There are some high-end sports cars that simply ooze refinement. Smooth, creamy engines, luxuriously decked interiors, full amenities, and the latest and greatest technologies. These are cars that look great standing still but can tackle a track day with the best of them, only to settle down and offer up an unparalleled, relaxed driving experience for the ride home. The Porsche 911 is a fine example of this kind of car.
The Dodge Viper of the 1990s, however, was not. It had an unfortunate tendency to burn its occupants from the exhaust pipes than ran along its side. Its engine was lifted out of a pickup, and the whole car may have been tied together with hair clips and Elmer’s glue. But its rag-tag nature is what made the Viper so lovably demonic, like that friend who is always great fun but manages to find trouble at every turn.
Like the Corvette, the Viper was a splendid budget supercar fit for the American automotive persona. It was brash and loud, and unapologetically aggressive. Unlike a Porsche or BMW, there wasn’t a soft side to these vehicles back in the day. There is now, but as Dodge found out earlier this year, an attempt to make the leap upmarket might have been a bit premature.
The new Viper — which was branded under SRT, but is once again be named a Dodge for 2015 — is more refined, though it’s still immensely powerful and aggressive. It was also priced at a lofty $102,000, give or take, before taxes, options, and delivery; it could soar north of $120,000 with some additions. That placed the 640-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive behemoth square in the line of fire of cars like Nissan’s all-wheel-drive GT-R, and flirts with some of Porsche’s higher-end 911s.
As Chrysler realized soon after, Viper buyers weren’t especially fond of the car’s six-figure price tag, and sales stumbled along awkwardly to the point where the company had to crimp production of the car — twice. In September 2013, the company sold just 45 models. It sold 38 Vipers in August, 48 in July, 36 in June, and 108 last month.
It seems that the $15,000 price cut that the company initiated earlier this year has done the trick. Sporting a new MSRP of about $85,000, buyers are being lured back by what the Viper has to offer without the prohibitively high price tag, which is still lofty, but falls back to where people seem to feel it should be.
That information should be taken with a grain of salt, however. See, in order to remain in good standing with its current owners, Dodge let the floodgates of generosity open and is offering another $15,000 rebate on an upgrade for current owners of the 2014 models, on top of the price cut. Once trade-in values are factored in, many owners could be walking away with an exchange that didn’t cost much at all, though its unclear how many buyers took advantage of that program.
The price cut also puts the Viper in line with what many consider to be its true competition, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, which boasts 650 horsepower and can make it to 60 from zero in a hair under three seconds. The Z06 starts at a touch under $80,000 and is widely considered to be among the best performance bargains on the market today.
Symbolically, Chrysler also decided recently to pull the plug on the SRT Viper racing program, where such notable moments included a win at the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship driver and team titles in the GTLM class, Motor Authority reports. The site added that Viper last won a major North American sports car championship in the 2000 American Le Mans Series.
It’s still too early to tell if the Viper’s newfound sales success was a onetime spike or if it will turn into a prolonged trend, but now that it is more readily priced to do battle with its immediate competition, the price slashing certainly won’t hurt its chances.
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