Baddest Truck on the Planet

By Hannah Wallace July 31, 2004

The world has no need for the 2004 Dodge SRT-10 truck. But then, the world has no need for extreme sports competitions, Miss Universe or Arbitron ratings.

There is a reason why all of these needless things exist. We want to measure the exceptional. To rank arbitrary competition. And the Dodge SRT-10 is exceptional: It's the baddest truck on the planet. No question. It's the baddest truck ever sold from a showroom.

From the outside, it might look like many single-bench seat, short-bed pickup trucks, with the exceptions of a wing atop the tailgate, a Mammoth Cave hood scoop and an air dam under the front bumper.

But open the hood and you see why the SRT-10 exists. Under the hood resides a Dodge Viper V-10 engine, a 500-horsepower jewel with red rocker panels that can rip this truck zero to 60 in five seconds flat. That performance prowess makes the Dodge SRT-10 the King Kong of trucks.

It displaces the Ford SVT Lightning in that position. Under the Lightning's hood is a supercharged V-8-two cylinders less than the SRT-10. But you can bet your farm on this: Ford and General Motors will soon have 500-horsepower trucks for sale. Owning one will cost $45,000.

There won't be many of these produced and sold. Dodge plans only 2,500 of its monster truck this year. These are really concept vehicles brought to production, trophies for the very rich, showroom draws to lure those who can't afford the SRT-10, but will exit with a less expensive, more practical Dodge truck.

Before the SRT-10 arrived, I'd been warned by the DaimlerChrysler delivery person that I might not like it. They know well that I don't want a vehicle beating me up on irregular roads. This vehicle, to be sure, is performance-oriented, with a stiffened suspension system. It doesn't absorb bumps; it blasts right over them.

But I did like it. A lot. I'd love to own one. Its exhilarating acceleration under a heavy foot won me over, made the nine miles-per-gallon in town fuel inefficiency seem worth it. This truck, unlike most trucks, is fun to drive.

It's the only truck I've ever tested that drew the envy of a BMW 750 driver next to me at a stoplight. He asked how much it cost, "$45,000," I replied, and he said he might just go buy one. Lucky guy.

That kind of conversation is why DaimlerChrysler created this overpowered trick truck. Dodge, you see, is a perennial third among the Big Three in truck sales behind No. 1 Ford and No. 2 GM. But Dodge truck sales are hugely important-trucks outsell all other Dodge brand vehicles combined.

The SRT-10 Viper engine is a return of sorts to the big V-10 that was initially taken from a truck, modified and dropped into a Chrysler sports car produced for one purpose: to beat the Corvette. The Dodge Viper, with a price tag double that of the Corvette's, succeeded in its mission, but remains a niche car that is too powerful and too uncivilized to attract a large number of buyers.

To create the killer truck of all time, that modified engine-505 cubic inches-was further tuned and dropped into a Dodge Ram pickup. It proved so fast it wanted to take off like an airplane, so a wing was added at the rear and special air deflectors adorn the front and sides of the truck. Now at least it won't fly.

Starting the truck is like starting the Viper (or the Honda S2000). Insert the key, turn it and nothing happens. On the dash is a red button. Press it and the V10 Viper engine springs to life.

As it does, the monster exhaust system belches a note heard across the land. It curls hair, causes dogs and small children to run screaming down the street and gets negative brows-down from elderly types.

The surprise for me was how easy the SRT-10 was to drive around town. Some performance vehicles wear a driver out from sheer effort. This one does not. The six-speed manual transmission, with a tall Hurst shifter, was easy to control. Tires around 22-inch wheels did not unexpectedly spin on launch. Braking is superb (60 to zero in 120 feet is fantastic). And since it's a full-size truck, not an oversized one, it was no chore to keep it in its traffic lane. The leather seats are comfortable for long hauls. Even the pedals adjust so any driver can fit.

It has so much pulling power-torque-that I could have driven it in third gear at all times. Press the accelerator, at any speed, and the SRT-10 roars ahead.

The bottom line here is that the Dodge SRT-10 does not answer any need that I have. Not a one. Any regular pickup truck at half the price would be more practical. But I want this one. I like the best. I can dream, can't I? 

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