Dodge Ram truck with Viper engine blows away competition

If you’ve seen Dodge’s “Hemi Boys” — Southern good ole boys who star in the company’s TV ads and whose vocabulary seems limited to the words “sweet” and “hemi” — you know the type of guy at whom the 2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10 is aimed.

The SRT-10 borrows its V-10 engine from the 500-horsepower Viper sports car, giving this Ram the highest displacement engine in a factory pickup. It blows away its closest competitor, the Ford SVT F-150 Lightning in terms of sheer, raw power.

Our task was to determine if the SRT package, which adds a whopping $22,575 to the base price of a standard Ram 1500 SLT pickup, is worth the money. And whether women could relate to this nine-mile-per-gallon, testosterone-dripping wonder.

The bottom line on our test vehicle: $45,795.

He: Driving the Viper truck, as some folks call the SRT-10, was something of a soul-searching experience for me.

She: It was something of a shoulder-wrenching experience for me. Especially when I had to get my stepladder out of the garage to chip off the snow and sleet that I couldn’t otherwise reach on the windshield of this behemoth. I kept thinking to myself, what if I were in an offsite parking lot at Metro Airport and didn’t have my ladder? But I guess that’s what you have the pickup bed for — to haul your ladder and sundry other items to make this truck fully operational for the average short woman.

He: I felt like I was testing my inner boy when I drove the SRT-10. I mean, what red-blooded male wouldn’t respond to 10 cylinders, 500 horses and 525 pounds-feet of torque? And we haven’t even talked about the 505-watt sound system. But I passed the test. You don’t have to buy me one for our anniversary. The message I walked away with is that Chrysler is, once and for all, over the top with a truck that has too much power and too many rough edges, and costs too much money.

She: I found that cabin totally shocking and foreign. You don’t just turn the key to start the engine, you have to press a big red Viper-style button on the dash. The custom Hurst shift lever with the Viper shift knob begins to vibrate wildly as the engine rumbles to life. The subliminal meaning is almost ludicrous. Come to think of it, it’s not even subliminal. On the other hand, this truck does its job. I had so many young guys nearly drive off the road, straining to get a better look at it.

He: Our friend Larry, who owns a Corvette convertible, checked out the SRT-10 with a rueful smile. He said, “It’s an animal — a sports-car owner’s worst nightmare. Every redneck who buys one will want to race you — and will beat you!”

She: In other words, it’s totally worth the extra $22,575 for the package, which includes such necessities as a “power bulge” hood, a functional rear wing and a 160-mile-per-hour speedometer. Without being the least bit facetious, h owever, I was impressed by this Ram’s feminine side. It’s got very thoughtful touches, like power adjustable pedals, lighted vanity mirrors, dual-zone climate controls and even a little purse hook.

He: Honey, I think that hook was to hold your dead squirrels before you skin ’em.

She: I was all set to give this vehicle five stars because it does exactly what it set out to do with its target male audience. But we both agreed that the SRT-10 has lousy assembly quality, with noticeable gaps between trim pieces and such bizarre add-ons as a strip of material along the driver’s-side A-pillar whose sole function appears to be to hide a largergap. What’s the point of lavishing on such details as making red brake calipers visible behind the 22-inch wheels when you can’t even get the simple pieces right?

He: If your sole purpose in life is to blow off other vehicles in a straight line when you’re roaring away from a stoplight, the SRT-10 should do the trick. In hat department, it will eat a Ford SVT Lightning for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In just about every other practical sense, however, this truck isn’t much fun to live with. The ride is rough, almost bone-jarringly so. The suspension is so stiff, it tends to skitter alarmingly on choppy pavement. The fat tires make it difficult to park in tight spaces. I guess you need to ask yourself, how much do I want to pay for a major shot of adrenaline?