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2004 Dodge Viper

By Eric Peters

dodge_viper70.jpg

Like the Loch Ness monster and the Abominable Snowman, humongous engines are supposed to be extinct--the stuff of legends and remnants of a time when no one cared how many miles per gallon it got, just how much power it made. And, mostly, they are. The last of the big-inch stompers--Pontiac's 7.4-liter 455--disappeared beneath the waterline after the 1976 model year, almost 30 years ago. By then it had been reduced to a pathetic 200 horsepower anyhow--so no one missed it much. "Efficient" design became the new religion: power made with turbos, DOHC cylinder heads, and variable valve timing--instead of old-timey cubic inches. Five-liter V-8s were considered pretty impressive well through the early 1990s.

But then the Dodge Viper appeared in 1992--and seared a massive Positraction burnout on the collective consciousness of the driving public.

Things haven't been the same since.

Armed with a V-10 engine packing two more cylinders and more displacement than any muscle-car engine of the 1960s, the Viper reminded the driving public how much fun overkill could be. We don't need no stinkin' four-valve cylinder heads! Give us hardened-steel pushrods, pistons the size of Maxwell House coffee cans--and the frame-twisting torque of an idling Kenworth!

All that was missing from the original Viper R/T 10 was a pair of ravenous 850 CFM Carter four-barrels to dump fuel into the angry beast; these were replaced by less-environmentally noxious port fuel injection.

But hey, we'll take it. Read More >>

COPYRIGHT 2004 ERIC PETERS

2004 Dodge Viper

continued

By Eric Peters

For '04 the Viper expands upon the fine American tradition of Too Much Can Never Be Enough. The troglodyte V-10 is even more massive, punched out to an almost unbelievable 8.3 liters. That works out to in excess of 505 cubic inches, the equivalent of one 2004 Corvette 5.7-liter V-8 plus one average-size V-6--or three Honda Accord engines. It's also 80 cubes bigger than the legendary Dodge 426 Street Hemi that was perhaps the ultimate muscle-car engine of the 1960s and '70s.

Super-size me!

Hit the racecar-style red starter button, and the huge engine rumpety-rumps to life with the happy sound of 500 horsepower--as much as a Winston Cup stocker, and sufficient for 190-plus mph on the top if you're brave enough. The quarter mile can be obliterated in 11.77 seconds, ending at 123.63 mph. Zero to 60 takes but 3.9 seconds--2 or 3 full seconds less than most of today's "quick" sports cars, like the Nissan 350Z, Mazda RX8, and BMW Z4. Brain-smashing "Fast and Furious" kids in their fart-can-equipped, winged-up, and spoilered-to-the-max Mitsubishi Evos is a simple matter of pushing down on the accelerator. To beat the Viper in a four-wheeled anything is as remote and unlikely a prospect as a Dennis Kucinich presidency. You'd need a GSXR1100 or CBR900RR sport bike to put the Viper in its place, and even then, it'd be a scary-close race--for the bike. Read More >>

COPYRIGHT 2004 ERIC PETERS

2004 Dodge Viper

continued

By Eric Peters

The Viper delivers this dominating performance with relatively low compression (9.6:1), a mild street cam, and just two valves per cylinder--proving once again the maxim that there is indeed no replacement for displacement, and that easy power is the best power of all.

In the great tradition of the best street-muscle motors of the '60s and '70s--the '71 Buick GS Stage I 455 comes to mind--the Viper's engine doesn't need to break a sweat to unleash hell. In fact, it hardly needs to be revved past a fast idle to produce more total horsepower than all but a handful of the most-extreme high-performance sports cars screaming at their redlines. And past 4,000 rpm, when the full fury of those ten cylinders comes into blossom, the number of production cars--at any price--that can stand up to the Viper dwindles to fewer than you can count on one hand.

On the road, the double-overdrive, six-speed Tremec T-56 manual transmission (0.74:1 in fifth; 0.50:1 in sixth) allows the engine to lope along at 80 mph--and to return as much as 20 mpg doing it, a miracle of engineering on par with the oozing stigmata of a life-size cement Elvis.

But stab the throttle just a little bit--or drop the transmission down a gear or two--and the mayhem begins.

Torque output is a steroidal 525 pound-feet--90 percent of this at your service starting at 1,500 rpm--which in a 3,380-pound car provides overwhelming, on-the-edge-of-unmanageable acceleration capability that strains the limits of all but the most skilled drivers. Even with a Dana 44 Hydra-Lok torque-sensing limited-slip axle, 19-inch rims, and 30-series Michelin rubber to spread the load, this one can get away from you even faster than its 3.9-seconds-to-60-mph capability. Read More >>

COPYRIGHT 2004 ERIC PETERS

2004 Dodge Viper

continued

By Eric Peters

Launching the Viper properly is no easy thing, and takes time to learn--hit it wrong, and the back end will snap around violently like an angry rattler. And there's no traction control to help lightweights who bought the car for "stylin' and profilin'"--but who are in way over their heads. No automatic transmission, either.

This isn't a Corvette, after all.

And that's a big part of the car's charm: The Viper is not a car to be fooled with--and that advice includes whoever dares get behind the wheel.

On a skid pad, the Viper is capable of lateral acceleration approaching 1.15 g--so it's a really good thing there are harnesses and race buckets to keep you in place. Stomp the four-piston Brembo brakes and the Viper can come to an asphalt-ripping stop from 60 mph in less than 100 feet--sufficient to send your dentures flying out of your mouth if they're not glued in tight. It is a car that can go from 0 to 100 mph and back to 0 in less than 13 seconds, better even than Caroll Shelby's mighty AC 427 Cobra side-oiler. Exploiting this level of capability will challenge you beyond what you thought possible in a factory-built "production car"--unless you have an F1 license and plenty of seat time on the CART circuit.

As ultra-performance cars go, there's nothing out there that's hairier than the Viper--a machine as intimidating to people who haven't got the native skill, training--and nerves of steel--to keep it under control as it is to the frightened folk around it. There are only a few new cars left that need more than a couple of hours to master. This is one of them. Your reward, though, is the same sense of accomplishment a champion bronco buster must feel. It is a "driver's car" in the proper meaning of that much-overused term.

Even more hilarious than the Viper's overkill power and capability, however, is its tantalizing accessibility. At $80,995, a new Viper is not a casual purchase by any means--but then again, it's not completely out of the question, either. A guy who can afford a $38,000 SUV--that is, almost all of us--could figure out a way to finagle a Viper. It might take some shuffling; the wife might not dig it--and his kid could wind up having to hawk some McNuggets to finance that college education--but it's definitely doable. A turbo AWD Porsche 911 or a new Ferrari 575M is completely out of the question, short of mortgaging everything and sleeping in the thing. The calloused, non-Ivy League hands of Joe Sixpack will almost certainly never lay hands on the steering wheel of a car like that.

But having a Viper in the garage--a machine the equal of anything on the road at any price short of an afterburning F-18 Hornet--is not an impossible dream.

Just a nightmare for every quarter-million-dollar Ferrari owner out there.

Discuss this and other new cars in the Automobile Forum

COPYRIGHT 2004 ERIC PETERS

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Texas   
Texas

Leider ist die2004er Viper nicht mehr die Design-Ikone, die speziel der GTS war, die Inkarnation des Musclecars, 04 erinnert mich irgendwie an den MX 5.

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Azrael1965   
Azrael1965

Finde die neue Viper sieht sogar besser aus, aber mir gefällt ja auch der Mx-5 nicht schlecht. :)

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Texas   
Texas

Das ist ja zum Glück Geschmackssache, aber ich mag den MX5 auch,würd ich meiner Tochter durchaus zum 18. schenken.Wenn ich allerdings 100000euro ausgebe, erwarte ich ein anderes Design als das eines 20000euro Autos. Ausserdem ist es mir zu unamerikanisch.

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Azrael1965   
Azrael1965

Naja das Design vom 2004 Viper ist immer noch aggressiver als alles was man hier in Europa sieht.

Ausserdem gibt es ja noch immer den Competition Coupe.

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Texas   
Texas
:-(((° Schön wärs, nach meinen Informationen gibt es kein Coupe mehr, und wird es auch keines mehr geben.Aber ich lasse mich auch gerne eines besseren belehren1

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