It’s respect, the whole R-E-S-P-E-C-T thing Aretha Franklin sang about, and it pervades every aspect of human existence. Not only must we demonstrate deference to society’s wizened senior citizens, but also to authority figures who are charged with public safety and to eager, young and impressionable eyes looking for a role model. Even animals deserve and, frankly, demand this intangible entity, as horrifically proven in the recent film, Grizzly Man, where a brief lack of the utmost respect resulted in a gruesome death.
Consider the same to be true with cars, which nowadays offer more horsepower and torque than ever, handling that suggests corners can be taken at imprudent speeds, and so many safety systems that watching TV on the couch looks comparatively dangerous. A prime example is the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe, a hardtop, 3,410-lb. two-seater that pushes 510 horses and 535 lb.-ft. of twist from an angry V10 engine to the massive rear wheels. This is a ride that requires effort to not spin the tires, and much concentration to keep ‘er under 100 mph. But without any standard or optional traction or stability control systems, if you get a little too comfortable behind the wheel, a little too tight with that eager accelerator or twitchy with that exacting steering wheel, this snake will quickly whip around and sink its fangs in deep. Yet, treat this high-octane beast correctly, much like you would its namesake, and be rewarded with raw power and an unflinching desire to annihilate all speed limits, straighten all curves, and swallow lesser vehicles whole. With the right driver and the right road, the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is as close to a street-legal racer as you may find, and it is the wise one who will treat it as such. Just don’t expect it to respect you back.
Buying into a relationship with the Viper Coupe requires putting $86,995 in the hands of your local Dodge dealer, $3,000 of which covers a gas guzzler tax and $850 for destination charges. With that significant outlay of greenbacks comes an 8.3-liter V10 engine pushing 510 horsepower and 535 lb.-ft. of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip rear differential, Brembo vented antilock disc brakes, a power rack-and-pinion steering system, and a fully-independent suspension with upper and lower A-arms front and rear. Stuffed into the wheel wells are five-spoke alloys wearing Michelin Pilot Sport run-flat tires measuring 275/35R18 in front and 345/30R19 out back.
Interior accoutrements featured with the base price include the typical power items, power foot pedals, a 310-watt sound system with a six-disc CD changer, leather seats, dual front airbags, and a tire pressure monitor. Sirius satellite radio is a $195 option. Venture to the exterior for a view of the integrated front fog lights; high-intensity discharge headlights; two different wheel options that retail for $700; black or silver stripes that add $3,000 to the final tally; or one of three $600 paint colors – Copperhead Orange, Viper GTS Blue, and Viper Race Yellow. Available at no cost are Viper Black and Viper Red.
Our test car was a Viper Red 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe with the $3,000 silver stripe package, bringing the total bill to $89,995. As expected, our editors took advantage of every opportunity to “evaluate” the Viper over the course of a week, covering highways, city streets, and challenging back roads all over Southern California.
Driving the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe on public roads does not do the car justice. Even ripping down my favorite road in the Santa Monica Mountains as fast as conditions allowed, I could only glimpse what the Viper would be capable of in its element: the race track. This is a car clearly set up for hard charging around a closed course with plenty of run-off on either side of the blacktop. The sheer rock cliffs, tight shoulders, lumpy pavement, oncoming traffic, steep drop-offs, and occasional hiker or bicyclist that characterize the mountain road on which I drive almost every test vehicle make it no place to test a Viper’s considerable limits. Add to this mix the chilly temperatures, damp shadowed patches of blacktop, and recent rockslides this stretch of road revealed on the winter morning I had the keys to the Viper, and, well, it comes as no surprise that the car remains almost as much a mystery as it was when I first got in to make a mid-day run down the 405 freeway to Best Buy.
This much I can tell you. The 2006 Dodge Viper is ridiculously fast, tugs at every ripple and groove in the road surface, and sends every single crack, joint, and bump on the pavement directly to the cabin. I haven’t driven a road car this raw since the Ford Mustang Cobra R, or the first-gen Viper GTS Coupe. Launch the car, punch the accelerator, and you can’t help but spin the massive rear wheels. Shifts come hard and quick, the clutch easier to operate than the previous Viper – or a recent Honda Accord V6 we had in the test pool. On public roads, you’re constantly aware of the Viper’s width, an issue that would disappear on the track. The steering and brakes respond instantly, the suspension erasing all unnecessary motion. Tire grip is extraordinary, as long as you keep your foot out of the throttle.
Indeed, the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe is a thrill to drive, an adrenaline injection like few others. But aside from attracting attention to yourself, making lots of noise, and compensating for, ahem, shortcomings, I see little point to owning a Viper if you’re not going to take it to the track.
Thom Blackett’s 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe Driving Impressions:
Good God, man.
Push the start button and you know you’re in for an experience unlike most others, even if you’re ignorant to the fact that 510 horses and 535 lb.-ft. of torque are impatiently lying behind that aluminum gas pedal. Our tester had a clutch that was a little late in engaging, but once it hooked up it didn’t take long to get a sense of the Viper’s power. On my first bit of driving, on a straight and isolated stretch of road, while already moving along at about 20 mph, I goosed the throttle in first gear and the 19-inch rear rubber instantly started spinning and the rear started to dance a little from side to side. Ah, right, no traction or stability control on this baby.
Further along the drive route, the Viper’s power made its presence known in other ways. While using a straightaway to row through the six-speed a bit, I noticed that the tachometer was only registering about 2,000 rpms at near triple-digit speeds in fourth gear, and that was just skimming the surface of the V10’s potential. Fifth and sixth gears are only necessary on the highways, and even then they keep the rpm’s ridiculously low at a pace more than slightly above the posted limit.
On curvy back roads, the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe offers razor-sharp steering with tremendous feel through the wheel, and brakes that would probably be sufficient for stopping a semi-truck weighing several tons. And while there’s no noticeable understeer or oversteer, all of that power going to the rear wheels makes for a tail that likes to flick out unprovoked. Combine a touch too much steering with a hair too much pressure on the throttle and you’ll instantly be testing your recovery skills.
Brian Chee’s 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe Driving Impressions:
It is alive. And it is angry, always angry, and is always looking to eat. The monster that lives inside the 2006 Dodge Viper is not to be trifled with, not with polite driving habits or commutes better handled by sedans.
No. If you want one, you have to feed the beast. It likes to be fed. It likes eating nice long straight-aways and corners; it loves to go brute fast and crazy. Take care of the 8.3-liter, V10 engine and it will show you the joys of 510 horsepower and 535 lb.-ft. of torque, will take you to places within yourself that you didn’t know existed, unleashing a cocktail of thrill, fear and oh-my-god adrenaline, straighten your tie and punch you in the chest. Clearly, this is not a car for any commute except for the one that takes you to a track. Indeed, even entertaining the idea of a commute is like taking Uncle Buck to a museum. Try it and people will stare, and it’s obvious from the looks that one of two thoughts is coursing through the noggin of the guy next to you at the light: you’ve got to be kidding me, that dude must be over compensating and dang, if I could only get one green light behind the wheel of that beast…
There’s a simple solution: to drive the Viper is to make a commitment to your local track, or at least some nice open road in the boondocks, simply because this car is not engineered for transportation: it’s built to go like the dickens and that’s exactly what it does, with a bite of asphalt and a hungry, burbling roar. To my driving experience, there is nothing as powerful in a straight line; dip into that torque band and prepare to feel an incredible surge of power from the Viper’s 13.6-inch rear tires. Zero to sixty feels like a slingshot, and it’s easy to believe Dodge’s claim of less than four seconds. Brakes are sensitive and gripping: those big brakes bring the coupe back to zero very quickly, with no fade. The ride is sports car harsh, of course, and not one to be stuck in any kind of gridlock. Drive this car at five o’clock on a work day and you get the cramps you deserve for being a bit of a nincompoop. It’s easier than you’d think to cycle through the six-speed manual transmission; it’s a heavy shifter, to be sure, but friendly enough to not hamper the driving experience. And what an experience! It’s just too much power on public roads, and while handling is incredible – those wide tires provide plenty of stick to the ground – the pure, raw nature of this car leaves little room for mistakes, and those mistakes will be much, much more serious than a little fender damage. I didn’t drive on the track, so pushing it to the limit was out of the question. But what mild cornering I did do in the Viper produced oversteer.
So be warned. The bottom line? God Bless Dodge for building this car as they did. Curse them, too, because to drive it on a public road was a dicey experience that I, for one, don’t ever care to repeat. And even with that, after my taste of the Viper all I could think of – for two days – was to get it back, find a track and rip into this beast with both hands.
Ron Perry’s 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe Driving Impressions:
The beauty of this car is that the Dodge Viper Coupe spits in the face of convention. While every other manufacturer is refining their cars by isolating the driver from the driving experience, Dodge has left the Viper alone. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, a muscle car. From the minute you push the red start button and the engine springs to life, your primal senses tell you that you’re behind the wheel of a serious machine. From the loping of the engine at idle, to the burble and popping sound the exhaust makes when backing off the throttle, the Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe brings a smile to your face that is hard to erase.
Mash the accelerator and the Dodge Viper SRT-10 lunges forward with alarming speed. Give it too much throttle in a corner and the Viper will bite you. With all of the torque the Viper possesses, it will break the rear loose faster than you can mutter your favorite swear word. Oversteer is easily counteracted and controlled. Steering is quick and precise and transmits to the driver a feeling of stability and control. Between the great engine and the exceptional handling, the Viper easily allowed cornering at twice the posted limit on my run with little effort and without approaching the car’s limits. Stopping isn’t a concern either. The Viper’s brakes relay everything the driver need to know.
This car has quickly become one of my favorites to drive because of its adherence to the original intention of the Viper. The car’s rawness is exciting and the experience of driving the Viper is one of being in a racecar minus the roll cage and helmet. It is just a hoot to drive.
Getting in and out of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe is not easy. The door openings are very tight, the sills are very wide (and hot after driving the car), and the seats are mounted low and deeply bolstered. But once you get situated behind the steering wheel, you’ll find that the seats are close to perfection unless you’re morbidly obese. The three-spoke steering wheel is thick and pleasing to grip, designed for use at the ten-and-two as well as the nine-and-three hand positions. The baseball-sized shift knob falls right in your hand, and padded armrests sit at the same height on both sides (though the one on the driver’s door is thinly padded).
On a warm day, you need to run the air conditioning. Heat coming from the center drivetrain tunnel can bake occupants; thankfully temperatures were in the 50s and 60s when I drove the Viper. Despite the inclusion of Alpine speakers mounted between the seats, the stereo has trouble compensating for engine and exhaust notes, wind noise, and road texture. Better to leave the stereo turned off. Pop the rear hatch, and you’ll be surprised to find that there’s useable trunk space. Not as much as you’ll find in a Corvette, but then, the liftover height into the Viper is much lower than its closest competitor.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Comfort:
Think of that plush sofa that you fall into after every hard day of work, the cozy sectional on which you lounge watching movies all weekend and seem to find so perfectly suitable for impromptu naps. Now imagine using a machete to hack away every bit of fluffy cushion, leaving only the hard and unforgiving wooden frame, the one that requires you to conform to its shape rather than vice versa. And then picture that back breaker in a small box.
Welcome to the driver’s seat of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe. This is the perfect car for proponents of an age restriction on driving – there’s no way an arthritic grandparent is dreaming of getting into this automotive capsule, let alone putting up with the firm and overstuffed side bolsters or spine-tingling ride that comes from traversing even smooth pavement. However, for the exclusive shopper seeking a ride that will keep all body parts firmly locked down in high-speed corners, puts the thickly-padded steering wheel and shift knob in their ideal positions, and offers adjustable foot pedals for a perfect fit, the gruff Viper’s lack of finesse is actually desirable.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Comfort:
If you buy the 2006 Dodge Viper and expect to find comfort, get your head examined. Interior room is cramped, the cabin runs hot, heat comes up from the transmission tunnel into the passenger compartment, and the sill exhaust covers are conveniently located where you want to place your leg when getting out. The Viper’s seats are a little tight, fore and aft seat adjustment is limited, and the two seats are separated by a large center tunnel that takes up too much room – pushing the seats out and compromising shoulder room. Getting in is no treat, either, because it’s so low-slung.
There’s a nice idea. Once you clamber inside, the good things about comfort are all driver-oriented. The pedals are adjustable, the steering wheel feels nice and meaty, and the seats are perfectly supportive. But movable pedals aside, if you’re tall you will not enjoy this car, nor will you if you’re wider than a normal American male, thanks to those really supportive seats and limited room for movement. Pedal play is designed for aggressive driving, as the pedals are close together and take some getting used to. Comfortable, this ain’t – but it’s also not painful, just a pain, and takes us back to where we write that if you buy this car and intend to drive it everyday, well, you should get your head examined. Used for aggressive driving on a track, however, you’re unlikely to notice the comfort compromises implicit in the Viper’s design.
Ron Perry’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Comfort:
Getting in and out of the Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe takes a little getting used to. Developing your own contortions to make entering and exiting easier is just part of the ownership requirement. Once you have dropped into the form fitting seats, you find the sides and bottom to be well bolstered and the center console is at just the right height to rest your right arm and work the shifter. The white-faced gauges are a little small and hard to read but the vertical stack of gauges on the left side of the console for oil pressure and temperature, water temperature and battery couldn’t be any better placed.
The ride is firm but nothing other than what you would expect from a sports car in this league. The cabin is tight and formed around the occupants, as a sports car should be, but the downside to the Viper’s interior is the heat that infiltrates through the floorboard and transmission tunnel. It feels as though the heater is always on but you can’t sense any direct airflow. If Dodge could do away with the interior heat issue, there would be little left to complain about.
Compared to the original Dodge Viper GTS, this new 2006 version is a paragon of refinement. By contemporary standards, however, the Viper Coupe’s Chrysler minivan stereo and climate controls, parts bin stalks and switches, cheaply upholstered visors, and pillar trim that comes off in your hands make you wonder why you spent so much for so little. Some of that coin went into the leather and suede racing seats complete with provisions for a racing harness. Some of it went into the metal trim used for the door releases and handles, and the surround for the gear shift. Nearly every dash and door panel is soft to the touch, and the hard plastics have a rubbery matte finish. Many of my peers claim the Viper’s interior is full of cheap materials. It’s not true.
Exterior build quality is terrific. The gaps are larger than say, a Porsche, but everything fits properly and lines up right. The 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe is a huge improvement over the first-gen model in this regard. The interior is also much better than the old car, despite the sloppy fit of the plastic pillar covers, the non-flush fit of the glove box door, and a somewhat loose headliner at its leading edge. The relative lack of rattles and squeaks inside our test car was testament to this improved build quality.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Quality:
True, it may ring up at nearly $90,000, but buying a Viper for its quality craftsmanship is like buying a Sports Illustrated calendar to keep track of your appointments – there’s no big mystery about why these are the same buyers who continue to buoy the sale of belated birthday cards.
The 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe is a rip-roaring modern day muscle car with primary functions to go very fast, handle a twisty race track like it’s second nature, and act as the best possible conduit between driver and road, all of which it does very well. Above and beyond that, this ride is well-built, with soft-touch plastics used throughout the interior, and large but consistent panel gaps inside and out.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Quality:
Five hundred and ten horsepower. Five hundred and thirty five lb.-ft of torque. All you need to know about quality lies under the hood: an aluminum block, 8.3-liter V10 engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission and driving wide rear tires. If you expect soft touches and creature comforts from a Viper, well, you fail to understand the raw appeal of the car. For more than 80 grand, you get what you pay for, as long as brute power and a look-at-me design is what you want. In terms of gaps and interior materials, the Viper is nicely assembled – it’s not like they have two shifts building these things. Inside, the controls have nice heft, seat material feels durable and comfortable, and plastics are acceptable. Then again, it’s hard to pay too much attention when you’re driving a Viper – the driving demands your complete attention.
Ron Perry’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Quality:
Aside from the heat issue in the cabin already mentioned, the only other thing that caught my attention was lifter noise from the engine bay. Body panels are smooth and paint is devoid of orange peel. Fit and finish appears excellent and the interior pieces are of acceptable quality. The only piece I would question is the flap on the ashtray mounted on the center console. This is a flimsy plastic piece that undoubtedly will break with minor use. Don’t expect to find a place for your latte in the Viper, the only place for it will be between your legs.
Something about the rounded shapes of the original Viper appeal more to me than this sharply creased model, but clearly the 2006 Coupe is a terrific-looking automobile. The view over the hood is particularly appealing, with a power dome hood flanked by sharp-edged fenders. Vents emit hot air from the engine bay, rippling the forward view at idle. The Viper’s polished alloy wheels, deeply sculpted body sides, curvaceous rear end, and yes, even the racing stripes, all give this Dodge more character and presence than the relatively tame Corvette Z06. Inside, the minimalist design and décor is punctuated by beautiful white gauges, exposed allen-head screws, and metal trim. No longer does the Viper’s cabin appear to be the result of a home-built amalgam of unrelated bits and pieces.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Design:
Any other car with the cross-haired front fascia, domed hood with angled slits, and deep front fender vents would conjure up thoughts of a Pontiac Fiero/Ferrari body kit project gone horribly wrong. But it works on the Viper, and only improves with the addition of the double-bubble hardtop and sloped rear glass, though that tail end, with the lights wrapping in under the quarter panels, looks a little odd. Thankfully, other design elements steal the eye’s attention, such as the integrated rear diffuser, the side exhaust outlets, and those almighty five-spoke, 19-inch wheels out back and 18s up front.
Inside, despite the leather and suede upholstery and soft-touch plastics, the Viper screams race car for the street. A huge white-faced tachometer resides next to the speedometer, the shift knob sits in an optimal position, and relevant gauges are lined up neatly on the instrument panel, allowing for a quick check between apexes.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Design:
The Dodge Viper looks as it is: a beautiful beast with no patience for commutes or errands. The long hood, the bubble roof, the racing stripes, the bright paint, and the wide back-end all tell a story of brute strength and flash, of going faster than polite people like to go and of making more of a show than humble people find appropriate. Heck, away from the track, it’s an inappropriate car, with its overtly aggressive design and V10 engine. This is a no-apologies type of car, and the design reflects its in-your-face attitude. Park it on your street and people will either come over right away to admire it, or whisper derisive things to their wives about you.
The interior design follows the same theme: on the track, it all makes sense, from the push button ignition, to the steering wheel and the instrumentation layout. The tachometer, for example, is front and center, as it should be. Gauges are in-your-face and that big, meaty shifter sits up like a club.
Ron Perry’s Opinion of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe’s Design:
As the design of the Dodge Viper has progressed, the lines have become stretched and less curvaceous. It is still a design that screams speed and muscle, but in my opinion doesn’t look as good as the original Viper design. Gone are the calf burning exposed side pipes from the original car that gave the Viper its real muscle car appearance. The exhaust pipes on the new car still travel the same route but are now covered with body colored panels. They still get hot but don’t leave you with a nasty souvenir every time you exit the cabin. Other cues from the original, but modernized, include the wraparound taillights, deep side scallops and crosshair grille. Our test car was red with silver racing stripes that really added to the Viper’s exotic mystique.
A skilled driver will enjoy driving the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe on favorite backroads, but will certainly thrill to slam it around a closed track. Unskilled drivers, well, we’ve all seen the photos on wreckedexotics.com, haven’t we? Bottom line: I loved driving the Viper, which demands attention, drives like a track-ready racer, and is completely impractical. A car like this should never be used as a daily driver, and though the Corvette Z06 is equally capable in many ways, its docile nature and user-friendliness leaves me cold in comparison. The 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe never lets you forget you’re behind the wheel of something unique, something temperamental, something that could bite you hard if you’re not paying attention. It is an exciting car to drive at all times, a car in which you would never consider wolfing down a Quarter Pounder with Cheese while yakking on a cell phone. The Viper Coupe is what a sports car should be.
Thom Blackett’s Advice about the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe:
Affluent poseurs, do yourself and society a favor by steering clear of the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe.
This is a car for serious and extremely capable drivers. There’s just too much power here for the average Joe with $90,000 laying around to enjoy on Saturday morning jaunts or to attempt burnouts at the local Starbucks. That’s not a challenge to you; rather an educated understanding that the majority of the buying public is outmatched by this car’s potential, especially given the lack of traction or stability control. In the wrong hands, or sometimes even in the right hands, the unyielding Viper can teach a harsh lesson. But with the right driver and the right road (or track), Dodge’s supercar is an amazing machine that will run as hard and as far as you dare to push it.
Brian Chee’s Advice about the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe:
Raise your hand and repeat after me: I swear on my standing as a gearhead to take my Viper to a track often, and to never, ever, drive it aggressively on a public road. Do that, and go ahead – have fun. The Viper is loaded with speed and driving excellence; it’s a raw, no-compromise car for people who like to play with raw power. Just don’t plan it as a daily driver. In traffic, on the way to the store or to work, the Viper is like having a shiner: no one wants to say anything, but everyone still stares as you go on by. For those of you who might be entering the difficult, soul-searching middle years, always dreamed of owning a sports car, and don’t even know where the local track is, do yourself a favor and think twice. This car, with this power, is like jumping on a rocket and lighting the fuse. It’s quite a ride, but one you want to come back from.
Ron Perry’s Advice about the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe:
If you are in a position to purchase a car of this nature, why not?! The only downside I can see is the high cost compared to other cars in this category, but then again, exclusivity doesn’t come cheap.
Price of Test Vehicle: $89,995 (including an $850 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 8.3-liter V10
Engine Horsepower: 510 at 5,600 rpm
Engine Torque: 535 lb.-ft. at 4,200 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Curb weight, lbs.: 3,410
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 12/20 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 12.3 mpg
Length: 175.6 inches
Width: 75.2 inches
Wheelbase: 98.8 inches
Height: 48.6 inches
Leg room: 42.4 inches
Head room: 36.5 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Two
Competitors: Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Ford GT
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry