- Dramatic styling
- Breathtaking acceleration
- Confident handling
- Jurassic thirst for fuel
- Interior is nice, but still underwhelms
- Expensive for a Dodge
The big-engine, rear-drive formula never gets old—not when it's blessed with the 2016 Dodge Viper's stunning shape.
In its distant past, the Dodge Viper had a bad-boy reputation—one that it earned with delicate handling and a tendency toward copious oversteer. In the right hands, it was still a handful.
Over a few generations, the Viper's grown up a lot. It's become a more balanced machine, with a better interior, better tire choices, and the all-important stability and traction control that make it usable in everyday driving. That doesn't mean it's no longer a bad boy—just one with better manners.
It's still not quite as genteel as a Chevy Corvette or a Porsche 911, and for that, the Viper remains a singular choice. It's rippling with muscles in its body, with some threatening vents and intakes scarred along its low-slung body. The menacing supercar details meet up with a cockpit that's the nicest ever installed in a Viper, with touchscreen interfaces and fragrant Ferrari-esque leather seats—finally, it's joined the 21st century in accommodations.
The sole source of power for the Viper remains unchanged since a 5-horsepower bump last year. It's a massive 8.4-liter V-10, with 645 horsepower, fed through a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, shuttling power to the rear wheels. The massive 600 pound-feet of torque, Chrysler says, is the most delivered by any naturally aspirated sports car on the planet. Performance is shattering: 0-60 mph runs take about three seconds; quarter-miles fly by in the low 11s; 0-100-0 mph takes less than 12 seconds; and top speed ranges from 177 to 206 mph, depending on how much aero is added.
Among the five Viper trim levels, there are some handling differences that are important ones, if you're planning on driving it daily or tracking it instead. The base car is a canvas for weekend racers; GT, GTC and GTS models get adaptive dampers that make them more than livable for everyday driving. A new ACR model added for the 2016 model year gets Bilstein coil-over racing shocks; carbon-ceramic brakes; Kumho Ecsta tires; and can get an aero package that includes a carbon-fiber wing, diffuser, a louvered hood, and an extendable front splitter.
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 fun-killing systems of old. In fact, even in full-on mode, the system allows for yaw and slip angles suitable to spirited track-day antics. 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.
The Viper's cabin is surprisingly roomy for such a low-slung, coupe. Dodge claims drivers up to 6-feet-7-inches tall should fit within its confines. There's plenty of head room 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 with the adjustable dampers, but never really objectionable for a sports car. Cargo space is fair, at 14.65 cubic feet, but the odd shape under the rear hatch means soft-sided bags will be the best bet for longer trips.
Expensive, low-volume sports cars are often skipped in the crash-testing cycle by the NHTSA and the IIHS; the Dodge 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.
Differences between the Viper SRT 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 Viper SRT 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 GT model splits the difference, with a price to match, and adds the GTS's Bilstein setup, the five-mode stability system, and a unique leather-and-Alcantara interior on top of the base model's equipment.
The Viper has had a circuitous journey through the now-defunct SRT brand and back to its home at Dodge again, but along the way, it has only gotten better—and less expensive. If you’re a V-10 mega-sportscar fan, there’s hardly ever been a better time to get in on the action. In fact, it's never been friendlier, either.
Gas mileage, as you might expect, isn't one of the Viper's primary concerns; it's rated at best, at 15 miles per gallon combined.