In a world of sleek sports cars loaded with every sort of electronic goody available, the Dodge Viper stands in a cloud of tire-smoking defiance. Viper is old-school, subtle as a Muhammad Ali right hook to the jaw. No traction control, no stability control. When you’re driving the Viper at speed, you will need all your skills to keep the car on the road. And make no mistake; it is a handful–a handful of fun.
The exterior design of the Viper still holds up, some two decades after its launch in 1991. There have been some modifications through the years, but it still screams sports car. This yellow and black bumble bee ragtop is simply a joy to drive. I noticed a few more vibrations coming through the chassis than what I remember from the last coupe we had in here, causing the rearview mirror to vibrate. There’s some cowl shake, but all in all, this is a rock-solid chassis, and being able to drop the top and take off on a 60-mile cruise on a glorious late-summer day is worth any tradeoff in vibrations.
The 8.4-liter V10 rumbles like a truck at low speeds, the side exhausts easily drowning out anything coming from the AM/FM radio when you dip the least bit into the throttle. But slip the Tremec six-speed into a high gear and the revs drop; 80 mph in sixth has the engine turning at a docile 1,500 revs.
Driving a Viper at speed remains a heart-stopping adrenaline rush, unlike just about anything you can drive short of a full-on race car. Past experiences have taught that you need to respect the 600 hp raging beneath the long, vented hood and direct to the rear wheels. Too much throttle at the wrong time will snap the car sideways quicker than you can say oversteer. A stab of the throttle leaving One AutoWeek Tower produced so much violent wheel hop that it shook my hand off the gear-shift lever. The torque pumping out of the V10 is staggering.
I have long given Dodge credit for continuing to build the Viper during times when it probably did not make a whole lot of economic sense. Sales of the hot rod numbered just 482 in 2009; in only one year since the car was launched has it sold more than 2,000 units a year, and that was in 2003, back in the heyday of our last economic boom time.
Sadly, this is the last year for the Viper, the fourth generation. Only 50 of the final edition models were built, and only 18 roadsters. A very limited, limited edition.
Dodge says a new Viper, with some Fiat influence (meaning Alfa Romeo, probably not Ferrari) will be coming for 2012. Hopefully we’ll see something at the Detroit show in January.
We can only hope that the new Viper will embrace some of what the old Viper stood for: uncompromising, balls-out performance for those who really wanted to drive a sports car.
2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster
Base Price: $92,885
As Tested: $97,410
Drivetrain: 8.4-liter V10; RWD, six-speed manual
Output: 600 hp @ 6,100 rpm, 560 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,441 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA /AW): 16/16 mpg