In its second year of production, the third-generation Viper SRT-10 remains unchanged for 2005, except for new Race Yellow and Copperhead Orange exterior colours. The Copperhead paint scheme comes with a new interior package featuring black leather with contrasting stitching on the seats and shifter knob.

While a coupe is expected in the Fall of 2005 as a 2006 model, the Viper is currently available only as a roadster, in one trim level. Power, and lots of it, comes exclusively from an aluminum-block 8.3-litre V10 mated to a heavy-duty six-speed manual transmission.

Standard features include air conditioning, power windows, suede seat upholstery, leather-wrapped wheel, Alpine six-CD stereo system with seven speakers, power locks, height-adjustable pedals, 18-inch front and 19-inch rear alloy wheels with Z-rated tires, bi-Xenon headlamps, fog lamps, manual soft top with glass rear window, and variable intermittent wipers.

Part of the Viper’s appeal, besides its 500 hp engine, is its simplicity: this is how American muscle cars used to be. It can be gnarly and vicious, and it requires considerable driving skill to keep it under control when you step hard on the throttle; as a pure driving machine, there are no cupholders, cruise control, traction control, or stability programs, and the only concession to covering the driver’s butt is in the mandatory front air bags and the anti-lock brakes, which only became available in 2001. If you don’t know what you’re doing, this is not the car to take out and open up.

That said, the Viper is surprisingly easy to drive at lower speeds, with a smooth clutch and extremely precise steering. The manual top is easy to operate, the cabin is wide and comfortable, and the large footwells mean the pedals are far enough apart even for big-booted drivers.

The Viper occupies a unique niche in the market: it’s not as exotic as the Ford GT40, it’s not really a daily driver like the Corvette, and it would take two or more of them to get into the price range occupied by Ferrari and Lamborghini. When you hear enthusiasts speak reverently about “Detroit muscle”, this is exactly what they mean.

The Viper is built in Detroit, Michigan.

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