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Cars Worth Noting: Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper

When Chrysler unveiled its V-10-powered Dodge Viper roadster concept 16 years ago, it blew everyone away. But would this macho-muscular tribute to the 427 Ford-powered Cobras of the 1960s actually reach production? Few thought it would. Fewer still thought it would retain the V-10 monster motor if it did. But the Viper RT/10 hit the streets in 1992 to boost the Dodge brand image and take on Chevy’s Corvette and other serious sports cars of its time. Like those legendary Cobras, it was loud, rough and, compared to the ’Vette, faster, more expensive and far less refined. Its buyers traded comfort for image and power, and most knew better than to explore its limits lest it coil up and bite them in the backside. The sensuously shaped Viper GTS coupe followed for 1996.

For 2003, Dodge launched an all-new, much more civilized Viper SRT10 roadster (from Chrysler’s Street & Racing Technology group) boasting “500/500/500” – 500 hp and 500 lb.ft. of torque from its 500 V-10. Most any daring driver can pop the clutch, shift the 6-speed and watch the speedo spin past 60 in less than four seconds. A skilled pilot can keep his boot planted to 100 mph, then nail the giant Brembos and wrestle it to rest in a tick over 12 sec.

Cruising around town, this new Viper is both exhilarating and surprisingly civilized, though somewhat tight for long-legged drivers. Let loose on a track, it’s more capable and balanced than earlier versions but can be unforgiving when pushing its limits. On a tight slalom course, we found it stable under power but a trifle squirrelly under hard braking into a turn.

Now, a decade after its predecessor, comes the gorgeous 2006 Viper SRT10 coupe — prettier profile, tighter interior, the same amazing performance for (we’re guessing) $7- 8K more than its $82K roadster sibling. Life is good for the well-heeled enthusiast.

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Fri. July 19th, 2024

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