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Review of the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR: Pick your poison

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On: Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 10:30AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR:  Pick your poison

In terms of iconic cars, there are a few American cars that showed up, stole our hearts, and then rode off into the sunset without the slightest thought of giving them back. Cars like the Corvette, Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, GTO, Chevelle, Challenger, all have had that same talent to capture new suitors by simply just being driven by them. But, even beyond most of those cars, with the exception of some Corvettes, there was one car back in the 1960s that single handedly took hold of the fantasies of every car enthusiast for decades and never let go. That car was the fabled Shelby Cobra, a production hot rod that was nothing short of blisteringly, ridiculously, ungodly powerful and fast.

Fast forward about three decades. The Cobra's lead creator, Carroll Shelby, was at it again, and this time teamed up with Chrysler to help create the next snake-inspired hot rod called the Dodge Viper. Fast forward another quarter century, and the Dodge Viper has gone through several iterations, and even a production hiatus, only to be brought back meaner than ever. For 2016, Team Viper has put out one of the fastest, and slowest, Viper models of all time. How can that be? Read on and find out.

The ACR in Viper ACR stands for "American Club Racing". The idea was that people who bought Vipers wanted to do more than store them in a temperature-controlled garage. They wanted to race them, and not just from stoplight to stoplight. They wanted to race in sanctioned events with real rules and real trophies. The Viper ACR is a track-ready model that you can literally buy on Friday, and then race on Sunday. The first ACR model showed up in 1999; it was quite a machine. But for 2016, the ACR is almost scary.

The biggest goal of the ACR is to create downforce. Downforce keeps the tires planted on the tarmac, and if the tires are planted firmly, the car can accelerate faster around and through corners (and on straightaways too) because there is more control, and less worry that the car will over- or understeer. And this ACR creates almost a literal ton of downforce. To produce that much force pushing down on the car, Dodge employed all of the traditional (and some not-so-traditional) tricks of the racing trade. Most noticeably is the Godzillic-sized rear wing that is big enough to make any pissy Honda fart-can wielding, faux-racer sickeningly green with envy. Aside from the wing that looks as though it could take the Viper into orbit if it was angled right, the ACR also uses a huge front splitter, as well as front fender vents and a rear diffuser, all in unison to keep the tires firmly planted. This package creates a massive 1,533 pounds of downforce at speed. Still not enough? Okay, well fork over another six grand for the ACR Extreme Aero package—ironic because that implies that the "normal" ACR's aerodynamic tweaks are somehow not "extreme" enough, until you upgrade. So what does $6,000 buy you? Well, a larger wing, splitter, and diffuser that provide an… extreme… amount of downforce, upping the ante to more than 1,700 pounds.

The ACR stickers for $122,490; if it seems to you like it's expensive even for a Viper, you're right. It comes in almost ten grand more than a base Viper, but for that money, Dodge has made sure you get a bit more car for your outlay. How about 15.4-inch carbon-ceramic front brakes fitted with six-piston calipers, and 14.2-inch rear brakes replete with four-piston calipers, or maybe 19-inch wheels shod in race-ready Kumho Ecsta V720 tires, which are essentially race slicks that are DOT-approved, thanks to some very slight grooves that are just enough for legal production.

The ACR further differs itself from the base Viper with its suspension setup. As you would expect, the spring rates are significantly stiffer, and have height-adjustable perches as well as adjustable and tunable coil-over shocks. Of course, all of the extra weight brought on by the addition of the super-wing and the accompanying aero-bits have to be offset somehow. At 3,400 pounds, the Viper isn't a lightweight, so Dodge put the ACR on a bit of a diet. The ACR ditches trunk carpeting, sound-deadening material, most of a sound system and speakers, and even gets a lightweight battery.

The ACR uses the same mechanical setup as other Vipers. It starts with an 8.3-liter all-aluminum trademark V10 that pumps out a serious 645 horsepower and equally frightening 600 pound-feet of torque. Backing up that monster motor is a six-speed Tremec TR6060 transmission. Don't even think of asking about an automatic. Strap in and stomp on the gas and the ACR will rocket from 0–60 mph in only 3.2 seconds, to 100 mph in a mere 7.7 seconds, and through the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds, making it one of the faster cars on the planet. All of that downforce, however, creates drag too. The ACR has a drag coefficient of 0.54; compare that with the base Viper's much more slippery 0.37 and you can see the difference. That drag, while being a benefit around the track, is actually a severe hindrance on the top end. So, while the ACR is frighteningly fast around corners, it can run up to a top speed of only 177 mph, making it technically one of the 'slowest' Vipers ever. Now you see what we were talking about earlier? Of course, top speed is just for bragging rights 99% of the time, and most owners who don't also own their own personal two miles of unused road aren't going 175 mph for any reason, ever.

While there are rumors that the Viper may be coming to the end of its days once again, the 2016 ACR is a shining example of all that is good in the world. You can buy it, and just as soon as you can find a race track, be out competing for the best time possible. After 24 years of production, this car still has not let go of our hearts. The Viper is still a wonderful modern representation of what the Shelby Cobra started fifty-plus years ago, and no matter which poison you pick, you'll get the same result in one way or another: A production hot rod that is nothing short of blisteringly, ridiculously, ungodly powerful and fast.


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