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2006 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe Review

Cult Car

In short: A street-legal race car for [almost] everybody.

The Viper cult may sound like something from an Indiana Jones movie, but for seventeen years, sports car enthusiasts have been flocking to the Dodge Viper with religious devotion. Even before hitting the streets in 1992, the worldwide faithful were seduced by the Viper concept at the 1989 North American International Auto Show and by the production version that debuted in 1991 as the Indianapolis 500 pace car.

Years later and now in its second generation, there is still nothing quite like it on the road. The Viper’s styling, like it or not, is distinctive and continues to turn heads. With its ferocious 8.3-liter V10 engine, it has the strength of a tractor and the speed of a bullet. However, it’s very basic and not that comfortable. It’s loud and the interior gets very hot. There are no cup holders, nor any luxury appointments. Yet, devoted cult members are willing to overlook these nitpicks because the Viper comes as close to driving a race car as you can get while still being street legal.

Slip into the snug cockpit, buckle up, engage the twelve-inch clutch, push the red starter button and then synchronize your heart with the purr of the monstrous aluminum V10. You’re ready to go. And go quickly you will, as a big grin on your face emerges while the Viper strikes up to 60 mph in less than four seconds. You’ll want to open it up like this wherever and whenever possible, and we suggest booking some track time to see exactly how much opening up it’s capable of.

If the standard 510 horses aren’t enough for you, try car tuner Hennessey’s twin-turbo version that boasts double the torque and horsepower (yes, double!). The fact that it can handle that much punch is a credit to the Team Viper engineers’ unique fine-tuned chassis and powertrain.

The standard Viper’s steering is very precise and its power delivery constant. This is a true enthusiast’s car and there are no electronics to bring the car back if you start to slide. The 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires do a great job of gluing the Viper to the road in most conditions, but drivers simply have to learn how to moderate the accelerator pedal carefully. If that fails, its huge fourteen-inch vented ABS brakes can stop you in a hurry – in fact, the Viper can impressively go from zero to 100 mph and back down to zero in less than fifteen seconds.

Although you might miss snake worship on your days away from it, the Viper wouldn’t make a good everyday car. The interior offers decent headroom and leg-friendly adjustable pedals, but it’s pretty cramped with limited shoulder space, and the engine’s side-port exhaust heats up the cockpit like a Coleman barbecue. The trunk is big enough for a golf bag or some groceries, but there is otherwise very little storage space.

This limited mode of transportation might not be for everyone, but it’s a fun back-to-basics car. It relies on pure force to create a very special high-performance package at an affordable price - at least compared to equally fast supercars.

The Viper had established itself as the quintessential American sports car until the C5 Corvette came along in 1997. Although it has lost ground to its Chevy competition, it is still awesome and we know Dodge is working hard on putting its automotive icon definitively back on top. With about 4,000 registered Viper cult members in 40 worldwide owners clubs, there should be plenty of fanfare if and when it happens.

Read more about the Viper's history

Read a review of the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe

Warranty/Service: Three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty; three-year/36,000-mile powertrain warranty; towing assistance during warranty.

Base Price: $83,145 /As tested: $86.995

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 3-door coupe

Engine: 8.3-liter V10
Horsepower: 510 bhp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 535lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual

Curb weight: 3410 lbs
Wheelbase: 98.8 in
175.6/75.2/48.6 in
Turning circle: 40.5 feet

Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS
independent front and rear
limited slip differential

Safety: front air bags, passenger air bag on/off switch

0-60 mph: 3.9 seconds (est.)
Top Speed: 190 mph

EPA City: 12 mpg
EPA Highway: 20 mpg
Gas Guzzler Tax: $3,000

Likes: decadent power; original styling; maximum driving fun

Dislikes: raw everything; interior lacks style; basic components

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Photography: AlphaMedia

(Updated 01/23/09 SV)