Auto enthusiasts raised in the 1990s remember the original Dodge Viper. Generally, it’s remembered fondly, but with some caveats — it had the tendency to burn its occupants because of the close proximity of the side-mounted exhaust pipe to the driver’s leg, and it had all the grace and poise of a NASA shuttle re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Its engine was sourced from a truck and its build quality was questionable, but it could be had for not a whole lot of money relative to its performance. Through the madness, though, the Viper was a spirited car, and it was inexplicably desirable.
At the same time, Chevrolet was parading around the Corvette ZR1, which made its introduction a few years prior. It had a big V8 in the front, power at the rear, and a six-speed manual in the middle. The mid-’90s were certainly a fun, if not eventful time for American muscle enthusiasts.
For those waxing nostalgic about that particular period, it appears that those times may be relived in a more modern context. Last year we saw the debut of the newest high-end Chevy Corvette, this time wearing a Z06 badge, and Dodge’s reinvented Viper has been on the market now for a couple of years. Only now, there’s a new ACR flavor on the menu. That stands for American Club Racer, by the way. Let the games commence.
The Corvette Z06 made waves by extracting 650 horsepower from its 6.2-liter LS4 V8. There’s an available eight-speed transmission (a seven-speed manual comes stock), and zero to 60 is dealt with in a not-so-lazy 2.9 seconds. A slew of aero upgrades are available over the base ‘Vette, and even more stuff is available if a consumer can cough up the dollars.
Largely, it’s the same story with the Viper. However, while the base Corvette pumps out 460 horsepower, the base Viper produces 645. Therefore, Dodge left the 8.4-liter V10 largely alone, and focused mainly on improving the car’s behavior on the track. There’s new carbon ceramic brakes with six-piston calipers and high-performance tires specifically designed for the ACR, and an aero kit that “delivers nearly [one] ton of peak downforce at top speed through massive adjustable dual-element carbon fiber rear wing, rear carbon fiber diffuser, unique SRT hood with removable louvers, detachable extension for the front splitter and additional dive planes,” Dodge said.
There’s now 10-setting, race-tuned, double-adjustable, coil-over Bilstein racing shocks, weight loss measures, and, if the money is right, buyers can spring for the extensive 1-of-1 customization program. The ACR model will likely begin production in the third quarter of this year.
The cars shouldn’t be too hard to pick out — that rear wing isn’t exactly subtle, and chances are you’ll hear it long before it whizzes by your field of vision. Exact specs haven’t been announced — though Dodge says it’ll pull 1.5G in the corners — and neither has pricing, though it’s safe to say that it’ll come in the $110,000 to $120,000 ballpark, healthily above the $79,000 starting price of the Z06.
The new Viper is not the same Viper of old, though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. To our knowledge, it has fixed the burning-its-occupants issue, and overall, the car has more road manners than the nuclear bumble-bee-powered model that preceded it. It’s a better, more powerful car in just about every measurable metric, but so is the Z06. Gentlemen, start your engines.