2009 Viper New Car Test Drive
From any angle, a quick glance shows the Viper means business, with a body shaped as much for function as style. It is made of composite materials over a steel frame, with aluminum sills and strengthened cowl. If a Viper is menacing, the ACR is version is downright evil incarnate.
The Viper's sharp front edges and gaping maw are Braille for 'get out of my way.' A deep front spoiler and sloping hood wedged between two fenders help keep it from going airborne at three-mile-a-minute speeds, as does the subtle rear wing, rear suspension belly pan and the sizable diffuser under the rear end; don't back this up anywhere near a curb.
Cooling air is funneled in through the trademark four-slot grille and exhausted through six extractor vents in the hood; when idling or moving very slowly the hot air wafting out those vents makes the forward view distorted much like the rear window glass. Even the bubble top roof serves a purpose, enabling the occupants to fit with helmets on.
The roadster's folding soft top is manually-operated and stows neatly behind the seats but you must get out of the car to complete the five-second operation. The glass rear window has a defroster so visibility equals the coupe, and headroom is similar.
Xenon headlamps are standard, finally endowing the Viper with suitable vision for night drives; the snake's head center brake light continues. And like the earliest Vipers, the exhaust pipes, even on GTS coupes, exit right under the door ahead of the rear-wheel; expect drive-through attendants to ask you to turn it off so they can hear you.
The fuel tank is a bit smaller at 16 gallons (compared with the previous 18.5), but the engine is more efficient so range isn't severely impacted. Besides, 2.5 gallons of gas is just an extra 15 pounds you don't need in a race car.
Eight color choices are offered, with five choices in stripe color to complement or counter the primary shade. There are also three choices in wheels, although none is said to be significantly lighter than the others, so choosing them is mostly a style consideration.
The term cockpit applies as well to a Viper as any other car. A simple push on the button release atop the door pops it open, and it's not a big opening requiring a smidge of slide and contort slightly to get in. However, once inside you will find surprising head and legroom given the car's external dimensions (less than four feet high) and the fact that you are essentially wedged between the engine/gearbox and exhaust pipes.
Although the seats sport long cushions for thigh support and big bolsters to keep you contained, you wouldn't slide far without them given the wall-size center console and door adjacent. Seat controls are manual and limited to forward and backward; there's no lumbar or cushion height adjustment, but the tilt wheel and power adjustable pedals help everyone fit. The pedals are offset to the left a bit and include a dead pedal to brace your left foot on when not shifting, but the floating gas pedal is not ideal for heel-and-toe pedaling.
Leather trims the steering wheel and shift knob, while seats have suede-like center sections with color options; the seat sides and interior are all black. It's not fancy in here, with plastic a frequent surface because it's light, inexpensive, easy to clean, and easy to cut up to add a roll cage, light and radio switching, and so forth.
Dead ahead of the driver is the tachometer, with fuel to the left and speed to the right; the Viper won't run to the top number (220 mph) but it will go well 'round. Some mental recalibration may be in order as most cars are not traveling 110 mph with the needle straight up.
Sloping down to the right of the wheel are oil pressure (closest to line of sight, where it should be), oil temperature, water temperature, and voltage. All instruments are black numbers on white faces and an easy read, although the oil pressure gauge reflects in the windshield at night. The bezels around the gauges may be optioned up in different trim.
In keeping with its strictly (go fast) business attitude, the steering wheel has just one button on it: the horn. And there are no cup holders. You might feel tempted to Zip-tie your commuter cup to a roll bar and run a hose out of it for sipping, through your helmet, of course.
Air conditioning is standard and quickly cools the tiny volume of air space inside, and in warm weather the engine and pipes surrounding you can quickly turn the cockpit into a mild oven. You can now add navigation to the electronic entertainment, but your phone should be stowed; they'd never hear you over the din.
Visibility is relatively good for a low-slung beast. The mirrors aren't filled by the fat rear fenders and although the glass backlight might distort them, sizable objects are easily detected behind. The windshield doesn't blend in to the roof as on some cars, so the forward view upward is marginal; you may need to lean forward and peer up to see traffic lights, and the rearview mirror and right front fender conspire to make a very small area to see what's up and to the right, such as sharp uphill right-handers or merging traffic.
Dodge claims trunk space of 14.6 cubic feet under the large hatch opening, but that seems optimistic; maybe they're including the rear suspension and fuel tank in that figure. That said, the GTS does have enough room for a couple of overnight bags or maybe your helmet and driving suit. There's no spare tire, instead there's a small air compressor and fix-kit; that makes sense because there'd be nowhere to put a massive, flat tire.
The roadster's trunk is notably smaller but it can still hold a wheeled suitcase and carry-on bags. If the top is up there is space behind the seats for jackets and lighter items; this space disappears with the top down but trunk space does not change.
The roadster also comes across as quieter sometimes as it's less of an echo chamber, but it is otherwise similar to the GTS and just.