Home » Speedy, Spendy, and Splendid: 2008 Dodge Viper vs 2014 BMW i8

Speedy, Spendy, and Splendid: 2008 Dodge Viper vs 2014 BMW i8

Sbsd 1 5 2024
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Happy Friday, Autopians! For today’s Showdown, I was all set to feature a three-way shootout of the week’s winners, maybe another “Track, Daily, Burn” competition, but then Wednesday evening I received a Slack message from David, containing a link to a Dodge Viper for sale, and the cryptic question: “That or BMW i8?” I wasn’t sure what to make of that; either his Christmas bonus was a lot bigger than mine was, or his NyQuil-fogged brain was daydreaming of a stablemate for his Jeeps and i3 and Leaf. In any event, I took it as a prompt, so here we are.

But first let’s settle up on yesterday’s matchup. It seems we were in agreement that they’re both quite good deals, and should last a long time yet, but the pull of the cool little Mazda truck was far stronger than the stodgy beige Toyota. I guess it depends on what you’re looking for; I think the Avalon would make a better commuter, with the comfy seats and quiet ride, but the truck might be a superior all-rounder, with the ability to handle more weekend chores. If I had to have only one vehicle (perish the thought!), it would probably be something like that Mazda truck.

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That begs the question: if we all love small pickups like that, why did they completely disappear from the market? The Maverick is a decent substitute, but it only comes as a crew cab, and it isn’t a simple body-on-frame leaf-sprung truck truck like this. I suppose we’ll never see the likes of this Mazda in the marketplace again. Good thing they last forever, then, I guess.

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All righty then. I’m not one to question the inscrutable motives of our illustrious Editor-In-Chief, but neither do I feel qualified to discuss these cars with any level of expertise. They’re both well out of my league financially, and one of them is technologically as well. However, I do get the gist of them: They’re both designed to go fast and look cool doing it. One of them is a hammer and chisel; the other a laser cutter. One is hair metal; the other techno. I could keep going with the tired clichés, but maybe we’d better just look at the cars.

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2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 – $69,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 8.4 liter overhead valve V10, six-speed manual, RWD

Location: Warrenton, OR

Odometer reading: 35,000 miles

Operational status: Ready to scare you, and in need of some exercise

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It is impossible to overstate just how bonkers the Dodge Viper is. When it debuted in 1992, Dodge was still selling Dynasty sedans, complete with landau roofs. Its minivans were still more or less square. The hottest performance cars offered were collaborations with Carroll Shelby and had four-cylinder turbo engines. And all of a sudden, here’s this monster, a ten-cylinder roadster with 400 horsepower and no door handles, storming in like the school bully ready to steal the Corvette’s lunch money. It was glorious. When people ask me why I’m a Chrysler fan, I point to stuff like the Viper.

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We all expected it to be a flash in the pan, but Chrysler surprised everyone by actually developing the thing, making it nicer and more user-friendly, while at the same time somehow even faster and more brutal. By the time this fourth-generation Viper came around, its V10 displaced a whopping 512 cubic inches and assaulted the rear tires with a full six hundred horsepower. It’s a simple formula, and one that appeals to the lizard brain in all of us: Big engine in front, stickshift in the middle, tire smoke comes out the back.

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It’s not what anyone would call refined or elegant; inside it’s standard-issue Chrysler gray plastic, and I’m pretty sure those are the same HVAC controls as were in my old Neon. But who cares? If you want refinement, go look elsewhere. This is a big dumb toy, and an exceptional one at that. It’s everything you always wished your Hot Wheels cars could be, only big enough to actually get in and drive.

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The Viper was always at least a little bit about out-Corvetteing the Corvette, and while I hate to make assumptions about anyone, this seller seems to be trying to out-Corvette-owner stereotypical Corvette owners. This car has a scant 35,000 miles on its odometer, and apparently it’s too precious to even back out of the garage for proper photos. It’s been well cared-for, but maybe too well; I’d personally rather look at a cheaper, scruffier Viper with 100,000 miles on it.

2014 BMW i8 Pure Impluse World Package – $58,998

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.5 liter DOHC inline 3 plus 98 kw electric motor, six-speed automatic, AWD

Location: Burlingame, CA

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Odometer reading: 30,000 miles

Operational status: Ready to reclaim that “Ultimate Driving Machine” title

While the Viper is a throwback to an earlier time, BMW’s now-defunct i8 coupe is very much of the moment. It’s a plug-in hybrid, loaded with all sorts of tech gadgets that I’m sure Thomas Hundal could explain to you if you asked him nicely. I honestly didn’t know much about this car at all until I started researching it, and the more I read about it, the cooler it gets. It’s one of the best parts of this gig: having to learn about cars I didn’t know about so I don’t sound like a complete idiot.

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A lot of hybrid vehicles link an electric motor and a gasoline engine together mechanically. Toyota’s hybrid system uses sort of a “push-me-pull-you” arrangement of its electric motor and gasoline engine, and Honda’s hybrids stick the motor between the engine and a traditional gearbox. The i8 has no such connection; its 1.5 liter gas engine drives the rear wheels, and the electric motor drives the front. Either system is capable of operating independently, but are managed together by software. It’s two-two-two drivetrains in one!

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This i8 has only 30,000 miles on the clock, and looks like it’s brand new. The absurdly long name is apparently some special trim package, which includes the snazzy blue seat belts. And as we all know, blue means hybrid. I thought the i8’s design was a little busy when it first debuted, but it’s growing on me, and I think this is quite a handsome car. Either that, or car designs have gotten so outrageous in the last ten years that this looks tame now. At least, until you open those butterfly doors.

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It’s still a flashy car, and it’s definitely no slouch: Zero to sixty flashes by in a mere 4.4 seconds, and it’s electronically limited to 155 miles an hour. But I fear the visceral feedback is lacking – no big roaring engine, no surge of power as revs build, and while it does have flappy-paddles that allow manual shifting, it’s a far cry from a heavy clutch pedal and a big chunky lever moving actual gears around. I’m sure it’s a ton of fun, and I’d love to drive one, but it’s a different kind of fun, and I think it would take some getting used to.

I’m still not sure what David’s motivation was in pointing these cars out to me. But I’m glad he did; it gives me a chance to dive into some stuff I don’t normally get to write about. And speaking of the unusual, next week I’m going to feature all weird reader suggestions. (That’s weird suggestions from readers, not suggestions from weird readers, but I guess either way works.) Post your suggestions to the Discord, or on Opposite Lock, and I’ll pick out the ones that move me, and pit them against each other. I already have a pair for Monday, but the rest of the week is wide open. Tell me what you want to see!

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Ricki
Ricki
3 months ago

Okay hear me out… what if we took the Viper drivetrain… and stuffed it in the i8?

Sure, it’s $130k before you even get to wrenching, but… maybe…

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
3 months ago

Viper. I literally stopped cold partway through typing to imagine that ass barely under control, every turn a non-zero chance of becoming a drift even with the lightest foot and the best intentions, the ludicrous cheap Neon interior yoked to TEN CYLINDERS, which is my truck and motorcycle combined. The dash rattle at 40 miles an hour as it sulks in second gear, ugh give it all to the viper.

Ricardo
Ricardo
3 months ago

Viper.
You know that it is going to deliver to all the senses on every drive…. and for that you will forgive its short comings

Mike F.
Mike F.
3 months ago

A friend has a story about driving down the road in a Viper and the next thing he knew, he was upside down in a ditch. They will try to kill you. The BMW is much less likely to do that and I love the styling of the i8 – if you ask me, it’s gorgeous. But that said, I’ll take the walk on the wild side and go with the Viper. There will be plenty of fast and gorgeous hybrid cars in the future. Cars like the Viper are a dying (if not dead) breed.

Isaac Fortner
Isaac Fortner
3 months ago

I like new tech, but everything I’ve seen about the i8 reliability (or total lack thereof) makes me want to run far away from that thing. As a current EV owner, I still say Viper all day long.

Dr. Asteroid
Dr. Asteroid
3 months ago

The last i8 I saw was a red one being towed from our lot.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
3 months ago

Viper is awesome!

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