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2015 Dodge Viper SRT First Impression

I stood pensively on the tarmac awaiting my name to be called. Part of my inner monologue was constantly wishing for my name to next; the other hoping it would be skipped so as to avoid the sheer terror of what was about to happen.

Being a professional, I know sometimes we need to do things that scare us. It’s the nature of the job. And, slowly, while chain-smoking far away from the others, I came to the realization that everything would be OK.

Then my name was called, and all the fear came rushing back like a tsunami.

It was my turn to drive the Viper.

What is the Dodge Viper SRT?
Powered by an enormous 640-hp 8.4L V10, the latest Viper is the culmination of over 20 years of history of the supercar at Dodge. 

For 2015, its name changes back to Dodge Viper (after being on secondment to the now defunct SRT brand), and a new GT model is introduced with a lower price point.

While always thought of as Dodge’s answer to the Chevrolet Corvette, it was initially conceived as a modern day Cobra, and it was just as unforgiving, too. The current generation Viper, introduced at the 2012 New York Auto Show, isn’t as hardcore as it once was.

Driving the 2015 Dodge Viper SRT
My time spent with the Viper, just like the Alfa Romeo 4C, was short and sweet. 

We were at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan, where the Pentastar brand is able to test all their newest models in relative secrecy.

As I climbed into the 10-cylinder American thoroughbred, electricity immediately coursed through my veins. I had never driven a Viper. Not once. Not ever. And here I was, entrusted with one of the looniest cars on the planet… on an autocross track.

The tarmac that played host to the coned autocross course was smooth as glass, so ride quality impressions are useless for the purpose of this review. But, I can tell you one thing: if this is the toned-down Viper, I’m doubly afraid to drive one from a previous generation.

As I headed out to the entrance of the track, everything felt as I expected. Almost all the driving controls were heavy. The steering was heavy, the shifter was heavy, and the clutch was heavy. Even the seat I was sitting in, somehow, felt heavy.

The marshal at the entrance gave me the all-clear to go and I was off like a bat out of hell.

As the Viper entered the first corner, I could tell it was going to be a wild, quick drive though the cones. And, by the second corner, I found out why.

Our course was made so the Fiat 500 Abarth could make use of 2nd and, sometimes, 3rd gear for the duration of the lap. In a Viper, if you are in 2nd gear and give it just a hair too much loud pedal coming out of a corner, you will spin -- and I almost did, taking out a few innocent orange triangular bystanders.

While the Viper is a grip machine, it also has a massive V10 engine putting out enough power to combat any forces of tire-on-tarmac grip. It really is one of the few death machines one can buy for just over $100,000.

Inside and Out of the 2015 Dodge Viper SRT
After my near-pirouette, I decided to tone it down a bit and drive well within my own limits. This gave me a moment to look around the cabin a bit.

The Viper has never been considered a luxury supercar. It’s more “blue collar” than cordon bleu. When it was first released, it was relatively attainable, and one could see why.

Previous generations of the Viper were pretty bare-bones, with metal adorning the interior without the benefit of carpeted coverings. They were raw and unapologetic.

The current Viper has grown up massively. The interior is an actual interior. There is an infotainment system. The seats, while quite racy and heavily bolstered, are still comfortable.

It’s still no luxury car, no matter how many stereo speakers they cram into it (19 speakers, if you’re wondering, which is silly).

Outside, the Viper stays true to its roots with a silhouette resembling that of its namesake. It definitely won’t be confused for anything other than a Viper, and that’s all it needs to do. It’s brilliant.

Would I buy one for over $100,000? Probably not. But that’s because there’s a new 707-hp Dodge Charger sitting on the same lot with -- hear this -- four doors and a trunk.

However, the new entry-level 2015 Viper GT model, if they can bring the price down far enough, will be the supercar bargain of the century.

Comparing the 2015 Dodge Viper SRT
The Viper definitely punches -- or bites -- above its weight.

Want American? The logical competitor is the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. However, if you aren’t constrained to our own continental borders, numerous Porsche 911s are available, as is the Nissan GT-R.