By on May 10, 2015

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When Chrysler invited the media to an event at the Conner Avenue assembly plant where the Dodge Viper is put together in Detroit, it was rumored they’d use the occasion to reveal a 700+ horsepower Hellcat Version of Dodge’s sports car. After all, how could the Challenger and Charger have more powerful engines than the brand’s King of the Hill? Over at GM, even Cadillac’s V cars don’t have as much power as the Z06 Corvette.

It happens Dodge did reveal a new version of the Viper – but it isn’t a Hellcat. Instead, they introduced what they billed as “the fastest street legal Viper track car ever”, the all-new Viper ACR.

When the acronym was introduced, ACR stood for American Club Racer. As you would expect from a suffix like that, the Viper ACRs have been more focused for track use than regular Viper roadsters or coupes.

As quick as the Hellcat versions of the Charger and Challenger are, they are muscle cars, not track cars. Chrysler isn’t ashamed to say they weren’t meant to take on the Z/28 Camaro or Boss 302 Mustang on a road course. The Hellcat V8 is based on the iron block HEMI and those cars are a bit noseheavy and prone to understeer. Don’t get me wrong, I had a Scat Pack Challenger for a week more than a month ago and it’s not a bad handling car. The steering is quick enough to balance the drift happy rear end with a flick of the wrist, but the big Hemi powered sedan and coupe were consciously designed to do well on Milan’s quarter mile drag strip, not so much Waterford Hills’ tight road course.

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The Viper, on the other hand, is Dodge’s track car. It’s the one they’ve used to set the Nurburgring lap “record” and to race at LeMans. (The Hellcats, though, can do 200 mph just like the Viper.) It has been Dodge’s halo car for more than two decades. When cars below it in the brand’s hierarchy have gotten the attention that the Hellcats have gotten, it was natural for people to speculate the Viper would eventually get the 707 hp Hellcat HEMI V8. That speculation has proven to be unfounded.

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Tim Kuniskis, Dodge’s president and CEO, said that putting the Hellcat engine in the Viper was never really considered. While the Viper has a bigger displacement engine with more cylinders than the Hellcat V8, the Viper’s all-aluminum V10 actually dresses out about 200 lbs less than the Hellcat HEMI. Since the 645 hp base Viper already has a better power to weight ratio than the Hellcat cars, dropping a Hellcat in a Viper would actually make it slower than it is. It would also upset the weight balance and likely make the Viper less competitive on the track.

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So the Viper ACR won’t be getting its speed from raw power. Instead, the ACR gets suspension, brake and aerodynamic upgrades. Fully adjustable coilover shocks are at all four corners. Ride height can be adjusted up to 3 inches. More negative camber is allowed. Some bushings have been replaced by more rigid joints. Brakes have been upgraded to six piston Brembo calipers with carbon-ceramic rotors. An aero package has been added that doubles downforce at speed to almost a ton. And special Ecsta V720 tires developed just for the Viper ACR are claimed to have the largest contact patch of any production car. Dodge claims the combination will allow the Viper ACR to sustain lateral acceleration levels of 1.5g, something pretty much unheard of with street legal cars.

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The Extreme Aero Package deserves some attention in particular, though admittedly it’s a bit hard to miss. In the front is an aggressive and adjustable splitter that’s removable so you don’t damage it when using the car on the street. Also removable are the strakes for the rear diffuser that extend far under the ACR’s smooth belly pan. They’re meant to be installed when you get to the track. One part is intended to be removed when you get to the track: the under-fender panel that blocks off the hood louvers intended to extract air from around the front wheel. The ACR gets even more aggressive front dive planes than the Viper TA. Dominating the back end of the car is an enormous adjustable dual-element rear wing that’s wider than most men are tall.

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While the new ACR is said to be the fastest track oriented street Viper yet, and the base ACR comes with a somewhat stripped out interior and a modest three speaker audio system, buyers can participate in the Viper “One of One” customization program. Even though it is track focused, it can be equipped with the panoply of luxury options. If you want to luxuriate in leather with the A/C and stereo blasting while you set a new lap record at your local track, you can do that, (if your driving skills are up to it). In any case, Chrysler will build your ACR the way you want it. They’ll even deliver it in your team colors.

The last of 13 pilot ACRs was going down the assembly line as we took the plant tour, so production on the retail Viper ACRs should start as soon as sales being in the 3rd quarter of this year. You can assume the price will be somewhat north of the base Viper’s $87K.

Photography by Ronnie Schreiber. For more photos of the vehicles in this post, please go to Cars In Depth.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

 

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35 Comments on “Dodge Burnishes Viper’s Halo With New ACR...”


  • avatar
    wumpus

    math fail.

    “Since the 645 hp base Viper already has a better power to weight ratio than the Hellcat cars, dropping a Hellcat in a Viper would actually make it slower than it is.”

    707/(3,284+200)>645/3,284

    I highly doubt it would make more sense to adjust the transmission and suspension to deal with the hellcat engine as it probably would slow the thing down on a road track. Doesn’t change how ratios work.

    • 0 avatar
      NikkoCharger

      But wouldn’t adjusting those things just add more weight in the process?

      Plus the engineers would still have to deal with the weight balance…

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the correction. Dodge president Tim Kuniskis said that the Viper already had a better power to weight ratio than the Hellcat. He also discussed the fact that the Hellcat HEMI weighs 200 lbs more than the Viper V10, and it would have upset the balance of the car and make it slower on the track. I must have conflated the two and gotten the impression that a Hellcat equipped Viper would also have a poorer P:W. I should have checked the math.

      In my defense, the Viper would be slower (at least around the track) with the Hellcat V8.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “Track cars” like these are unlikely to ever see a race track. They’re for collectors and guys who own Dodge dealerships to tuck away in their garages and show people, “look what I have.”

    • 0 avatar

      This Ford GT looks like it’s tracked regularly:

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/img_0357a-450×322.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Jeeps are unlikely to roll on dirt. It doesn’t mean that none of them do. When I used to go to track days, there were quite a few track versions of sports cars that showed up. Often, they were one generation older than the stuff in the showrooms; for example there were a number of 996 GT3s as dedicated track cars when 997 GT3s were in production. C6 ZO6s were even more popular on the track, although I don’t know if that counts as a ‘track car.’

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        CJinSD – I do agree that most hard edged performance products end up being street queens but as you have pointed out some do end up used for their intended purpose. I’ve seen a few Raptors, PowerWagons, and Rubicons used for their real purpose in life. That also applies to supercars, motocross bikes, and sport bikes.

        That is the whole point of any performance machine – a minority uses them as intended which gives them halo status and the rest just pretend to use them.

        The heroes pull up the zeroes.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          @Lou_BC,
          I’ll even go further than just the more limited production of specialized vehicles like the Raptor.

          My friend bought a Toyota Prado which is very similar to a Lexus GX 470. He doesn’t take it off road at all.

          I try and encourage him to come out, but he refuses. His reasoning was why spend $50k on a vehicle then ruin it.

          I said why buy it? I suppose it’s each to their own.

          But most SUVs sold here in Australia like Prado’s, Landcruisers, Pajero’s, etc don’t off road.

          They are a pose.

    • 0 avatar
      viperkim

      Actually Master MOST ACR’s do see track time. Viper Owners Association has more track sponsored events than just about any other car club. Most of the owners do some track time ,be it in moderation or be it every other weekend. Yes there is many in collections also. The new ACR is a beast and it will amaze you the performance that comes out of the new Gen V. If you need more HP there is engine options to give you that. Most people reading this could not handle the car to its limits with the 645 HP that it has anyway. Viper is a true American hand built exotic for one purpose. A true American sports car that is a total beast on the track. Maybe a 1000 – 1500 a year of all models will be made. That number will always be low. That’s not a failure that’s what they sell. Its not for everyone, its for the few die hard performance junkies that want it and can afford it.

  • avatar

    WASTE OF TIME.

    It’s too damned small and ridiculously expensive.

    Chrysler will sell 100% of HELLCATS, and these stupid little cars will sit and languish.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re matching production to sales so I don’t think there are going to be many Vipers sitting on dealer lots.

      At $85K, it’s an interesting price point for what’s essentially a hand-assembled car that you can personalize. Production is low enough that they can offer the one of one program, something I don’t think would be possible with the current 25,000+ build rate on the Corvette.

      Someone must have made the business case for the Viper. It survived the bankruptcy and FCA invested a fair amount of money modernizing the Conner Ave plant (it’s actually Conner Street but the factory uses Avenue)when they took the Viper out of production for a year or so before the 5th gen car started production.

      • 0 avatar

        Meanwhile… Chrysler can’t build Hellcats fast enough.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        @Ronnie Schreiber I think your analysis of the matching of production to demand is exactly what this will turn out to be: if you want a customized trackable car, whether for show or go, or both, and for just around six figures, this will be your option. Especially if you don’t want to be “One of Thousands” in a Vette. (Or Porsche, or moving the decimal point to the right, “One of At Least Hundreds” of Lambos, M-B’s, etc.)

        This will be the one and only way to get a really hot and totally unique car at anywhere near that price, or at least one that can be homologated, as I expect this will be.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      @BTSR,
      If I read the last line of the previous story correctly, Subaru is outselling the Dodge brand this year. I’m a MOPAR guy from way back in 2nd grade when the Challenger was the first car I ever desired. (The cool girl (her mom always had 1%er bikers over) who was trying to win me away from my GF liked Mustangs, but said Challengers were still better than Camaro’s so I was alright.) I’d rather have a Hellcat than a Viper, but… From a market point of view, Subaru is making the better decisions. You and I, we’re just… wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Waste of time? I’m not sure I understand the purpose of comparing a purpose built track car to a street car. Why badmouth it? In many circles, this ACR will do more for the image of Dodge than the Hellcat ever will.

    • 0 avatar
      Vega

      Come on big guy, leave some cars for the sub-300lb people who like roads that sometimes have things like corners…

      On the other hand, if your posts (and your whole internet persona) are intended as an elaborate (and long-term) parody of typical American stereotypes, well done!

  • avatar
    Speed3

    So…how much hp will it have?

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Sounds like there are no changes to the engine, so 645 hp.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s correct. No drivetrain changes. The 2015 Viper is up 5 hp over the 2014 model.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          But I will bet once they start getting real world track results, they will find a way to up that, probably with the same basic engine, but through various tuning options, in order to do things like get better quarter times, ‘Ring times, zero sixty times, etc.

          Better anything that will move it and keep it ahead of much, or even all, of its competition in several arenas.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOQe1hWvX_c

    For some reason Fiat gave Roadkill a couple of Hellcabs and a Viper to trash. Is their audience big enough to justify destroying three new cars?

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      @CJinSD I bet the audience will be big enough for that particular Road Kill, a/k/a Auto Kill.

      But will they add a third driver, do you think, or just round robin the two guys in the three cars?

  • avatar
    mfh

    It is time to set a new Nurburgring record with the new ACR!!!!!RIGHT?????!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Maybe. This ACR seems to have modest HP gains since the last record was set, but more telling would be the aero and suspension changes. Cars are beginning to break the 7 min mark and that is impressive no matter who holds the title. These times seem to hold more value for the manufacturers and not everyone puts a car on the ring.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I love the wing because it reminds me of the Le mans wining vipers. Hardest car to control in Gran Turismo 1, and also the most powerful in the game with 400hp. Loved it once I learned to drive it, it the was the hardest car to figure out! Still love vipers because of that!

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Odd… not a single mention of fuel economy in the article or comments.
    How are we supposed to compare? Next time send Alex.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I don’t think anyone looking at an ACR cares about fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        Most of the people I know who would shop for an ACR would only do so if the factory could guarantee sub-10mpg figures so they could brag about how much fuel they burn. That’s the big reason why Dodge won’t give us a V8 sports car – too much of the image is tied up in that V10 block.

        Think the rolling-coal crowd, only with more money.

        I love the Viper, but it is pretty anachronistic these days.

  • avatar
    Chan

    It used to be that supercar-levels of power were relatively rare in mainstream cars. It was easy to define and admire an exotic simply for its horsepower rating and top speed.

    Nowadays you can have sedans that produce as much power as half-million-dollar supercars, so the finer traits of the true exotics are lost on most people.

    That is, until you put one on the street. Most supercars still display a mile of presence. Put a Hellcat next to a Viper in a lot and see what happens. All is well.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I wonder if Jack will ever buy a viper.

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