The Viper strikes back


Dodge has not had too many vehicles about which legends are made, but the Dodge Viper was certainly one of them.  The Viper burst on the scene in 1991 amazing the world with its V10 eight liter engine and its sheer brute force.  Having driven an early version, I can vouch for the fact that it had plenty of ‘go’, but brakes were still not yet an option.

The Dodge Viper first generation returned performance figures of:

0-60 mph (97 km/h): 4.6 seconds

0-100 mph (160 km/h): 9.2 seconds

Standing quarter mile: 13.1 sec @ 112 mph (180 km/h)

Top speed: 195 mph (314 km/h)

Dodge Viper Dodge Viper

However, the poor brakes were its weak point.  In a 1997 “supercar comparison” by Motor Trend, in which the Viper GTS placed at the top against cars such as the Ferrari 550, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, and Honda NSX in all performance exercises except braking.  The car not only placed last, but had considerably longer stopping distances than other vehicles.

By 2010 the car was much improved with a Car and Driver magazine test coming up with:

0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 3.5 seconds,

0-100 mph (160 km/h) time of 7.6 seconds,

Standing start quarter-mile: 11.5 seconds at 126 mph (203 km/h).

Top speed are 197 mph (317 km/h).

Car and Driver also tested the Viper’s track performance, and it was faster than the Corvette Z06, Ford GT, Nissan GTR, Porsche 911 Turbo, 911 GT3, and 911 GT2, Audi R8, and similar cars.

Officially, the Viper was dropped this year and with Chrysler being swallowed by Fiat, it was presumed that the Viper had been killed off in the boardroom.  But now the Chrysler board has given the new Viper final approval and development is on schedule, to hit the market late 2012.

The new Viper “is not based on anything else,” he stressed, countering speculation that it will share underpinnings with Ferrari or the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, given the partnership between Chrysler and Italy’s Fiat SpA.

So the good news is that the Viper is not dead, but with present day controls, will it catch on like the old fire-breathing Viper?  I fear the answer will be in the negative.  The old Viper was ‘raw’ and exciting.  I cannot imagine an electronically controlled Viper having the same attraction.