Road Test: 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2010.
By Shaun Bailey of Road & Track
Sink your right foot to the wood in a new Dodge Viper and — Hello, hyperdrive. Pulling hard in 1st is all about maintaining restraint. Too much gusto and the rear tires lose bite, but get it right and this Snake-Skin Green Viper will distort long-to-short like a carnival mirror. Straight sections of pavement are devoured in voracious gulps and belching exhaust rips. At full lunge, this 600-horsepower monster pummels the senses with thrust and a cacophony of exhaust blat that deafens passengers and onlookers alike. The Viper is all-consuming, compelling and corrupting — look out, Z06.
The introduction was held at beautiful Virginia International Raceway. Members of the press were allowed to lap the north course with little restraint. Back in 1992, the original 400-bhp Viper RT/10 was pegged as a brute. This SRT10 hasn't lost that hairy-knuckled character — going through the kink at VIR's straight isn't supposed to be difficult, but with 600 horses and a theoretically possible 150-mph cornering speed, it surely is.
Before heading onto the track, I sit in queue on pit lane, thinking hard about my mortality and watching others fly into Turn 1 — and, as if on cue, a Venom Red Viper spins in the kink at over 130 mph. All that's seen for 800 feet is a haze of tire smoke. The driver escapes with tires flat-spotted to the cords. I remind myself to concentrate. The Viper, for all its brute force, rewards smoothness with a precision typically reserved for race cars. Lose concentration, even for an instant, and the Viper will bite you.
To thumb their noses at the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, SRT engineers injected the Viper with an extra 90 bhp and 35 lb.-ft. of torque. It's not evident from the exterior, but many drivetrain changes have been made. To meet future emissions requirements, a variable valve timing system was designed that employs a 2-piece camshaft. A hollow camshaft drives the intake valves, while a solid shaft mounted inside it can be rotated independently up to 40 degrees to vary the exhaust timing. This helps optimize valve overlap at low and high engine speeds. While reengineering the block for the cam, the bore was increased by 1 mm, bumping displacement from 8.3 to 8.4 liters.
The cylinder heads have Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC)-machined combustion chambers and intake ports that result in better-balanced breathing and increased compression. Larger valves and smooth- bore intake runners improve pumping efficiency, while offset rockers improve valve angles. Twin electronic throttles that route air through the longer 2-piece intake tract also give better cylinder distribution. The once-simple valve covers now have plug coils mounted on them, a modern approach that also adds to visual complexity. The bottom end uses a larger oil pump with a swinging pickup, a technology employed on Viper competition engines, that should prevent oil starvation — particularly important now that the car corners even harder than it used to. Pistons use larger-diameter wrist pins and bronze bushings for improved load capacity. But it didn't stop there, as the extra power requires extra driveline strength.
The once-heavy clutch is now a Sachs twin-disc unit that reduces rotating inertia by 18 percent yet can handle the torque. When combined with the improved pedal-motion ratio, the result is pedal effort that seems almost too light for the Viper's brutish character. The Tremec 6-speed transmission now features larger gears, improved synchronizers and shorter throws that result in lever movements that are better than those in the newly refined Corvettes. For racers, there are now provisions for adding an external transmission cooler. And that's really what the Viper is meant for — racing.
There is no cupholder or traction control for a reason. The Viper is a track car; as such it comes equipped with enormous 14.0-in. brake rotors front and rear, an aggressive speed-sensing GKN Visco-Lok differential, massive tires, forged wheels and springs that are 5 percent stiffer than before.
A big change that has drastically affected the Viper's ride and handling is an upgrade from the run-flat Michelin Pilot Sports to a new, custom tire. Labeled as Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s, they are actually made specifically for the Viper with Michelin's more aggressive "R" compound from the Pilot Sport Cup tire. To better utilize these non-run-flat models, camber was increased in the front to -1.4 degrees and at the rear to -1.2. This improves turn-in, but makes the car a bit more nervous — particularly noticeable in the slalom, where the car could have been quicker if it weren't so darty. Another half-degree of caster was added to help stabilize the car; maybe it needs more? To compensate for a steady-state understeer, the rear anti-roll bar was made solid. The result is a sensitive and responsive handling package that never wallows or hesitates in a corner. It is very direct and takes a steady hand to pilot. With a top speed of over 200 mph, the new Viper is one serpent to be reckoned with.
To spot the Viper with the most venom, just look for the slightly larger hood vents and the optional Razor wheels, as shown on our test car. But more important, pay attention to its colors and stripes. An array of metallic paints is now available, in wild, vibrant colors. We would expect future owners of this Viper to be just as wild and colorful, and have a good appreciation for the smell of burning rubber.