Through it all, the 8.4-litre V10 bellows and barks through the side exhaust pipes, always reminding the driver of the violence straining for release. At full throttle the true extent of that violence, in terms of acceleration, noise and sheer chaos, is truly astonishing. With gas pedal pinned to the floor, a driver does not so much accelerate the Viper as enrage it.
Perhaps the only dynamic miss for the new car is a lack of a connector pipe to match the noise pulses coming from each of the V10’s banks of five cylinders. Five-cylinder engines are unmelodic, and the Viper has two very loud ones. The engines of handbuilt Italian V8s and V12s are positively symphonic. The Corvette’s V8 and Porsche’s flat-six each provide audible enticement to felonious behavior. The Viper’s exhaust note, in contrast, is just a belligerent, aimless caterwaul.
It was this kind of bluster, combined with the car’s exaggerated styling, that historically tended to chase away prospective customers. If those did not turn them away, the iffy finish of the plastic bodywork and the Spartan interior appointments did the trick. Even the monstrous 6-speed shifter seemed truck-like and graceless.
No more. Meticulously finished carbon fibre and aluminum bodywork are complemented by a lavish leather-wrapped cabin that is pleasantly free of the model-glue epoxy smell that permeated previous editions. Even the shifter exhibits the light, short throws expected of a proper sports car. And the Viper does not just feel lighter; engineers trimmed 100 pounds of excess mass over the previous iteration.
Thankfully, the leaner Viper still self-selects only engaged drivers with some demonstrable degree of competence, as no automatic transmission is available. The Viper’s fans pray it remains ever thus, and that their dreams and fantasies of wrestling a snake around a turn never fade. Thankfully, those dreams now have just the right touch of nightmare to them.