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Viper dominates world, Hellcat shines: Lightning Lap

by Patrick Rall on

Car & Driver’s 2016 Lightning Lap trials are now in print (Oct 2016 issue); and with a time of 2:44.2, the Dodge Viper ACR beat every other car in the annual shootout.

Perhaps more to the point, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat proved that it is not just a drag car, turning in an amazing time for a full sized sedan with a price in the mid-$60s.

2016 Dodge Viper ACR

The field was impressive, with the tenth year of the event including   the 2016 Ferrari 488GTB,  2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, 2017 Corvette Grand Sport, 2016 McLaren 570S, 2017 Acura NSX, and  2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus, along with ten other high-performance cars from around the world, all performing at the Virginia International Raceway.

The 2016 Dodge Viper American Club Racer beat them all — indeed, it dominated them.

The Viper ACR laid down a time of 2:44.2, almost a full second better than the second-place Ferrari 488GTB (2:45.1). The third-place Porsche GT3 RS was almost three seconds back of the Viper with the time of 2:47.

Not only did the Viper ACR get around the VIR Grand West course quicker than any car in this year’s field, but it was quicker than all but one production car tested in the ten years that Car & Driver has been conducting the Lightning Lap tests. The only production car to turn in a quicker lap than the new Viper ACR was the Porsche 918 Spider two years ago, with a time of 2:43.1. That Porsche, which was just over a second quicker, has a starting price of $845,000, while the Viper ACR starts at “just” $118,795.

2016 Dodge Viper ACR

The quickest car in last year’s shootout, the then-new Chevrolet Corvette Z06, was four tenths of a second slower than the Viper ACR. The 2008 Viper ACR, which set track records around the world, ran a best time of 2:48.6, making the new ACR 4.4 seconds quicker than the previous generation American Club Racer.

In short, the Viper ACR has proven once again that it is the best street legal track car in America, and one of the very best in the world.

The Hellcat Storms Around VIR

The other Mopar in the Car & Driver 2016 Lightning Lap shootout was the 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. The Charger is the most powerful, the fastest, and the quickest four-door sedan in the world, but with its large stature and 4,600-lb curb weight, the Hellcat Charger is often accused of being nothing more than a drag car with room for four adults and their luggage.

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The 2016 Lightning Lap trials proved otherwise, as with a time of 3:03.5, the Hellcat Charger finished 13th overall, but first among cars with four doors – beating the Ford Focus RS and the Lexus GS F. Comparing the Hellcat Charger to past Lightning Lap vehicles, the big sedan was less than a second behind the 2012 Boss 302 Mustang Laguna Seca edition.

Critics may point out that finishing 13th isn’t all that impressive, but the new Focus RS was engineered and marketed as a high performance track monster; yet the full sized Mopar muscle sedan got around the road course faster.

The Hellcat Charger may not be the best choice for a road course car, but the Lightning Lap results prove that the big sedan can handle the turns with the best of them. Weighing well over two tons, the Dodge sedan runs the quarter mile in the high 10s with sticky tires, gets better than 25mpg on a highway cruise, seats four adults comfortably, and storms around the VIR Grand West course within seconds of some serious supercars.

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So, Dodge had the quickest car overall in the 2016 Car & Driver Lightning Lap shootout with the Viper ACR, while the Charger Hellcat was the quickest four-door car. The Viper ACR is the quickest car under $500,000 ever to compete in the Lightning Lap. The results show that Dodge still leads the way in street-legal performance.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.


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