The Accord was loaded -- leather seats, onboard navigation, a smooth six-speed manual shifter, side-curtain air bags, four-wheel disc breaks and a spunky three-liter, 244-horsepower V-6 engine. All of that, and the Accord got 31 miles per gallon on the highway and could be had for what in today's automotive retail world is considered the reasonable price of $29,850.
What was there not to like? Nothing, absolutely nothing...
But I parked the Accord, dropped it quicker than a hot-blooded teenager dumping a dull date. I didn't want the wholesome girl next door. I wanted action.
I wanted to drive the black-on-black, chrome-wheeled, 8.3-liter, V-10, premium unleaded gas-guzzling, 510-horsepower 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 coupe.
Whoa! Get on up and get on down! Have you ever fallen in love with someone you knew to be crazy?
Getting heated up over the Viper SRT-10 is something like that. It's sexy, attractive and thoroughly nuts. It is woefully impractical. It ultimately will take from you more than it will give, but you become so addicted to what it offers that you can't resist. You are seduced, pulled in by the obnoxious roar of its engine, replete with the loud pop-pop racecar noises emanating from exhaust pipes cleverly integrated into rocker panels right and left.
The Viper SRT-10 has minimal storage space -- enough for the proverbial golf bag and a pair of shoes. Its two-seat interior is cramped. If you drive it with side windows raised, the entrapped cacophony of roaring engine, tympanic hardtop and popping tailpipes will pummel your brains and pound your soul -- va-va-varoom, boom, pop-pop!
I loved it, hated it. I wished I could quit it. I couldn't.
Motorized insanity is like that. It defies logic and does violence to common sense.
The Viper SRT-10 is not an everyday driver. It beats you up, bounces you around on imperfect urban streets. Its six-speed manual gearshift lever is an attractive leather-bound thing, smartly framed by satin-finish metal. But it is high above the center floor, forcing short drivers to reach up and shift, stretch and shift. You are so exhausted after a city run in this one that you're good for nothing.
Yet Viper SRT-10 aficionados are willing to spend nearly $90,000 to own the rear-wheel-drive beast. They want its power and its exclusivity. Few people can afford it. Few can drive it well. I am not among the few.
Taking the Viper SRT-10 over local streets at legal speeds isn't driving. It's more akin to strolling around the perimeter of a gymnasium floor pretending to work out.
Those who think themselves capable of mastering the Viper SRT-10's power often take the car to weekend racetracks where, real or imagined, they become champions of speed -- the royalty of the super-accelerated world.
In that regard, the Viper SRT-10 is a tad misleading. It is street-legal. It meets all safety and air-quality standards governing the operation of passenger motor vehicles on U.S. roads. But it is immensely unhappy in the urban-suburban milieu, where driving it seldom requires shifting beyond second gear.
Driving the SRT-10 on the track is a challenging experience too, as is taking it home to a quiet suburban neighborhood late at night.
Boom, va-va-varoom, pop-pop! It frays the nerves, makes you wonder why you ever got behind its wheel. But you remember those rare moments in secluded settings where you and the SRT-10 did your thing.
You know you can't live with it forever. It's too demanding. It eventually will break your wallet, if not your heart.
It's crazy, completely wacky. But you love it.
Nuts & Bolts
2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10
Complaints: The 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is totally impractical for everyday use. It's noisy, consumptive. It comes with a $3,000 federal gas-guzzler tax.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Ride and handling are great on a racetrack, or on a well-maintained highway relatively free of traffic. Both ride and handling diminish noticeably in the city, especially on poorly maintained streets. Superior acceleration: It goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in four seconds.
Head-turning quotient: The SRT-10 is the most polarizing vehicle I've driven since 1992, when I drove the first Viper. Critics passionately voiced their contempt, damning it as a wasteful excess in an era of rising fuel prices and declining oil production. Those who loved it were just as passionate in expressing their admiration for the car.
Body style/layout: The Dodge Viper SRT-10 coupe is a compact front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two-door car with a fixed, scalloped hardtop (to allow its driver and passenger to wear racing helmets -- seriously). It also is available as an open-top roadster.
Engine/transmission: It comes with an 8.3-liter V-10 engine that develops 510 horsepower at 5,600 revolutions per minute and 535 foot-pounds of torque at 4,100 RPM. The engine is linked to a six-speed manual transmission.
Capacities: It has tight seating for two people. The trunk can hold a golf bag, or one or two small soft-pack overnight bags. The gas tank holds 18.5 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: I averaged 14 -- fourteen -- miles per gallon in city/highway driving.
Safety: Side and head air bags are not available at this writing. Four-wheel antilock brakes are standard.
Price: The base price on the tested 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 coupe is $83,145. Dealer's invoice price is $75,704. Price as tested is $86,995, including the $3,000 federal gas-guzzler tax and an $850 transportation charge. Dealer's price as tested is $79,554.
Purse-strings note: It's a hellacious toy, a weekend race car. Compare with Chevrolet Corvette, Ferrari F430 F1, Ford GT, Jaguar XKR and Porsche 911 Carrera S.