The Dodge Viper is tamer but still faster than it has ever been, and if you want one you had better place your order: Production of this all-American sports car is expected to end sometime in 2017.
The Viper once had a reputation for brutish unpredictability, and it is still the wildest car in the segment, but the current-generation Viper is easier to manage than the original version. All are two-door coupes with rear-wheel drive and 8.4-liter V10 engine.
The Viper is balanced in corners, its traction is under control, and its interior is civilized to the point of having a touchscreen in the cockpit. Yet enough bad boy remains that none of your passengers will be under the impression they are riding in a Porsche or even a Corvette. A Corvette feels refined by comparison.
Let’s start with Viper’s 8.4-liter V10 engine, derived from a truck. After decades of development it makes 645 horsepower, using a Tremec 6-speed manual gearbox. Its 600 pound-feet of torque is more than any non-turbocharged production car on the planet.
The Viper can accelerate from a standing start, heavy on its fat tires, to 60 miles per hour in three seconds, and hit 100 mph in less than 12. It will go 206 mph with the right aerodynamic trim, otherwise you may be mired around 177 mph.
Five different packages are available. The new 2016 Viper ACR gets Bilstein coil-over dampers, carbon-ceramic brakes and Kumho Ecsta rubber, with available aero using a carbon-fiber wing, undertray diffuser, louvered hood and front splitter that extends when you want to go 206 miles per hour. At Chrysler’s Chelsea proving grounds, we found that it is fantastic fun on a fast autocross circuit and an enjoyable test of driver skill to try to get the most out of it without ever leaving second gear.
The Viper hasn’t been crash-tested by the government. They don’t do expensive sports cars. They probably figure anyone crazy enough to drive a car that goes 206 miles per hour deserves what they get. Best we can say is don’t crash. A rearview camera is available and a good idea because rear visibility is poor and you don’t want to back into someone or something. As for fuel mileage, who cares? But you might be pleasantly surprised with an EPA-estimated 15 mpg Combined.
The 2016 Dodge Viper comes in four models with different performance and refinement levels, so when you choose a Viper it’s important to think honestly about how you will be driving it. There is the Viper SRT that works for casual track days ($87,895); GTC with two-mode adjustable dampers ($95,895); GTS with Alcantara leather ($107,995); and the ultimate go-fast model, the new Viper ACR ($118,795), the hot setup on a race track.
The unmistakable low-slung Viper flaunts its rippling muscles, threatening vents, and scars for intakes. It has always been curvy, swoopy, and vented; that’s its identity, history, and racing mission. The fenders swell around the wheels, the hood is long and low, and the roof is bulbous. There is no roadster. There used to be, back when it was a beast, and we miss it.
For a car that low to the ground, there’s a lot of room inside, especially head room (thanks to the bulge in the roof) and leg room. The steering wheel and pedals adjust, along with the comfortable seat. Nappa or Alcantara leather makes it feel plush and gives it a Ferrari fragrance. Metal and carbon-fiber trim make it feel racy.
It’s noisy inside. The sound is primitive. It sure doesn’t have the exhaust note of a Ferrari. The GTS model has a taller sixth gear to reduce revs in the cabin.
Surprisingly, all that torque doesn’t translate to burnouts away from stoplights. At low rpm, it’s actually a little thin on torque, which helps tractability in the city, and makes it easier to drive there. But if you rev it hard it explodes all the way to 100 mph. Or 200.
The Viper is balanced and surprisingly easy to drive at speed, with stability control and traction control enabled. The system allows for some spirited fun, but will step in when you run out of talent. Even with the stability control off, the Viper feels balanced. But it’s best to drive with the stability control when on the street. It can be disabled for the track, where it’s hairy to drive near the limit, as it should be.
Fearless drivers love the Viper. There’s a massive amount of grip on breathtakingly wide tires, whether standing on the gas, cornering, or braking.
The ride is okay in the SRT with shock absorbers, and better in the models with adjustable dampers. The SRT is way fun to drive and just as quick as the more expensive models on most tracks.
However, the GT models have Brembo brakes and stiffer springs and bars. The ACR uses 15-inch ceramic rotors, and saves weight with manual seats, thin carpeting, a lightweight sound system. All of these features are useful on a racing circuit.
We like the Viper and vote for the SRT, at $87,895. It’s the least gentrified and most pure to the original Viper spirit. Now with supercar performance. We don’t need no stinkin’ Alcantara leather (though we don’t mind it).
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett. Sam Moses contributed to this report, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Michigan.