With the Viper's uncertain future -- not to mention sales figures that are well below what we saw in its prime -- one might not expect Dodge to roll out anything new wearing the snake badge. But it turns out that where there's a will (or parts), there's a way (or bored engineers). Enter the 2010 Dodge Viper ACR-X, a factory turn-key race car that will compete in the upcoming Dodge Viper Cup spec-racing series.
The ACR-X is a modified version of the Viper ACR, but one big difference is that the ACR-X isn't street legal, so don't plan on ordering a custom license plate for it. No, X doesn't mean all-wheel-drive; in fact, it doesn't have a denotation, except perhaps Xtreme. The ACR-X comes complete with a gutted interior, a full roll cage, a fire suppression system, a race seat, a six-point harness, and a MOMO steering wheel, all topped off with Michelin R compound racing slicks. It uses the ACR's same mammoth 8.4-liter V-10 engine, but here it produces a back-bruising 640 hp at 6100 rpm (40 hp more than the street-legal ACR) and 605 lb-ft of torque at 5100 rpm (45 lb-ft more than the ACR). The added thrust comes courtesy of engine programming and a free-flow exhaust system that is deafening inside the cockpit but manages to sound oh, so sweet. The six-speed manual transmission comes with a short-throw shifter that provides a sturdy feel.
Where the X really separates itself from the ACR is in the handling department. The springs are 50 percent stiffer and work well with the custom two-way adjustable dampers. The rear sway bar is the same size but is adjustable. As with most race cars, downforce plays a major roll in high-speed stability. In the ACR-X's case, the deck-lid spoiler has an adjustable pitch angle at the rear of the car, and two additional dive planes were added to the front bumper. The result is up to 100 pounds of added downforce at 150 mph.
The extra traction was welcome as we ripped the ACR-X around the racetrack, where the car was able to carve through the high-speed sections without even a wiggle. Of course, the aforementioned Michelin racing slicks are what helped most. After a lap of building heat, the tires stuck to the track's surface as if we were driving on tar. But by far the most noticeable difference was in braking performance. In the Viper SRT10 and ACR, threshold braking causes the rear end to lift and dance and want to come around, so straight-line braking is a necessity. An amateur attempt to trail-brake will have you looking the wrong way in a hurry. But it's a double-edged sword; with that much engine power under your right foot, an all-too-eager ease on the gas pedal coming out of a turn will do the same thing. This isn't so on the ACR-X, where the tires keep the car planted firmly to the tarmac and where oversteer is easily manageable. Never before have we mentioned the words "nimble" and "Viper" in the same sentence, but in describing the ACR-X we break with that tradition.
Of course, the reason behind the ACR-X's newfound nimbleness is the amount of mass it carries - or, more accurately, doesn't carry. The weight loss between the ACR and ACR-X is enough to make The Biggest Loser proud: 160 pounds. That means that the curb weight is down to 3190 pounds, or only about 200 pounds heavier than a Volkswagen GTI. The interior has been stripped; there are no interior door panels, air bags, or sound deadening, leaving only the bare essentials.
Twenty-five ACR-Xs have already been built and sold to customers. If there is continued interest, Dodge has the capability to produce 25 more. If you'd like to snag one, you'll have to shell out about $110,000. The ACR-X will make its on-track debut in the Dodge Viper Cup spec-racing series at Virginia International Raceway in July 2010. Stay tuned.