The Dodge Viper ACR Puts Other So-Called Track Cars to Shame

Meet America’s race car.

Oct 23, 2015 @ 3:56 PM

Editor’s note: We learned today that ​Fiat Chrysler will end production of the Dodge Viper in 2017. America’s racecar will surely be missed. 

“Race car for the street” is a misappropriated phrase, applied to everything from Porsche 911 GT3s to your cousin’s Honda Civic with the stickers and the big wing on the trunk. When you hear of some new machine described as a race car, that’s typically just shorthand for a predictable roster of modifications: more power, stickier tires, maybe a few pounds less weight. Fine, but not a race car. You want to see what one of those looks like, take a gander at the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR.

The name stands for American Club Racer, and the premise is that this is a car you could drive to a track and enter in a race without any major modifications. Although that might not be wise, as I imagine each highway expansion joint would feel like a Ronda Rousey jab to the kidneys. I say imagine because Dodge confined the Viper ACR’s official launch to the car’s more natural element, that contorted ribbon of driving nirvana known as Virginia International Raceway. No expansion joints here. High-speed esses, plunging off-cambers, fifth-gear kinks —it’s got all of that.

This, without any caveats or hyperbole, is America’s race car.

Letting a bunch of journalists loose on a track with ACRs might seem like asking for disaster, but what Dodge knew is that none of us would crash the car because we’d never test its limits. Say you’re in a sustained high-speed corner, pulling a full g. That’s around the limit for most high-performance track cars, like Ferraris and Corvettes. In the ACR, though, at 1.0 g you’re barely past the halfway point. This car will pull 1.5 g’s in sustained cornering. The faster you go, the harder it grips. The average brain cannot comprehend that kind of voodoo.

Aerodynamics is key. Equipped with its Extreme Aero Package, the Viper effectively becomes an upside-down airplane wing, and as the speedometer climbs, the bodywork levers itself ever harder toward the pavement. At the ACR’s top speed, 177 mph, the Viper generates 1,710 pounds of downforce. It’s like having the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line sitting on the roof, crushing the car onto the track. Watch the cars go past on the VIR front straight, hitting the kink at about 140 mph, and they look about 2 inches lower than they did standing still back in the pits. That’s because they are.

Before we take test laps, the Viper team pairs each driver with an instructor, someone to tell us to cool it if we’re retreating too deeply into our Lewis Hamilton delusions. I climb in with a genial fellow named Bernie. The ACR’s air conditioning automatically cuts out at full throttle to save horsepower, so Bernie asks if we want to be sweaty with the windows down or sweaty with the windows up. I opt for down, the better to hear the Viper side-pipe-exhaust drama.

Then we hit VIR’s 4.1-mile Grand West Course. On slow corners that require pure grip, the Kumho Ecsta V720 tires—developed specifically for this car—let out a low howl as they approach the limit. On fast corners the downforce is so great that the front splitter and rear diffuser grind on the pavement, despite Bilstein coil-over springs that are three times as stiff as those on the standard Viper.

I never quite figure out the braking zones—the carbon–ceramic brakes are so monstrously powerful that even late braking often turns out to be too early. If there’s any ill behavior to be found in the ACR, it’s that trail braking, or braking as you turn into a corner, elicits some unsettled tail wagging. Perhaps it’s because you scrub speed too fast—all those linemen instantly jumping off the roof. I’m sure you could learn how to manage that tendency, even use it to your advantage. That’s what a race driver would do. And this, without any caveats or hyperbole, is America’s race car.

Advertisements

2016 Dodge Viper SRT GT Track Review

By Mathieu St-Pierre

2016 Dodge Viper SRT GT Track Review

A Viper is an elusive thing, and I am taking about the car. The snake is found pretty much the world over. For a car that retails for only $93,000, there should be more on the road. I know what I just wrote reads kind of dumb, but in today’s world a $100,000 BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche or Corvette are nearly commonplace.

In my semi-long-ish career, I’ve only encountered a Viper on two occasions: The first was 10 years ago; the second, just recently. The SRT-10 and I spent a few hours together getting acquainted, and I was left in awe of the car’s absolutely raw nature. This time round, a GT and I went through two rounds of speed dating.

Every summer, FCA puts together a full-line party at their Chelsea MI proving grounds. It was at this gathering that I blasted through a series of cones with one 645-horsepower untamed Snake.

Cones, not really a track
One of the activities was a slalom where various performance FCA cars could be put through their paces. I started off in a Fiat 500 Abarth, moved on to a Charger Hellcat then a Challenger of the same origin, until I finally graduated to the Viper. I thought I was going to be ready, but I wasn’t quite warmed up enough.

Like trying to chew on a giant gobstopper, you know it’s impossible but you also know that it’ll be worth it. I dropped in the Viper, whacked my head on the roof on my way down, and attempted to settle in as best I could. I’d wrongly imagined that the transition from the Challenger to the Viper was going to be seamless or at least close.

I like tight places
The Viper’s cockpit is miniscule, cramped even, but this is after all as near a street-legal racecar as can be. There are many amenities to speak of such as a 12-speaker audio system, Uconnect with 8.4” screen with navigation, and the race-inspired bucket seats are covered in Nappa leather with alcantara inserts. One could say that the interior is semi-luxurious. But all of this is fluff.

Once in the car, I was rushed to adjust my bearings. There is no telescoping wheel, the pedals are power adjustable as are the seat settings, but no matter what I tried to do, I couldn’t get comfy. Perhaps that’s not the point but I’m certain that in better circumstances, I could have at least settled in.

Being the male-monkey that I am, I immediately began searching for the ESC button. It is located on the steering wheel for easy access, so I couldn’t find it in time… The Viper GT has a 5-mode Electronic Stability Control system so I was hoping to take advantage of some flexibility in the available grip.

Not good
My first run was something of a disaster. I stupidly upshifted into 2nd and left it there, which turned out to be pointless and time sapping. The mighty V10 snored and snorted its disapproval. As an FYI, you can near reach 60 mph (!) in 1st gear and 90 in 2nd…

Even so, I found myself navigating the cones with insane speed. I expected (but didn’t expect) the good old hydraulic power steering to be so sharp and respond so quickly. The massive Brembo brakes crushed whatever speed the V10 mustered, even at the end of the entry straight where I managed about 80mph in mere moments.

BTW, the Viper GT will mangle your brain on its way to 60mph as it covers it in 3.3 seconds. In metric numbers, that’s 130 (80mph) and 96km/h. Top speed is over 200mph or 320km/h.

Better
The second run was better as I upshifted into 2nd at first to tap max velocity through the entry straight. I immediately heel-toed into 1st once off the brakes to tackle the autocross. With engine revs near the 5,000-rpm mark, all 600 torques were always in play, making for violent shots forward as the steering wheel unwound. Also, this time, I managed to set the ESP to Track mode. In said mode, the Viper will allow loads of sliding, almost too much for the speed at which I was travelling, as the rear would step out hard if the front wheels were not fully straightened.

I wish I’d had more time with the Viper. The visceral, untamed beast demands respect and attention, and I wanted nothing more than to give it what it deserved. Sadly, Dodge Vipers are a very rare sight on Canadian press car fleets; much like seeing a viper north of the Arctic Circle.

Other fish in the sea
I did come across an unexpected competitor to the Viper: the Mercedes-AMG GT S. Both are as unpolished as any high-end luxurious high-performance car can be without cutting on luxury features. Both are brash and loud. Oddly, I was allowed to keep the $149,900 ($165,000 as tested) GT for an entire week, while the Viper GT ($102,995) is not available.

I suspected that few would cross-shop the AMG and the Viper; they’d more likely swing by a Chevrolet dealer and take a look at the Corvette. At just under $91, the Z06 is right up the Snake’s alley.

I’m game for a second date
My first date with the 2016 Dodge Viper GT was brief, and although my first impressions weren’t as favourable as they could have been, the car’s curves are incentive enough to give the cold-blooded reptile a second chance.

Dodge Viper ACR: The Barely Legal Race Car For The Street

When it comes to street cars, the term “downforce” is used quite loosely. Back when Lamborghini rolled out the Gallardo LP-560, they claimed that it had something like 200 pounds more downforce than the original Gallardo. I subsequently hit 200 mph in that caron a runway in Florida—World Class Driving’s 200 MPH Club—and at high speeds, the steering felt spooky, like the front end wanted to float off the road. When I asked a Lamborghini rep whether “more downforce” meant there actually was any downforce, or simply less lift, I learned it was the latter. The car still wanted to fly away, but not quite as badly as before. In the realm of street cars, aerodynamic neutrality is considered an achievement, because at least the car is predisposed to remain earthbound. The Dodge Viper, for instance, makes a negligible 75 pounds of downforce at its 206 mph top speed.

The Dodge Viper ACR, though—that’s another matter.

Dodge Viper ACR: The Barely Legal Race Car For The Street

The ACR brings the usual track-rat hardware that you’d expect on a hardcore performance machine, equipment like carbon-ceramic brakes, super-sticky tires and height-adjustable coil-over Bilstein suspension. But the differentiating factor, the one that will likely ensure lap-time dominance from the Nurburgring to New Jersey Motorsports Park, is the aero package. Specifically, the optional “Extreme Aero Package.” So fitted, the Viper’s top speed drops from 206 mph to 177 mph. But at 177, it’s making 1,710 pounds of downforce. And the various wings, trays and escarpments start to have an effect before you’re even out of first gear. This is a downforce car, the real deal, a complete alien among raced-up street cars.

To get the most out of a downforce car, you must embrace the idea that higher speeds equate to more grip, the counterintuitive notion that sometimes you’ll need to go faster to make a corner. You might need to be a race driver. Thankfully, Yahoo! has one, in Mr. Alex Lloyd. And when Dodge introduced the ACR at Virginia International Raceway, I met up with Alex to find out what the Viper could do in the hands of someone who’s set a 225-mph lap at Indy.

image

Chrysler, no dummies, required us to drive with an instructor riding shotgun, someone to call foul if we began to feel too aero-invincible. Apparently nobody told these people thatAlex might have a slightly more advanced skill set than the rest of the journalists, and his first instructor had a fit or two of apoplexy, something along the lines of “You’re gonna kill us all, driving like that!” Alex, too gracious to pull a “Do you know who I am?” retort, simply slowed down.

Apparently, someone later clued her in to his resume, because I later saw her approach in the pits and apologize. Alex, of course, was gracious. I wondered why none of the instructors—including that one—ever admonished me to slow down.Actually, I do know. It’s because I never trusted the aero, never fully bought into the ideathat this car can handle VIR’s climbing esses probably as quick as you’d care to take them, with 1.5-g of sustained high-speed lateral grip at your disposal. As Alex points out,“It takes some time to wrap your head around the idea that, ‘I don’t have the grip for this corner right now, but if I go 10 mph faster then I will.’”

image

Many cars with aero accouterments wear them as an affectation of speed, but on the ACR it’s all to a purpose. The front splitter and rear diffuser are designed as consumable parts, replaceable when you grind them away on the track. (And despite springs that are twice as stiff as a Viper T/A’s, you do bottom out in corners thanks to the heavy hand of downforce). Carbon dive planes adorn the front fenders. The greatest feature is the removable fender vents, which allow air to blow out the top of the fender rather than linger around and create any hint of lift. There are these giant holes atop the fenders, and you peer down through and see the tires right there, just like the NASCAR-ready Plymouth Superbirds of yore. It’s the closest thing to an open-wheel car you’re going to see on the street.

Most cars, even ones that are built to a particular goal, are compromised in some way. Not the Viper ACR. Everything about it serves the goal of going as fast as possible on a racetrack, from the specially developed Kuhmo Ecsta tires to those ceramic Brembos to the 10-position Bilstein Motorsport suspension. It’s a thunderous, rough-riding, gas-guzzling, $117,895 two-seat track slayer. This is the Viper at its best—and its worst, for that matter. The air conditioning stops working when you’re at full throttle, so the Chrysler engineers told us we could be hot with the windows up, or hot with them down. Our choice.

The last ACR wore a map of the Nurburgring on its wing, symbolizing its ownership of the Nordschleife production-car lap record. The new ACR hasn’t yet collected that trophy, but it’s probably only a matter of time. “I’ve never driven a street car with downforce like that,” Alex said when he pulled into the pits. And maybe he still hasn’t. This is a racecar with a license plate

2016 Dodge Viper ACR First Drive

The Viper Goes Beast Mode

2016 Dodge Viper ACR front 3/4 view

The Dodge Viper is not a comfortable car. Livable, yes. The interior is covered in fine materials. But you still climb over a hot door sill to enter the tiny cabin. And the frequency range of the engine’s noises seem specifically designed to cause headaches.

What happens, then, if you remove all pretense of civility from a Viper and add equipment solely aimed at improving lap times? You would have the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR. In terms of achieving its purpose, this car is a absolute success. In many ways it’s also the most honest Viper of the current generation.

Prices start at $121,990 (including $2,100 gas-guzzler tax and $1,995 destination), or $32,900 more than the least expensive Viper. In ACR trim, the Viper loses the under-carpet padding, 9 of 12 speakers plus amplifier, carpet and trim from the cargo area, and sound deadening in front of the rear wheel wells. The parts of the interior still covered add healthy amounts of Alcantara or optional carbon fiber. That weight loss is compensated by the addition of go-fast bits like the giant rear wing (or the larger “x-wing” on the Extreme Aero Package), 10-way adjustable Bilstein Motorsports shocks, Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, a rear diffuser, and a front splitter. Total claimed curb weight is 3,392 pounds in Aero trim (standard ACR trim is 18 pounds lighter), which is within a few stone of the rest of the Viper lineup. The diffuser strakes and leading edge of the splitter are removable, made to be replaced after rubbing on track tarmac and make street driving slightly more practical.

Not that you’d want to drive the ACR on the street, with the lack of noise insulation and spring rates twice as stiff as the Viper TA, but it is street-legal. Dodge claims the DOT-approved Kumho Ecsta V720 tires on the ACR allow faster lap times than some race compound tires.

Our test was limited to on-track shenanigans at Virginia International Raceway. Which is fitting because we wouldn’t have anything good to say about driving the car on the street. The ACR is, essentially, a race car sold in the showroom, although with the Viper’s 1 of 1 customization program, your custom build can include as many creature comforts as you like.

Lined up in pit lane at VIR, the Viper ACRs for our evaluation blur the air with heat shimmer. All of the test cars have air conditioning, but that shuts off at full throttle with a six-second reset. Even with the Viper’s 645 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque there is a lot of full throttle at VIR. And on days like this you really don’t care about the temperature, at least not in our three-lap stints.

Few road cars produce downforce like the ACR – a claimed 1,228 pounds at 150 mph – and fewer still live up to the cliche of glued to the road. In slow corners the Viper ACR feels like it’s crawling, even if the howling tires say you’re on the limit. The sensation in fast corners is more proportionate to speed, but the car is so stuck to the track it feels like all reward, no risk. Full disclosure, your intrepid writer lifted entering VIR’s famous climbing esses in a self-preservation reflex. Safely through, we wished we’d gone in ten miles per hour faster.

Much of the Viper ACR’s magic is due to the tires. Kuhmo worked with Dodge for two years to develop the compound. Jeff Reese, who heads up vehicle development on the Viper, explained that the rubber is designed for maximum g’s, admitting that the turn-in is less sudden than in the Viper TA. For those keeping score at home, the TA is also faster in a straight line. Drag-limited to 177 miles per hour, though, the ACR has the slowest top speed of any Viper.

The TA might out-pull the Viper ACR on VIR’s main straight, but the ACR can brake a whole lot later. Brembo six-piston calipers clamp down on pads with the largest swept area of any Viper brakes. The carbon ceramic rotors are so big they necessitate a one-inch increase in front wheel diameter. Combine the aero, tires, and unlimited fade resistance and the ACR takes corners deeper than an Ice Cube rhyme.

2016 Dodge Viper ACR

Going back to the turn-in statement, the ACR does not lack for responsiveness. We’d describe it more as a car that moves with a cohesive fluidity, which seems odd for something so brutal. Our last session around VIR’s Grand Course brings to light an important characteristic of the Viper ACR: it’s adjustable. It’s fast in any configuration, but get the settings right and it goes even faster. For our final laps Dodge removed the louvers above the front tires and flattened out the adjustable rear wing by one notch, both steps to switch the aerodynamic balance forward. Those small changes made the front end more eager to change direction with no apparent loss in stabilty.

Stripping down the Viper to track-specific elements reveals the car’s true nature. Driving fast in this Viper feels more rewarding than the numb sports cars of the high-tech modern era. On track, the ACR is amazing. You could drive it on the street, but that would be a waste of both your time, and the Viper’s.

2016 Dodge Viper ACR Review

2016 Dodge Viper ACR Front View Motion

Since the Dodge Hellcat Charger and Challenger were introduced last year — a 707-horsepower sedan and coupe that were actually useable as daily transportation, and for about $65,000 – the Dodge Viper, with (cough) just 645 horsepower and a base price of about $85,000 seems almost irrelevant.

After all, Dodge has had to discount the Viper to move just 1,000 or so per year, while Hellcats are flying out of dealerships’ doors at a premium, as orders pile up.

2016 Dodge Viper ACR Rear Three Quarter In Motion

But rather than curl up in a corner and pout, Viper strikes back with the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR that is, in a word, astounding. Few cars have walked the thin line between “street legal” and “track only” with more success. We weren’t able to get numbers during our laps at Virginia International Raceway’s longer circuit – more than four miles – but we can say confidently that we’ve never driven a street-legal car so precisely, so brutally adapted for racetrack duty.
On VIR’s longest straight, we have hit 145 mph in multiple Vipers over the years, and since the ACR has the same 645-horsepower, 8.4-liter V-10 as every other Viper (adding more power would require too-expensive government recertification, Dodge told us), the fact we saw about 145 mph in the ACR makes sense. This is not a straight-line speedster – in fact, Dodge says the top speed is 177, compared to 206 mph for the base car.
Why? Downforce. The massive rear wing, the adjustable front splitter, and dive planes produce 1,533 pounds of downforce at the ACR’s top speed. With the “Extreme Aero” package, an even more aggressive dual-element rear wing, a bigger front splitter and other add-ons, top-speed downforce increases to 1,710 pounds. It’s allegedly the most downforce offered by any street car. Downforce hurts top speed, but man, it makes up for it in the corners.
Indeed, downforce is one of the three best things about the new ACR. The other two: The custom-built Kuhmo – yes, Kuhmo – tires that should launch the brand as a legit supercar tire supplier. And the ACR’s standard Brembo carbon-ceramic matrix disc brakes are just incredible. Lap after lap, the Kuhmos and the Brembos – six-piston calipers up front, four pistons in back – just don’t give up. And we’re told the very lightly treaded Kuhmo Ecsta V720 tires can actually be driven on wet pavement, but if you encounter standing water, expect to hydroplane into the next zip code.
You might think that performance-enhancing weight savings – some lightweight carpet; a “minimal three-speaker audio system,” Dodge says; thin, manually-adjustable seats – mean the interior is a penalty box. Not so. Alcantara is everywhere, including on the steering wheel; the “minimal” stereo still sings decent sound and provides Sirius radio, navigation and Bluetooth; there’s air conditioning and power windows. What else do you need?
2016 Dodge Viper ACR Seats
Yes, the clutch is a little grabby and the truckish six-speed Tremec TR6060 manual transmission is a little crabby, but no worse than past Vipers. In fact, it’s the same as past Vipers. This transmission doesn’t break, so you have to live with its moderate crudeness.
The downforce, tires, brakes, and suspension make this car a marvel. That suspension uses coil-over, double-adjustable Bilstein shocks that have 10 settings, and can raise or lower the car as much as three inches. Dodge plans to offer some basic setup sheets for some sample tracks, with suggested suspension settings and tire pressures.
2016 Dodge Viper ACR Front View In Motion 04
So what’s it like to drive? Spiritual, almost. You can brake so much later than you think you can; you can take turns so much faster than you can imagine, as the suspension and the stunningly good Kuhmos – 295/25-19s on the front, 355/30-19s on the rear – work their magic. Incidentally, one place Dodge didn’t try to save weight is in the surprisingly heavy tires and wheels, because with all that downforce, the wheels and tires have to be beefy.
With 600 lb-ft of torque, the ACR launches out of corners almost indifferent to what gear you select; indeed, first gear is good for 60 mph. Spirited driving is really pretty easy, as the ACR forgives you, unless you dial out all of the five-level traction control. (Don’t.) Brakes and steering are linear, and once you master the balky shifter, the average human can go pretty fast.
Yet it was a balls-out ride with one of the development engineers, Chris Winkler, a former racer with thousands of laps in Vipers, that showed us just how fast this car is. I’ve raced in the now-defunct Viper Challenge series, and driven plenty of the old ACRs – they ceased production in 2010 – but my cut-parry-thrust ride with Winkler was the fastest I have ever been around a racetrack in a street-legal production car. He says this car is at least five seconds faster on the track than the last ACR. I think his estimate is conservative.
2016 Dodge Viper ACR Side Profile 01
But if you need a weapon – a car that can take on a road course and destroy lap records – the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR moves to the front of the line. We’d suggest adding a roll cage – Dodge doesn’t offer one, but cages for the last-generation ACR will fit – and consider at least a four-point harness as mandatory, preferably six-point, because the standard three-point belt does nothing to hold you in the seat under the drop-anchor braking. (Keep the three-point belt in the car for street driving – in some jurisdictions, racing belts are illegal.)
This is not a car for your teenager, or for a mediocre track-day participant who would be better off with a used Miata. This is a serious, scary car — and we want one. Now.
Price: $117,895, not including gas-guzzler tax and destination. Dodge will be happy if it can sell 75 of them a year; 100, and it will be giddy.
2016 Dodge Viper ACR Front Three Quarter In Motion 07

2015 Dodge Viper SRT GTS Review

Unmistakable from any angle, the 2015 Dodge Viper SRT GTS is powered by an 8.4-litre V10 engine producing 645 hp and 600 lb/ft of torque, the most torque of any normally aspirated engine in the world.

What’s Best: Prodigious power, outrageous acceleration and looks that say this car means business. What’s Worst: Pedal placement is very tricky and needs practice for most drivers. What’s Interesting: The GTC model available with “one-of-a-kind” customization offers 8,000 exterior colours, 24,000 stripe colours, 11 wheel options, 16 interior trims and seven aero packages resulting in more than 25 million ways to build one of a kind.

Highlights
engine
8.4L V-10, RWD
max power
640hp @ 6,200RPM
max torque
600 lb.-ft. @ 5,000RPM
economy
11.3L/100 km
CURB WEIGHT
1,556 kg
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
60.6L

BEVERLY HILLS, CA- There’s no car more in your face than the 2015 Dodge Viper SRT, especially the topline GTS.

It starts up with a grunt as 10 pistons heave over, before settling into a low rumble that sounds like an Atlantic deep-sea trawler.

Just touch the gas pedal and the two exhausts ahead of each rear wheel lets out a bark like you can only get from a big-bore “V” engine.

And big it is, with 10 cylinders and 8.4-litres displacement putting out 645 hp and 600 lb/ft of torque, the most torque of any naturally aspirated engine in the industry.

Even the girder-like X-brace upper stress bar over the engine is big at 2.7 kg (6.0 lb).

The V-10 engine, like the rest of the Viper, is hand-built with forged pistons and sodium-filled exhaust valves.

The six-speed manual transmission (no automatic available) is a huge thing, so much so that it intrudes into the cabin, meaning the pedals have to be positioned about two-three inches to the left of where you’d normally expect to find them.

More on this later.

After squirreling yourself into the driver’s seat, you are greeted with hand-sewn leathers in a choice of several colours and an Alcantara headliner.

In the GTS as tested here, it was a warm, tan-coloured Nappa leather tone, which my co-driver likened to that in a Ferrari.

The high performance racing seats are actually state-of- the-art resin transfer-moulding frames for weight reduction and long-term durability with very substantial side bolsters for both driver and passenger.

In front of the driver sits a seven-inch, full color instrument cluster that is fully customizable with a centre tachometre that can be configured to display the last shift point and a peak rpm hold marker. Views include tachometre-only or tachometre with digital speed readout.

The cluster also features the exclusive Dodge SRT Performance Pages’ statistics and feedback to the driver, including 0-to-100 km/h; 0-to-160 km/h; eighth- and quarter-mile elapsed times; braking distance; instant g-force measurement readouts and top-speed performance.

There are several Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio systems available, as well as a choice of two Uconnect infotainment systems, but my co-driver and I never turned them on, preferring to listen to the music made by the engine and exhaust.

The forward hinged carbon-fibre hood (also roof and rear decklid) stretches out before you like the landing deck of an aircraft carrier. Dodge calls this “extreme cab-rearward proportions”.

You can’t miss the two front hood air extractors on the GTS needed to get the heat out of the engine bay, aided by the equally large fender gills (a Viper design cue) on either side to also get the air out.

Another of those styling cues is the “double bubble” roof to give the two occupants more headroom. But the real reason is all about keeping the Viper as low as possible to reduce aero drag.

I’ll come right out and say I had trouble getting used to the pedal placement. With them splayed to the left I initially hit the gas when I was trying to use the brake and the clutch pedal had a travel that felt like 10 inches. For me, anyway, it would mean a lot of practice before I could start shifting in a second nature manner.

My co-driver and I were part of a rather exclusive four-person group who drove the Viper and Alfa Romeo 4C after the conclusion of a Fiat 500X press launch in Los Angeles.

On the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and later Highway 10, the Viper GTS proved the adage, “there ain’t no substitute for cubic inches”.

Effortless cruising with all that torque on tap makes this one of the most enjoyable highway cars you will ever drive, with a Vancouver journalist commenting he would be quite happy to drive it all the way home.

The exhaust exits right behind your ear so the sound of all those horses bellowing out under full acceleration is quite exhilarating.

Sight lines aren’t the greatest. With that long hood, the low roof and seating making it more like peering out over the edge of a foxhole, that means mirror adjustment is crucial but not critical, as with the Alfa Romeo 4C.

Along with near perfect 49.6-front/504-rear weight distribution, the GTS adds a driver-selectable suspension system featuring Bilstein DampTronic Select shock absorbers with street and track settings.

Braking is astounding thanks to 14-inch rotors with 18-inch front and 19-inch rear Pirelli P Zero, Z-rated tires.

Those brakes were much appreciated in the many canyon roads that snake up from the PCH to hills to the east of Malibu.

Here one mistake can see you off the road and into space; so car-handling knowledge really comes into play when you have something the size of the Viper.

First the grip of tires was so great; breaking was not needed as much as I thought. But when you did hit the binders, the Viper almost stops in its tracks.

In a city where supercars are a dime a dozen, the Viper got a lot of attention from other drivers, such is its presence.

But with all the fun, there is a drawback and that’s fuel economy with the 2015 NRCan numbers showing the GTS at (premium) 20L/100 km (13 mpg) city and 14L/100 km (22 mpg) highway. In real life the Viper will be thirstier.

There are three Viper SRTs available, each hand-built in Detroit starting with the base GT at $92,995 and the GTC Coupe at $99,995 and finally the GTS Coupe as tested here, $114,995.

The 2015 Dodge Viper SRT GTS isn’t for everyone. But for those who appreciate power and performance above all, this car is for them.

2015 Dodge Viper SRT GTS at a glance

BODY STYLE: Full-size performance coupe.
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 8.4-litre, OHV (645 hp, 60 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 20/14L/100 km (13/22 mpg) city/highway
TOW RATING: Not recommended
CARGO CAPACITY: 414.8 litres (14.65 cu ft)
PRICE: Viper SRT GTS, $114,995