Friday, June 15, 2012
The Dodge Viper is Back and Ready to Bite
The Dodge Viper has become one of those modern legends, a true great. Now in its 20th year, the Detroit bruiser is back after a long absence for a fifth evolution.
The story started back in 1989 with the prototype, before Dodge unveiled two pre-production models at the infamous Indy 500 in 1991, with both being used as pace cars during the race.
Less than 12 months later and the ‘RT/10’, as it was known, was available for purchase sporting Dodge’s own V10 that had been fettled with by Italian supercar manufacturer Lamborghini and made 400 bhp available at the touch of the right pedal.
Thanks to that surge of power and a massive 630 Nm of torque pushing the car along, the RT/10 managed 0-60 in just 4.6 seconds on the way to a top speed of 164 mph.
However, the ‘genesis’ of the Vipers was far from perfect and its body design had flaws that came about by using cheaper truck parts instead of bespoke pieces that would have made for a much more capable motor.
The car was also particularly tricky to handle, had no roof, no exterior door-handles or side windows, so needed to be stored indoors at all times it wasn’t in use, but it did gain a US Environmental Protection Agency rated fuel economy of 12 mpg.
The second generation, the RT/10 GTS, is one we all know for its famous double-striped dressing and ran for six years as both a coupe and a roadster and boasted a power increase of 15 bhp for the base model, whilst the full-out GTS model offered 450 bhp on tap.
The latter made for an improved 0-60 time of 4 secs and a sturdier, more rigid suspension made the Viper 25% stiffer for better handling and the revised chassis made for a 60 lbs weight loss.
Dodge released the SRT/10 in 2003 as its third evolution and offered much sharper styling and another power increase to bring a total power output of 500 bhp that could challenge some of the top supercars of the time.
Initially released strictly as a roadster, the coupe was again added to the range in its final year of production and had 10 more bhp from its 8.3 V10 and a truly monumental 725 Nm of torque to get a sub 4 secs 0-60 time.
Simple styling changes were made in 2008 for the fourth incarnation, but the engine again was uprated to an 8.4 liter 600 bhp goliath that was faster than its rivals at the time that included Detroit local the Corvette Z06, Ford GT, Porsche 911 Turbo and the new boy Audi R8.
A brand new engine management system, aptly named VENOM, was also included, as well as completely revised electrics and an updated exhaust structure.
The CEO of Dodge announced that the Viper would end production in 2010 with a planned ‘Final Edition’ to be the brand’s swansong, with 50 examples to be produced, including the fearsome ACR model that was a true street-legal racer.
However, the Viper is now back from the dead with the now branded SRT Viper to go into production at the end of the year and promises to be quite the car.
It also looks to be a completely new beast from Dodge’s prospective, with an interior bordering on being described as plush and even some stability control for the very first time on a Viper in its two decades.
Even the CEO of the brand wants the new car to be a “more forgiving car to drive and accessible to people.”
The fifth installment was revealed at the New York Auto Show in April of this year and immediately impressed with its aggressive styling and staying true to its 20-year history, will feature a 640 bhp version of their 8.4 V10.
It was also announced that the Viper would be going back into racing and have a GTS-R model ready for the 2012 American Le Mans series, making for a true return for the legend.
About the author: Sam Bisby writes for chooseafuelcard.com fuel cards.
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