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Still a Bad Boy



The Viper has upped the luxury and price, but it still bites


Once upon a time, supercars required heavy hands and feet to operate. If you wished to successfully drive a Ferrari, you first needed to manage a clutch pedal while power-rowing an obstreperous shifter through precise gates. And if your hand and foot coordination was out of time, the whole world was witness to your shortcomings. Today, Ferrari doesn’t even offer a machine with a standard transmission and an accompanying clutch.

Bring Your Brawn  
Once a rare breed, super-performance sports cars, with well over 400-horsepower and top speeds that would land the first offender in jail, are now prolific. Most have shed the clutch pedal for paddle shifters that operate either a controlled standard transmission or a fully-automatic unit. In stark defiance of this trend, the Viper is only available with a six-speed standard gearbox, complete with three pedals for the driver to operate. It’s a macho undertaking. While today’s Viper is a bit easier to manage than a pure racecar, once you slither into the deeply bolstered driver’s seat and light off the massive motor, you’d best be ready to drive. Aside from the shifting, a routine some of us still delight in, there’s that 640HP (and nearly as much torque) ready to bite the unaware operator. It’s remarkably easy to find yourself pointed in an awkward position after romping on the loud pedal. On the plus side, if you drive this machine with care, it’s a great amusement park ride.

The Content Lamp
is Lit  When the Viper was thoroughly reworked last year, the team focused on refinement along with brute power to stay competitive in a six-figure category where excuses just don’t cut it. So the new Viper is not only stiffer and quieter with narrower body gaps, it has added nicely stitched leather and soft touch materials inside a roomier cockpit. Chrysler Group’s U-Connect system has all the navigation, sound, and performance reporting features along with the ability to read text messages or carry on a conversation with Microsoft’s Bing, features I expect few owners will use.

Our GTS model had two suspension settings that some passengers described as hard and teeth-rattling hard. It’s fair to suggest that everyone in a Viper is connected to the road and powertrain. So while I did test the 12-channel, 18-speaker Harmon Kardon Logic 7 sound system and found it suitably impressive, I spent most of my seat time focused on driving this handful of sportscar.

Track Time
There are few opportunities to responsibly test a Viper to even half its potential on public roads. Oh sure, you can give a friend a quick 2.8-second sprint to 60MPH, but that’s about it if you treasure your license and insurance premiums. Luckily, I was able to spend some left seat time in a similar Viper (track spec) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where a factory-sponsored driver kept the right seat warm. On the second lap, he suggested simply leaving the shifter in third gear. There’s so much torque available, a lower gear isn’t needed, and before you think about shifting on the straight, you’re sailing past triple digits and it’s time to brake.



On many levels, the Viper is a compelling supercar, especially if no-holds-barred performance is your goal. But if you need a machine that’s less tightly wound, there are interesting competitors priced above and below the Viper’s MSRP.    BRIAN DOUGLAS


2014 Dodge Viper GTS

ENGINE: 8.4-liter OHV V10

HORSEPOWER: 640 @ 6,200rpm

TORQUE: 600 lb.-ft. @ 5,000rpm

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 12-city/19-hwy/15-combined

BASE PRICE: $122,385

AS TESTED: $140,930


 Photography by Brian Douglas


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