2014 Dodge Viper SRT Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
August 8, 2014

The 2014 SRT Viper trades many of its rough edges for refined capability, but it's still a gruff, focused supercar.

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.

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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.

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2014 Dodge Viper SRT

Styling

The 2014 SRT Viper bold and brash, but it's also modern and race-inspired--and it's up to you to love or hate it.

With an all-new look that still unequivocally says "Viper," the 2014 SRT Viper looks as brutal and extreme as it drives.

Swollen fenders mark the boundaries of the swooping, curving, vented shape. A long, low hood and slightly bulbous canopy give the 2014 Viper classic proportions, but the details are all 21st-Century stuff, inspired by racing, just as the car itself is.

Inside, the aesthetics have seen a major upgrade from the previous-generation Viper. New for 2013, the 2014 model sees no real updates to its design, but that's fine by Viper shoppers: the interior for the newest Viper is quite nice.

In GTS models, Nappa leather and Alcantara inserts give a luxurious look, while metal-finish trim, available carbon fiber accents, and the more modern, but still race-inspired shape of the cabin work together to elevate the Viper from its former just-above-kit-car status into the realms of the attractive, if not quite the beautiful.

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2014 Dodge Viper SRT

Performance

Incredible grip, acceleration, and cornering ability mark the SRT Viper as more than a mere brute.

Unlike many of the SRT Viper's rivals, there's only one powertrain configuration available: a chunky six-speed manual transmission paired to an 8.4-liter V-10 engine rated at 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque.

That massive output figure includes the most torque of any production normally aspirated sports car engine in the world.

And it's really tremendous power that makes the Viper tick. It's balanced, surprisingly easy to drive with the (new for last year) electronic aids enabled, though a bit twitchy at the limit. The Viper has massive grip, whether turning, braking, or accelerating. For the suitably fearless driver, there's plenty to love about the Viper's complete package.

But it's power that sets the Viper apart, that makes its fans smile, its admirers drool, and its rivals flinch. Unleashing the full fury of the big 8.4-liter V-10 is a special experience.

To get the most out of the engine, however, you'll have to rev it hard--there's surprisingly little low-end punch to the meaty V-10, the engine's tune being tilted substantially toward the top-end.

Fortunately, that makes the Viper a touch more tractable around town, where you might not want an instantaneous 600 pound-feet of torque surging through the wheels as you navigate a roundabout.

There are three packages that make a marked impact on performance: the base SRT Viper, the Viper GTS, and the new-for-2014 Viper TA. The base model was our previous pick for hardcore track duty, as it eschews the extra luxuries of the GTS model, as well as the two-mode adjustable suspension for a standard setup that's very fun to drive, less expensive, and just as quick.

The new Viper TA may change that calculus, however, with a host of new track-optimized features and equipment, including upgraded Brembo brakes, retuned two-mode dampers (with more track-appropriate settings), upgraded springs and anti-roll bars, and a new carbon fiber X-brace in place of the standard aluminum unit.

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2014 Dodge Viper SRT

Comfort & Quality

While a vast improvement over past Vipers, the 2014's interior is still loud and compact.

Comfort has never been a priority for Viper owners. This is a car that chooses to sacrifice some creature comforts in the name of design and performance. But, until the latest generation, there was good argument for a better balance between these countervailing concerns.

That's the case no longer. The cabin of the 2014 SRT Viper is well-designed, well-upholstered, and quite comfortable, considering the Viper's rather hardcore focus on performance. The new seats look like they're straight out of a Ferrari (because they're made by the same company), the new materials are universally upgraded, and the design is modern, if still a bit minimalist. The massive touchscreen interface in the center stack looks and feels as high-tech as it is high-res.

In GTS models, the luxury factor can be increased significantly, with Nappa leather and carbon fiber accents available. Whichever trim line you choose, however, the Viper's cabin is, ultimately, a sports car cabin: small, cocoon-like, and low to the ground. There's a fair bit of road, wind and engine noise, even at lower speeds; it becomes a roar at highway pace.

Storage space around the cabin is limited, though there are several small bins and cubbies. The trunk is almost sedan-sized at 14 cubic feet.

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2014 Dodge Viper SRT

Safety

The 2014 SRT Viper hasn't been crash-tested, and doesn't offer side airbags, but a rearview camera is standard.

The 2014 SRT Viper hasn't been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is common for expensive, low-production vehicles.

The Viper's massive power output and sharp dynamics have helped it to earn a reputation as a difficult car to drive, but the newest model is much friendlier than previous generations thanks to electronic stability control, which gains a "weather" mode for rain or other inclement conditions. Very capable brakes, especially on TA models, help slow or stop the Viper in evasive maneuvers. Driver and passenger multi-stage front airbags are standard, but side and curtain airbags aren't available.

Rearward visibility can be an issue with the Viper, but fortunately a rearview camera comes standard on all models.

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2014 Dodge Viper SRT

Features

High-res screens in the instrument panel and Uconnect center display are just the tip of the new Viper's features.

The features list of the Viper used to be a rather short affair: you simply couldn't get much in the way of interesting equipment, despite the plethora of special editions.

For the 2014 model, the Viper carries forward the innovations launched with the new generation of the Viper in 2013, including the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, available in two flavors. The base Uconnect Media Center system includes Bluetooth phone and streaming audio; SiriusXM Radio; embedded cellular connection; and a rear backup camera display, as well as being navigation-ready. The premium version of the system adds navigation; traffic information; 3D maps; voice destination entry; HD radio; and more. A standard media hub gives all Vipers access to USB, SD cards, and auxiliary input.

A high-speed data connection allows for cloud-based voice recognition, web connectivity through Yelp and other apps, and stolen vehicle tracking services.

A Harman Kardon surround sound system is also available, bringing with it seven channels of audio through 18 speakers, including four subwoofers, all plumbed to its own power supply.

SiriusXM Travel Link, available with the premium Uconnect system, brings live traffic, accident, and other commuter information to the car.

All Vipers get a seven-inch full-color, customizable instrument cluster, allowing different performance metrics or gauges to be displayed at the driver's preference. The system can also measure and display various performance stats, including 0-60-mph runs, quarter-mile times, braking distance, g-force measurements, and top speed runs.

A range of optional wheel styles, interior materials, and exterior color schemes is available for each trim package, too. Carbon fiber interior and exterior accents and more aggressive aerodynamics are available in a range of packages offered on either model, though the Laguna Interior (with Laguna premium leather) and Anodized Carbon Edition packages can only be ordered on GTS models.

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2014 Dodge Viper SRT

Fuel Economy

The 2014 SRT Viper is a gas guzzler, and pays the price for it--literally.

Let's face it: the Viper just isn't green, no matter what color you paint it.

The single available powertrain (six-speed manual transmission with 8.4-liter V-10 engine) yields 12 mpg in town, 19 mpg on the highway, and 15 mpg combined.

That's about what you'd expect of a 640-horsepower car, but recent additions to the sports car fold have managed considerably gas mileage, albeit at lower power levels, including the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

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