A new Dodge Viper would have been a sellout anyway, and demand remained strong, with 1782 sales in calendar 2004 and 1652 in '05. Few changes occurred until 2006, when the Viper coupe returned by popular request. Dodge had developed a 2003 Competition Coupe as a turnkey proposition for weekend warriors, but the production coupe -- also badged SRT-10, not GTS -- was rather different. In fact, Dodge made some changes to a prototype design after getting feedback at a national Viper club convention. Viper fans are nothing if not passionate.
The result appeared for 2005 with unique rear-quarter panels, windshield frame, door glass, rear fascia, and taillamps, plus a "double bubble" fixed roof and specific trunk lid. The coupe, though, could carry six cubic feet of stuff, four more than the roadster. Everything else was the same, including curb weight, so performance was virtually identical. Even so, Car and Driver found the coupe less prone to throttle-on tail sliding than the roadster. The editors also found it to be a more comfortable and thus more practical roadgoing Viper, even on day-long drives. Perhaps Dodge should have called it GTS after all.
The SRT in the new Viper's surname stood for Street and Racing Technology, a small in-house team recently formed to develop high-performance models for all Chrysler Group brands. SRT was a small but high-profile result of the controversial 1998 merger between Chrysler Corporation and Germany's Daimler-Benz (see Chrysler for more details), being comparable to parent Mercedes' AMG division.
SRT's second effort for Dodge was announced several months after the new Viper in response to the fast growing "sport compact" craze. Young, mostly urban enthusiasts had lately taken to transforming used Honda Civics, Acura Integras, and similar cars into striking custom street racers known as "tuner cars" or "sport compacts," implying a huge new market for performance parts and styling accessories.
Automakers began conjuring sporty versions of their workaday small fries to get in on this lucrative action -- and hopefully hook some new buyers for life. The little Neon was already known as a demon handler, having racked up a number of autocross and road-racing championships, and it made a fine starting point for Dodge's sport compact contender, the SRT-4.
The biggest deal for the pumped-up Neon was swapping in a turbocharged version of the corporate 2.4-liter twin cam four to net a startling, and as we'd soon find out underrated, 205 bhp. Allied to mandatory heavy-duty five-speed manual gearbox and a sub-3000-pound curb weight, the intercooled engine could deliver 0-60 mph in a claimed 5.9 seconds, making this the second-fastest car in the Dodge lineup after the mighty Viper. Starting price was no less eye-opening at just under $20,000.
This was in line with SRT's aim of delivering maximum bang for the buck in a car ready for owner personalization. Even so, the SRT-4 was well-equipped, particularly for "stylin’'" on the street. A large "basket handle" spoiler was a must, but there were also fat 17-inch tires, chrome-tipped exhaust, discreet lower-body cladding, a bolder nose with working hood scoop, a deeper bumper, and a gaping Dodge crosshair grille.
The suspension was lowered and stiffened, and big disc brakes with ABS went behind standard alloy wheels. The cabin kept the street-racer theme with bolstered bucket seats, turbo-boost/vacuum gauge, 160-mph speedometer, metal-look accents, a unique three-spoke steering wheel, and a whimsical "cue ball" shift knob.
For more on the all-American Dodge, see:
- Dodge New Car Reviews and Prices
- Dodge Used Car Reviews and Prices