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The Dodge Viper is back--not just on the streets, but to the Dodge brand itself. A brief spin-off as the "SRT Viper" is over, but the Dodge sportscar's unfiltered, raw driving experience is unchanged. In the past it's had a bad-boy reputation as less controllable than sportscars like the 911 and Corvette, but in its current form the Viper's become almost genteel.
Updates for the 2014 model year add a new limited-edition Viper TA model and a third traction control mode for improved rain performance.
Bred for the track with a focus on lap times over everything else, the Viper TA model (limited to 159 units of production) is a slightly sharper, less forgiving version of the standard model. But that's not to say that any Viper is less than blisteringly fast.
The more ordinary Vipers, the SRT Viper and the Viper GTS, are still nothing to mock, however, whether on the street or the track. Their look reflects this, as does the venomous new Viper logo. Low, long, and covered in muscular bulges and threatening vents, the Viper telegraphs its supercar intentions. Inside, the cabin is newly refined and luxurious, with available leather and tech packages pushing it fully into the 21st century.
Under the hood of the Viper you'll find just one engine, no matter the trim: a 640-horsepower, 600-pound-foot 8.4-liter V-10 beast of an engine driving the rear wheels. It delivers the most torque of any normally aspirated sports car engine in the world, and the performance reflects that: 0-60 mph runs come in the low-three-second range; quarter miles fly by in the low 11s; 0-100-0 mph takes less than 12 seconds; top speed is 206 mph. You can have any transmission you want, as long as it's the standard six-speed manual.
The supercar game is not all about straight-line performance, however, and the Viper shines when it's time to turn, too. The latest Viper generation is the first to be equipped with stability and traction control, and fortunately, they're not the eviscerating systems of old. In fact, even in fully-engaged mode, the system allows for yaw and slip angles suitable to spirited track-day antics.
In 2013, non-GTS models had just two settings for the traction control system: on and off. For 2014, a third mode has been added to improve traction in the rain. GTS models add a pair of intermediary steps (Sport and Track) which further loosen the restrictions. Even with everything fully off, however, the Viper is nearly balanced, transitioning from entry to apex to exit with massive grip and surprising feel through the steering wheel and the seat-bottom. There's always the threat of the rear coming around when you come onto the gas too hard, but as a training tool, the mortal fear of 600 pound-feet of torque is unmatched.
Differences between the SRT Viper and Viper GTS are primarily in equipment: the GTS gets a two-mode suspension system with Bilstein DampTronic Select dampers and the aforementioned extra stability control parameters. The SRT Viper is the more minimalist take on extreme performance, while the GTS offers an extra degree of luxury and refinement in the cabin as well as its upgraded suspension system and electronic controls.
The Viper's cabin is surprisingly roomy for such a low-slung, coupe-only configuration. SRT claims drivers up to 6'7" should fit within its confines. As a result, there's plenty of head and leg room for most drivers, and the seats are both comfortable and adjustable. The steering wheel and pedals also move to get the best possible fit. You'll want as much physical comfort in the Viper as possible, as it's a very noisy place to be, even cruising at low engine speeds on a smooth country road. The ride quality is fair in base models, a bit better in GTS trim, but never really objectionable for a sports car. Cargo space is fair, at 14.65 cubic feet, but its odd shape means soft-sided bags will be the best bet for longer trips.
Gas mileage, as you might expect, isn't one of the Viper's primary concerns. As a result, it gets 12 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined.
Expensive, low-volume sports cars are often skipped in the crash-testing cycle by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); the 2014 SRT Viper is no exception. Despite the lack of crash tests, the Viper should prove as safe as most modern coupes in an accident, with a full suite of air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and pre-tensioning seat belts all standard. A backup camera is available on base models, and standard on GTS models.
- Dramatic styling
- Breathtaking acceleration
- Confident handling
- Price-to-performance ratio
- Gentler manners than previous-generation Vipers
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- Jurassic thirst for fuel
- Interior is nice, but still underwhelms
- Expensive for an ex-Dodge
- May be outpaced by higher-performance versions of the Corvette Stingray