• Aug 8th 2008 at 7:55PM
  • 49

Dodge Viper ACR – Click above for high-res image gallery

I have to admit that I'm biased when it comes to the Dodge Viper. I've had a soft spot for the venomous snake since the GTS coupe hit the streets in 1996. The aggressive design, powerful 8.0-liter V10 with 450 horsepower (doesn't sound like much now, but it sure seemed like a lot then), and the blue paint scheme with white racing stripes were the ideal combination for my dream sports car. I'm going to be that guy at the 2030 Barrett-Jackson purchasing a mint, low-mileage, numbers-matching 1996 or 1997 Dodge Viper GTS, and, of course, you'll be the one watching on SPEED commenting how I'm paying way too much for a classic American muscle car.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

My personal fantasy aside, the Viper has made a lot of progress since then. Some of its raw, uncivilized nature had been removed when a more refined suspension and modern features like ABS brakes were added in 2003. The V10 engine was updated, getting a bump in displacement to 8.3 liters and an increase of 50 horsepower. Its redesign in 2003 also saw the Viper's aggressive look somewh

at tamed, with less curves and the absence of a coupe. My obsession with the Viper waned, even with the re-introduction of the coupe in 2006 and the upgrade to 600 horsepower in 2008. The current SRT10 will outperform the old GTS any day, but there is a pure aggressiveness and brutality about the original Viper that the newer versions just don't have.

That is, of course, until the introduction of the ACR (American Club Racer) version at last year's LA Auto Show. It's by far the most potent production Viper ever built, and for me it was love at first sight. The front splitter, asymmetrical stripe, and massive rear wing make the ACR the most aggressive looking Viper by far. In fact, it makes the previous generation ACR that was built from 1999-2002 look downright civilized.

So what makes the new ACR so special? Even the slightest glance will tell you this is no ordinary Viper. This particular car came in Viper Black with the unique two-tone paint scheme. The ACR can also be ordered in Viper Red, Viper Violet, Viper Bright Blue Metallic and Viper Very Orange, with only the Black and Red having the option of the two-tone paint. I haven't seen the ACR in anything but Red or Black, and can't imagine ordering it any color combo besides the one seen here.

But enough about paint schemes; the ACR is about one thing and one thing only: functionality. More specifically, putting down all that power from the 8.4-liter V10 to the pavement. To do this, the SRT team focused on aerodynamics, the result of which can be seen at both ends of the car. Up front is a carbon fiber splitter and dive planes that have been specially designed to increase downforce and reduce drag. An extension for the front splitter can also be added for increased aerodynamics at the racetrack. At the rear is an adjustable wing also made of carbon fiber that was specially formed using Computational Fluid Dynamics. So just how much downforce does the ACR produce? Try 1,000 pounds at 150 mph. That's ten times what the standard Viper coupe produces.

Additional traction is provided by massive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires (295/35ZR/18 front, 345/30ZR/19 rear) that are just barely approved for street use. The ACR also benefits from a track-tuned suspension consisting of KW adjustable coilovers and a stiffer front stabilizer bar. The coilovers can be adjusted without removing the wheels, which means that making the switch between street and track settings is an easy task.

In addition to the fine-tuned suspension and aerodynamics, the ACR also benefits from lightweight components, particularly in the all-important area of rotating mass. Lightweight forged aluminum wheels knock off a few pounds, as do the two-piece Stoptech brakes for a total savings of 40 pounds. An optional hard-core package doubles that amount with the removal of the audio system, underhood silencer pad, trunk carpet, and tire inflator.

With so many go-fast goodies on board, I was dying to get behind the wheel of the ACR. Unfortunately, none of us Autobloggers have been able to convince Dodge to hand over a Viper to review, so our chances of nabbing an ACR were slim to none. While we haven't stopped pestering Dodge, we decided to try and find an owner who might let us get behind the wheel, and our search led us to the ViperAlley.com web site and forums. Fortunately, a member in Southern California had recently taken delivery of a brand new ACR and was willing to let us use the car for a photoshoot and get some driving impressions.

After meeting up with the owner and taking a few hours to get all the necessary photos, it was time to take the Snake for a ride. Despite my previous knowledge of the hot sidepipes and the large warning on the door sill, I still managed to singe the hair on my legs while entering the car. Once inside, the ACR is quite comfortable. It doesn't look too different than a normal Viper, especially since this owner decided to retain the sound system. The only difference is the strip of red leather on the steering wheel that is a continuation of the red stripe on the outside of the car. My only wish is that Dodge would have included 5-point harnesses like they did on the previous ACR. There's more than enough room for my 5'8" frame, and although the seats are fixed, taller drivers can easily fit due to the adjustable pedals.

The red start button behind the shifter brings the V10 to life. There's enough torque at idle to get the car going without even touching the throttle, and I'm not about to put the car sideways so I take off with minimal throttle. As I get up to speed I'm pleasantly surprised that the ACR is quite streetable. I was expecting to feel every pebble in the road, but the suspension is relatively compliant. The clutch is lighter than expected, and not much effort is required to move the shifter that changes gears smoothly and precisely. While I probably wouldn't recommend the ACR for a road trip, the owner picked up the car at a dealership in Blair, Nebraska and drove it all the way home to Southern California with no complaints. That should tell you something.

But that doesn't mean the Viper is tame by any means. Dip into the throttle and the ACR roars to life. The exhaust emits a wonderful, deep sound that could only come from a Viper V10. This car eats up the road both deceptively quick and with a brutality that borders on being vicious. I know the car is amazingly capable, but it still manages to exceed my expectations. The tires provide limitless grip, although I freely admit I wasn't close to discovering the ACR's full handling potential. The steering also proved to be responsive and direct with plenty of feedback.

While my short drive gave me just a hint of the ACR's performance, it would take a full day at the track to explore its limits. What I do know is that the Viper has returned to its glory days of being the biggest and baddest street machine on the road. Dodge has created something special with the ACR, and it's a steal at under $100,000. I can't imagine a car that would provide more thrills at anything close to this price tag. But then again, I'm biased.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own – we do not accept sponsored editorial.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      i still think the viper is one of the craziest, best, and most iconic cars ever
      its fast like a ferrari and mad like a lambo
      best of both worlds!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Thanks LCRacerX~Awesome,to much traffic tho~hate to see either one of these cars damamged~
      • 7 Years Ago
      When my wife (then GF) came to the USA to University, she went into a Dodge dealer to buy a new Neon. While there, she sat in a blue/white striped Viper. Love at first sight. She still tells me if she ever gets the cash, she wants a 1996 Viper (She calls it Wiper!)

      Your story reminded me of that Drew. Thanks. I've got a soft spot for Wipers myself. Great Car!
      • 7 Years Ago
      The Viper is every American Motorheads wet dream.

      It makes no excuses about being brutally fast and hard to manage.

      When Cerebus pulls the plug on the Viper, a little bit of all of us will die also.
        • 7 Years Ago
        When they pull the plug on Viper, Challenger will be KING and I happen to have a Limited Edition #904 of 6400 in my garage.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Hahah @ Greg: You're McFat, and so is your car.
        • 7 Years Ago

        Why will Challenger be KING? :/ I don't see how it would...it's not like it's wiping the floor with the competition.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Pagani = quintessentially insane Italian
        Viper = quitessentially insane American

        So Viper is basically a Pagani :P
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'll be in my bunk...
        • 7 Years Ago
        speak for yourself.
        • 7 Years Ago
        This is true. God I love the Viper.

        In order of obsession as things have progressed.
        Lamborghini Countach
        Dodge Viper
        SLR (I can admit to it, it lasted for about a year)
        Pagani Zonda F
        Pagani Zonda R

      • 7 Years Ago
      Did you purposely adjust the coilovers to thier max height? Cause it makes the car look like a 4X4.... I'd still hit it.

      So many beautiful pics to choose from, I wish they could all be my wallpaper.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Exactly what I was thinking looking at all the pics!!! It's impossible to choose just one... It definitely has more presence that most super cars; it's brutal!
      • 7 Years Ago
      One of the lucky guys in my car club just bought a convertible. LOVE IT!

      I first saw an artists drawing of a Viper in a 1989 "Dodge Adventurer" magazine...long before it was ever actually built. Fell in love with it then, and still want one. I prefer the GTS-R, but since that one isn't street legal, I'll have to settle for a GTS/coupe..I prefer the outlandish Snakeskin Green.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have never driven, but have ridden in a 2nd gen Viper...and man what a rush!!! The car was not the ACR version, but was more than freakin' fast and stuck to the road something fierce.They aren't as civilized as a Corvette, but I think that is what either appeals to people or doesn't. I'd take one of these babies, as a new playtoy any day of the week..
      • 7 Years Ago
      I feel like the Viper is the closest to getting a TVR Sagaris here in the US as possible. It might not have the flat out crazy design of a TVR but I like the idea of the only thing keeping you from crashing is your own skill.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I still love the Viper.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No video? please? with sound?
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is the only car I will lament losing if Chrysler goes under. What an unabashedly uncivilized and brutal machine. Wow.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Nebraska represent! Woodhouse sells so many SRT vehicles it's almost sickening.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X