NEW for 2008:

– All-new model

Temporarily discontinued for 2007, the redesigned Dodge Viper returns for 2008. As before, both coupe and roadster versions are offered. The name reflects the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) in-house team that put together its design and engineering.

Size-wise, the Viper is unchanged, but replacing the previous 8.3-litre V10 is an 8.4-litre version, which ups the power from 500 to 600 horses, and from 525 lb-ft to 560 lb-ft of torque; the only transmission is a six-speed manual. Despite the extra power, fuel economy is actually slightly better.

The coupe and roadster each come in a single trim line, and include 18- and 19-inch aluminum wheels, air conditioning, high intensity discharge headlamps, power mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, keyless entry, power-adjustable pedals, tilt steering column, leather bucket seats with microfibre inserts, CD stereo and fog lamps.

The roadster also includes a manually-operated soft top and convertible boot cover.

A thinly-disguised race car, the Viper is not for amateurs: unlike the more forgiving Corvette, the raw and powerful Viper requires considerable driving skill to take it through hard corners, and it does not take kindly to driver error. A pure driving machine, it has only anti-lock brakes and front airbags, with no stability control, traction control, cruise or curtain airbags. The cockpit can be tight for taller drivers, as well.

Even so, it’s surprisingly easy to drive at lower speeds, and its improved suspension and tires remove much of the twitchiness inherent to the previous model. Acceleration is under four seconds to get from zero to 96 km/h, and that loud exhaust still comes out of the pipes ahead of the rear wheels. Wilder than a Corvette, less expensive than a Ferrari or Lamborghini, this may be the ultimate definition of Detroit muscle.

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