How could it possibly be boring when almost every comment on an article about the Viper is filled with “10/10 would DD but it would kill me!” For several years I read those comments and saw it as a challenge. Supposedly unlivable DD’s are basically my shopping criteria when it comes to a car.
After spending a year with a 2002 Viper GTS and clocking over 10,000 miles, I walked away unscathed and a bit unimpressed. Now, don’t get me wrong, the performance was without a doubt impressive. The Viper was as fast as I would ever want or need, the handling was superb, and it fulfilled my childhood dream. It is also one of the most beautiful cars ever made, in my opinion.
I was unimpressed because living with one as a daily driver was almost effortless. Most of the articles or comments about how incredibly ridiculous and life-threatening scary the Viper is are internet fueled, overblown exaggerations. I’m sorry to burst the balloons of people that were once like me and dreamed of owning this “vile beast.” It’s not out to destroy you, being “snakebitten” is hyperbole, and most of the people that talk about how scary it is have never sat in a Viper, much less driven one.
Yes, if you are a complete idiot with a car that has tons of power to the rear wheels then you are going to have a bad time. I’m not the smartest of guys, but I do try to know my own limits with a car. The Viper is fast, but balanced and controllable. I never felt unsafe, even pushing the car harder and harder through the mountains of Georgia and Tennessee.
My wife has never been on a car site in her life so I like to think she is an impartial judge. She said it was the easiest manual transmission car she’s driven and often used it to run quick errands (and yes, she’s driven more than 10 manual cars and is the current driver of a Cayman S). She was scared of the Mazdaspeed3 I used to have, but the Viper was never intimidating to her.
That being said, I did have some “scary” times in the Viper…
The Scariest Moments in the Viper:
-The first time I drove the car was 700 miles home from Houston to Georgia. The only scary part was how incredibly terrible the AC was when I was sitting in traffic; when coasting on the highway, the 14 year old air conditioning actually worked sufficiently.
-The first time I took my friend on some back roads I was going a wee bit too fast and saw the blue lights of a police car behind me. This was scary, but the friendly Alabama police officer only wanted to ask me if he could see the engine bay.
-I drove the car in pouring rain where I could hardly see the car in front of me. The only scary part was somehow water dripped from under the dash onto my leg after going through a big puddle. It was startling, but I chalked that one up to Dodge build quality. I never once hydroplaned in the dozens of times I drove in the rain.
-Being at stoplights with Mustangs who, of course, wanted to race. I was scared for everybody on the road when this happened.
-When I moved from Georgia to El Paso, I decided that my best friend (my border collie) and I would drive the Viper 1,200 miles as a last hurrah. There were two scary parts this time. The first was when I ran over a huge bolt and popped a tire in San Antonio. The scary part was not the actual flat, but the bill to replace two rear tires and have them overnighted to San Antonio, because of course nobody in Texas has Viper tires in stock. The other scary part was when Bubba the Sheriff caught me going way too fast, but I was scared about how this would look on my driving record, not being killed by the “raw” and “violent” Viper.
-The amount I spent on premium gas every month. Enough said.
Why the Viper was an easy daily driver:
-You can fit a ton of stuff in the trunk! It is way bigger than most think. As a grocery getter, I was never disappointed.
-The seats were some of the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in. Mine had the cognac Connolly leather package, which offers a unique look that eventually grows on you. The leather was incredible and I never got a stiff back driving on long trips (the reason I got rid of my Elise).
-Passing cars on the highway doesn’t require downshifting in order to quickly overtake. The teeniest bit of throttle and you win!
-The ride is way smoother than you’d think. For being so low, the ride is not really that rough. It also is not that loud inside the cabin.
-The tires can be turned into great furniture or dog beds (okay, this is just an excuse to show off my pups):
-And the most important: the Viper got me from point A to point B reliably, every time. For a 14 year old Dodge, that’s not too shabby!
So now that I’ve been a Debbie-downer, should you get one?
For around $35,000 you can’t find a much cooler car. I literally cross shopped this with a Mercedes-Benz GLA250 and a Subaru Crosstrek (I had this weird idea that maybe a more adult, practical car would be a good idea, thank God my wife intervened). I don’t regret the decision one bit, especially because they are at the bottom of their depreciation curve and you can basically sell them for what you paid, although have fun dealing with twenty-somethings that think a good trade is their base Charger, the rest of their X-Box live gold subscription, and $537 cash on top.
As much as I enjoyed my time with the Viper, I was more than ready to move on to something else (suggestions under $40k welcomed!!). It was not the daily thrill I thought it would be. It never really scared me, never sent me into a ditch, and never tried to kill me. I quickly learned that most internet comments just build upon the exaggeration of the Viper until somehow it all becomes fact.
Whether you agree or disagree with me, I still recommend you find out for yourself. It’s an iconic car that will always mean a lot to me. I’m sure it will mean the same to you, but if you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, I think your relationship will be a lot less murderous than you think.