe was a major upgrade for the line (including many simultaneous improvements to the original RT/10 model), but, essentially, it had been the same car for close to a decade. Though no coupe is currently offered, the roadster is a true convertible, with a top that folds down all the way, as opposed to the soft targa panel of the previous RT/10. An astounding amount of power is offered -- 500 horsepower and over 500 pound-feet of torque, delivered over a broad range. To handle the V10's immense output, there is a beefed-up transmission and massive brakes. Compared to its predecessor, the second-generation Viper has a stiffer chassis (with a 31-percent increase in torsional rigidity compared to the previous generation), a longer wheelbase and a revised suspension -- all of which give the car greater predictability when driven at its limit. Some die-hard Viper fans feel that the "new" Viper is too refined...well, compared to the old beast. But with production being limited, it's probably a moot point anyway.
The Viper comes only as a two-seat roadster. Standard equipment includes racing-style seats; power-adjustable pedals; full instrumentation; power windows, locks and mirrors; tilt steering; keyless entry; and a seven-speaker, 300-watt audio system with an in-dash six-disc changer. There are no options; the only choice a customer need make is color.
Neck-straining acceleration, race-car-caliber brakes, track-ready suspension, decent ergonomics for a supercar, exclusivity of limited production.
No traction control or side airbags, too extreme for a daily driver, awkward shifter, exploiting its capabilities requires elevated driver skills.
Although the cockpit was improved with 2003's revamping, it still feels like a Viper inside, except with build and materials quality more befitting an $80,000 car. A large center-mounted tachometer sits next to a 220-mph speedometer. Additional gauges reside between the speedometer and center console, angled toward the driver. Pedals, which are power-adjustable, are placed directly in front of the driver, and there's also a dead pedal. Seat comfort is surprisingly good and the controls are user-friendly; there's even a real center console storage compartment (but no cupholders -- as specifically requested by Viper owners). The audio system has a fully integrated head unit, complete with an in-dash six-disc CD changer. Adding a race-car feel is a red starter button that's used to fire the beast's V10 engine to life.
The Viper is one of the fastest production cars in the world. Its 500-horsepower V10 pushes it to triple-digit speeds in the blink of an eye and it doesn't stop there. Massive rear tires make fast starts easier than you might think, although the shifter is a bit awkward so concentration is required to hit the gates just right. Pushing the Viper to the limit still requires the skill of a seasoned driver, but even rookie pilots will admire the car's unbelievable abilities. Ultraquick steering, racing-style seats and powerful Brembo brakes add to the race-carlike feel. It's not comfortable enough to be used as an everyday driver, but for those who can afford to have it on the side, the Viper is a supercar that answers to nothing.
No major changes for 2005 Dodge Viper
An 8.3-liter (505-cubic-inch) V10 engine sports heroic output numbers: 500 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque. The power is transferred to the fat rear tires via a Tremec six-speed manual transmission and a standard limited-slip differential. Its performance numbers are equally impressive, as the Viper is able to reach 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds and run the quarter-mile is 12.0 seconds flat.
In spite of the recent redesign, there are no side airbags, nor is there traction or stability control. Massive four-wheel antilock disc brakes assure rapid stops and a passenger-side airbag cutoff switch makes it feasible for small children to ride along in a pinch.