One word came to mind as I found myself in the driver's seat of this orange 2014 Viper: terrifying.
This was the "Time Attack" edition meaning that it was built specifically to be even faster around the track than the regular version. This car is ready to eat you alive unless you really know what you're doing.
What was I doing driving this??
Clearly this was way more car than I could handle - an 8.4L V10 animal that sounds like an angry lion pumping out 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque.
As I drove this car around the track like a scared 5-year old, I kept thinking "Please don't crash", "Please don't crash", "Please don't crash"...
Luckily I didn't crash.
I'm only exaggerating. Fortunately there wasn't much to crash into - the track had no walls or barriers and the pavement was surrounded by lots of grassy fields.
Driving around the track in 3rd and 4th gear was enough for me to get just a little taste of what the Viper has to offer. There was plenty of speed and torque for me to enjoy myself thoroughly.
Then it came time for me to hand the car over to someone who truly knows what they're doing - the Stig.
The Ride Along
No, it wasn't the Stig. It was James, co-founder of Longhorn Racing Academy who took me for a ride to show me what the Viper can do.
While he was thrashing the car around on the track, I was getting tossed around like a ragdoll. The regular seat-belt was pointless and so I grabbed a hold of the bar on the center console as tightly as I could (which is why it exists) to hold me in place. But that didn't work and my neck started to hurt as I strained to counteract the G-forces and tried hard to stabilize myself. It was rough but one of the best track experiences I've had thus far. I couldn't believe how much grip the car had around turns.
Being on the track in the Viper in hands of an expert like James was more thrilling than any roller coaster I've been on and was the closest thing to a racecar that I've encountered.
The Viper Looks Incredible
The new Viper is one of the most beautiful cars out on the road today - if you actually happen to see one of course.
My wife, who could care less about cars responded with this text after I sent her a picture of the car.
Even a non-auto enthusiast can recognize a good looking car when they see one!
In addition to the good looking exterior, the interior of this Viper is so much better than anything you've seen in earlier generation Vipers that are filled with loads of cheap plastic. The quality, fit and finish of this 2014 Viper are great.
You'll be pleasantly surprised to find some modern technology in this car - like this rear view camera for example. The lines bend when you turn the steering wheel to guide you out of the spot. Good - you need it because you can't see anything out of the rear window of the car anyway.
Here is some more tech - an all-digital tach in the center on a 7-inch screen that shows other info like tire pressure etc. Apparently a snake pops up in the middle of the tach when you hit a certain rpm level but I never saw it.
Vipers have come a long way.
If you were blindfolded, put in this car and then allowed to look around, you would never think that you were in a Viper (assuming you didn't look at the badging or other Viper-related cues).
I think I was as impressed by the interior as I was with its track performance - mostly because I wasn't expecting a Viper to be this good on the inside.
Driving The Viper Is Not Easy
After managing to wiggle myself onto the driver's seat I found myself behind a humongous 8.4L V10 with a hood that was a mile long. I was sitting on top of incredibly loud exhaust pipes and was inches away from the rear wheels.
When the SRT group designed and built this car it's clear that people were an afterthought. Their philosophy must have been - "build the car first, then cram the people in."
As I was getting in, I accidentally floored the gas pedal of the idling Viper which resulted in the V10 unexpectedly roaring to life.
It was so loud.
Immediately, I got some dirty looks from the people around me, with their dogs scampering away, thinking that I was showing off...but hey I didn't do this on purpose!
The Viper is so wide and hood is so long that I found a hard time getting used to its dimensions. I was out in rush hour traffic in tight, narrow lanes and the last thing I wanted to do was either graze the vehicle next to me or hit the curb.
I think I picked the worst day and time to drive this vehicle - 5 pm on a Tuesday.
The visibility is incredibly limited and when driving you need to be utterly observant of everything around you. There are plenty of blind spots and the Viper attracts so much attention that you can see people straining to take pictures on their phones so that they can immediately post them on Facebook with the following status update: "Badass ride, fo sheezy."
And while they're doing this you run the danger of them not paying attention and accidentally crashing into you.
Despite the fact that I couldn't quite get comfortable driving the Viper, I found the throttle response to be just right because it was actually possible for me to drive this beast around town without letting the 600 lb-ft of torque catching me off guard. I expected it to be more challenging to control this beast but it turned out to be surprisingly tractable.
I've always wondered why more people haven't bought this car and now understand why. It's kind of a struggle to drive this around town because of the limited visibility and you have to tweak your driving style because the front end of the car sticks out much further than most vehicles.
And if you're only test driving this for a short period of time you are never able to achieve a level of comfort because it takes a while to get used to it.
The 640 hp Viper is entirely too much for the occasional track day because the track experience is far from effortless. The car can still get away from you and continually demands a ton of respect from the driver.
Finally, even with all the refinements, it's still a harsh ride.
So you end up taking your $100K+ to go buy something else.
However, if you do end up buying this Viper and only drive it on regular roads it's like keeping a tiger imprisoned in a zoo. It's just not right. I wouldn't even recommend buying this car unless you plan on taking it to the track because that is ultimately where this car belongs.