In a world of $4 gasoline, hybrids and electric cars, what are the bad boys in the car world going to do? If you’re the 600-horsepower Dodge Viper, you hiss and snarl and dare anybody to challenge you. Dodge has declared that the Viper will live on ...

In a world of $4 gasoline, hybrids and electric cars, what are the bad boys in the car world going to do? If you’re the 600-horsepower Dodge Viper, you hiss and snarl and dare anybody to challenge you. Dodge has declared that the Viper will live on.

Plenty of observers have wondered whether Dodge’s iconic beast would be headed for the endangered species list.

But Dodge brand President and CEO Ralph Gilles said the venerable Viper will return to the Dodge product lineup in the summer of 2012 as a 2013 model.

“We’re extremely excited that our ultimate American sports car and icon of the Dodge brand will continue to live on,” Gilles said in an email to The Advocate. “Specific product plans are still being developed, so stay tuned for more information.”

Short and sweet, but clear — the Viper isn’t going anywhere yet.

Introduced in 1989, the Viper didn’t change much for the 2010 model year, but it’s still one of the most recognizable and attention-getting cars around.

Fire up the beast and ease it down the street in your subdivision, and the neighbors will stop watering plants and come up for a closer look.

“Hey, let’s get a look under that hood,” is a common request.

Raising the elongated hood reveals a massive 8.4-liter V-10 monster that can rip the Viper from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds. Available as a coupe or roadster, the Viper consists basically of a giant engine attached to a sexy body with tight bucket seats.

It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for anybody who needs to practice for their driving exam. Do not trifle with the Viper, because it will bite. It’s too rough to be practical as a daily driver, but if you’re a speed freak and you know what you’re doing and you can get to a track, the Viper will give you all you want. But be careful, this car doesn’t have stability and traction control to save you if you go faster than your driving ability.

My week with the test Viper didn’t include a racetrack, and as a result I rarely got past the first three of its six manual gears. At 60 miles per hour in 6th gear, the Viper actually felt like it might stall.

The cabin of the roadster is best experienced with the top down. I’ve driven the coupe version, and it is cramped inside. The convertible has — obviously — all the head room you need. And the heavily bolstered seats will squeeze you into position and won’t let you move in hard cornering.

The top goes down manually, and involves opening the trunk. For tall drivers, the sun visors are an annoyance. You can’t put them down because you won’t be able to see out of the narrow windshield. And at 65 mph, I discovered, the visors are blown down by the wind rushing over the windshield.

But with its side exhaust ports, the rumbling sound of the Viper is awesome. And when you give it the gas, hang on for the ride of your life. Steering is precise and braking is excellent, but absent a track, don’t plan to push this car. Edmunds says the best safety feature in the Viper is a “driver with great skill.”

And finally, this tip: if you’re wearing shorts, be careful getting in and out of the car. I learned the hard way — again — that the sides by the exhaust ports get really hot.

The test Viper was in a color called “Toxic Orange,” which was fitting. The base price of the roadster is $90,255. Add the striping package and it’s another $3,425. The 18-inch forged aluminum wheels are an extra $1,100, and the gas guzzler tax tacks on another $1,700. Out the door, you’re looking at $97,410.

Not just anybody can afford a Viper, but it’s pretty hard not to notice when one passes by.