Review and road test of the Dodge SRT - 10 (2004 - 2009)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
The Dodge Vi. hold on. You know this car is a Viper, I know it's a Viper but because of some tedious copyright infraction in this country, we're not allowed to call it a Viper, the rights to that name being held by a kit car maker. So instead of one of the most evocative names in motoring, we instead get the rather antiseptic sounding 'SRT-10'. Some would argue that this dilution of charisma is reflected in the latest car but, if we're honest, perhaps the old Viper had a little too much personality. Although the SRT-10 turns the extroversion down a notch or two, it's still not for the shy or retiring. As a used buy it has a certain appeal.
(2 dr roadster 8.0 petrol [SRT-10])
It does seem quite surreal that the very first Viper prototype debuted at the North America International Auto Show way back in 1989. Since that time, the Viper was productionised with the help of Lamborghini, went on to spawn a hard top GTS model and became one of the most successful GT racing cars of all time.
UK sales of the original open top RT/10 model ceased in 1997, with the GTS coupe soldiering on until 2001. For three years thereafter, those looking for serious muscle turned to Corvettes, TVRs and Marcoses until Dodge brought us the all-new SRT-10 in November 2004. Sales targets were deliberately kept modest, the importers realising that £70,000 was a big ask for a left-hand drive car whose capability could be bettered by many cheaper rivals and which looked a lot more restrained than its cartoonish predecessor. Besides, UK customers had already expressed a preference for the coupe version of the SRT-10, a body style which Dodge, curiously, never introduced here. These decisions meant that this model was sold at a rate of fifteen cars per year - officially at least.
What You Get
Dodge had a number of key design aims with the SRT-10. First off, they wanted to mellow the car's road behaviour back a notch or two. Many would-be customers were intimidated by tales of the original Viper's lurid handling and roadholding and instead defected to cars with a little more built-in safety margin. Perceived quality was also an issue, the Viper's cabin looking more like that of a £7,000 shopping hatch than a premier league sportster. The SRT-10's cabin has been fully reworked with a big centrally mounted tachometer and a 220mph speedometer as clear statements of intent. Rather than the low-grade plastics of the original car, there's a sheen to the current SRT-10 fascia although it's still only qualified praise. Good for an American car is about as good as it gets. The hood is a manually folding soft-top affair that's workmanlike at best. Dodge owners specifically requested that there be no cupholders and the manufacturers have acceded to their application.
The other demands were bigger brakes and more power and the SRT-10 scores well on both counts. Fourteen inch discs front and rear with monster Brembo calipers take care of stopping duties, and the braking system features anti-lock and improved feel compared to the rather agricultural Viper set up. The 60mph to 0 stopping distance of less than 100 feet is exceptional for such a big heavy car. The immense contact patches of the tyres are a big boon when it comes to outright braking power. If you thought the eighteen-inch wheels at the front were impressive, wait until you clock the nineteen-inch alloys at the back, shod with 345/30ZR19 rubberwear.
What to Look For
As with most American engines, the SRT-10's V10 powerplant is, despite generating 500bhp, not a highly stressed unit. It's been around for a very long time in various forms and as such, is very reliable. With maximum torque generated at just 3700rpm, there's little benefit in thrashing the engine. You'll need to look for parking scrapes to the splitter mounted on the underside of the SRT's front spoiler. This will come into contact with things like speed humps and multi-storey car park ramps, so it may well be damaged. Look out for crash damage. These cars have no traction control or anti-lock brakes and the first SRT-10 press car in the country was promptly written off by an overexcited journo.
One potential safety issue you need to be aware of concerns the driver's sun visor. When the visor is in the lowered position, taller drivers will not be able to see through the windscreen at all. Pop it into a raised position and the airflow at around 80mph will fire it all the way down, resulting in a heart-in-mouth, blind scrabble. The only solution is to place it in a horizontal position, whereupon the rather sharp leading edge sits about two inches in front of your scalp. Not ideal.
(approx based on a 2005 SRT-10) Parts aren't cheap. A new clutch weighs in at £400 while an exhaust is £1,250. A pair of front brake pads are £180, with rears even dearer at £200. A new radiator is around £500 and an alternator £300. A starter motor won't leave much change from £300.
On the Road
Dodge claim that the SRT-10 is 100lbs lighter than its predecessor and with 40bhp extra powering it, you'd expect it to feel quick. No surprise for guessing that it does. Better traction off the line and 525lb/ft of torque help it hit 60mph in 3.8 seconds and keep going to 185mph. The Tremec six-speed gearbox still feels a little unwieldy but the internals have been strengthened and the shift action finessed ever so slightly. It's still not what you'd describe as 'wristy', requiring more of a pool hall break off to smash it between ratios.
The handling feels benign and planted, as if there is an inordinate amount of gravity working upon the car's massive body. Get a bit more confident with the right hand pedal and that impression rapidly vanishes as the back end becomes extremely lively. On a wet and twisty road, a hard-driven SRT-10 will only do vague approximations of straight ahead, its driver having to constantly correct and counter steer the car like a recalcitrant hovercraft. The left-hand drive layout, huge width and curves that swoop out of sight make piloting an SRT-10 around town a nerve-shredding experience.
Does paying the thick end of £50k for a used SRT-10 make any sense whatsoever? In truth, no. There are many quicker and more characterful cars but what you're paying the premium for in this instance is provenance and a certain sense of occasion that no German performance car could ever match.
Dodge SRT - 10 (2004 - 2009) review by ANDY ENRIGHT