Chad’s Blog: Snakebit on the Road to Reno

Driving to Reno in a Viper. That idea separates people into two camps: “How much is this going to suck,” and “Who needs to pack? When are we leaving?” Add to that our car’s stiffer ACR package and the divide deepens a little more.

It’s not hard to guess which camp ACC Editor Jim Pickering and I fall into. In fact, it was Jim’s idea to do it in the first place. So yesterday morning we set off from Portland in search of hot rods in the desert at Hot August Nights.

The first thing to know about an ACR is it’s composed and well-behaved at highway speeds — not twitchy and finicky. It mirrors the driver well — if you’re smooth, it will be too. Couple that with 460 horsepower and almost 20 mpg on the highway and you have to wonder how much better it could possibly get.

You get one seating position, but it’s damn good. Adjustability is limited to sliding back and forth, as well as a hand-pumped air bladder lumbar support. After nine hours, I didn’t feel any more stiff or sore than any other vehicles I’ve driven long distances — including the fantastic 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Edition Jim and I drove down last year.

The car wants to go fast — at most city speeds, it’s fairly dull. At about 65, you hit a sweet spot. The Viper ate up almost every corner at that speed, leaving the Hondas and Fords as mere dots in the mirror. There is a downside, though, and that’s the drone at 1,400 rpm in sixth gear. That drone could (and probably should) be optioned for “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But after seven or so hours, I didn’t even notice it anymore.

Where’s the fun in a road trip without a few surprises? We got a few. Not the least of which as a torrential downpour in Susanville, CA, near the Nevada border. Cops stopped traffic, got in front, and led groups of four to ten vehicles at 20 mph through a ten-mile stretch. Only once did the Viper hydroplane. Yes, it was scary, but Jim’s a pro and it wasn’t a problem.

Many Viper reviews warn that the car will punish any driver too inexperienced or foolish. Well, through it all, I was certainly grinning like a fool.