Dodge Burnishes Viper's Halo With New ACR
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
I wonder if Jack will ever buy a viper.