2016 Dodge Viper SRT Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 16, 2016

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.

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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.

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2016 Dodge Viper SRT

Styling

The Viper's outrageous shape and tamed cockpit deliver a supercar experience for your eyeballs.

The Viper was born in the late '80s as a concept car meant to invoke the Shelby Cobra era—and though it's changed shapes a few times since then, it still looks remarkably true to that concept.

It's unmistakable, whether you see it from the front, the side, or the rear. The cues from its inspiration remain in place on its curvy, swoopy, vented shape. The fenders swell around the wheels, the hood is long and low, and the roof is slightly bulbous—there's no convertible version of today's Viper, at least not yet. All the details are pitch-perfect, in the perspective of the Viper's racing mission and history.

Inside, the aesthetics have seen a major upgrade from the previous-generation Viper. In GT and 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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2016 Dodge Viper SRT

Performance

Incredibly fast and better balanced than ever, the Dodge Viper has earned its stripes as an authentic American supercar.

It's been bumped by five horsepower for a total of 645 horsepower, but the Viper's powertrain is otherwise little changed from previous years. The 8.4-liter V-10 is its huge heart, and it's paired for a 6-speed manual gearbox, period. With that much power on tap and 600 pound-feet to go with it, the Viper has more torque than any other naturally aspirated sports car.

It's a little thin on torque at low engine speed, though—which actually helps the Viper behave better in city driving, where all the power doesn't always turn the tires into Magic Markers on the pavement. Rev it hard and the Viper erupts with explosive acceleration that doesn't relent until it's pushing well past triple-digit limits. Zero to 60 mph times in the 3-second range match up to a top speed hovering just below 200 mph.

Vipers have a history of tricky handling, but the latest versions have been tamed somewhat. If treated with proper respect, the Viper is balanced and surprisingly easy to drive with the electronic driver aids enabled, though a bit hairy at the limit, like it should be. 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.

There are five trim levels, each with their own level of performance: the base Viper SRT; the Viper GT, GTS, and GTC; and the ACR. 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. The standard setup is very fun to drive, less expensive, and just as quick on most tracks.

The Viper TA add-on package offered on the GT cars changes that calculus with a host of track-optimized features and equipment, including upgraded Brembo brakes to replace StopTech units on the standard car, an aerodynamic package that creates big downforce, retuned two-mode dampers, upgraded springs and anti-roll bars, and a carbon fiber X-brace in place of the standard aluminum unit.

For 2015, the Viper GT and GTS received a different sixth-gear ratio for reduced engine revs and noise when cruising at highway speed.

For 2016, Dodge has added an ACR package to the mix. Tuned specifically for club racing, the ACR package adds Bilstein coil-over racing shocks with a range of 10 settings; carbon-ceramic brakes with 15-inch rotors; Kumho Ecsta tires for lap times up to 1.5 seconds quicker than the GT rolling stock; an Alcantara interior; and manual seats, lighter carpeting and battery, and a three-speaker sound system. It's available with an aero package that includes a carbon-fiber wing, diffuser, a louvered hood, and an extendable front splitter.

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2016 Dodge Viper SRT

Comfort & Quality

The sensory overload in the Viper's cockpit is entirely intentional; the interior's never been more comfortable, though.

Today's Viper is no longer the crude, loud two-seater it was for the early years of its existence. In its first two generations it was plasticky, without much in the way of user-friendly controls or accommodations.

Fast-forward to the current generation, and the Viper's a more mature prospect. There's a real interior with true luxury amenities, from touchscreens to leather, and it's all done very well—as it should be, since the Viper is the most expensive Chrysler vehicle available.

The one constant throughout the years is powertrain noise. It's still here in copious amounts, great when you want to be immersed in it, not so great when hundreds of miles are left on the current route.

The Viper's cockpit won us over in its most recent redesign. It's quite comfortable, despite its hardcore performance focus. The seats are made by Ferrari's supplier, and the available leather trim smells like it was giving willingly by especially aromatic cows. Most importantly, the seats are well shaped, and the steering wheel and pedals both move to accommodate different-sized drivers. The design is a bit minimal but modern, and well trimmed. The massive touchscreen interface in the center stack looks and feels as high-tech as it is high-res. In GT and GTS models, the luxury factor can be increased significantly, with Nappa leather and carbon-fiber accents available.

Storage space around the cabin is limited, though there are several small bins and cubbies. The cargo area under the hatch is almost sedan-sized at 14 cubic feet, but its irregular shape means soft luggage is the best choice for trips.

Whichever trim line you choose, the Viper's cabin remains a purpose-built affair: 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.

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2016 Dodge Viper SRT

Safety

The Viper never has been crash-tested, except by some unlucky owners.

The Viper is a low-volume, high-horsepower sports car—and as such, it's never been tested for crash safety by either the IIHS or the NHTSA. Those agencies tend to put their efforts into higher-volume models.

So while we can't assign more than an average rating to the unproven Viper, we can explain it in a bit more revealing language. Vipers now have stability control to go with their notoriously delicate handling. In the past—especially in its original form—the Viper was difficult to drive, with so much power pushing its rear wheels into dramatic oversteer at the barest whiff of throttle. The newest versions aren't just reined in by stability control, they're also better balanced and easier to modulate with either the throttle or the brakes.

Nevertheless, it's a good thing that Vipers come with front airbags and anti-lock brakes, as well as a one-day track-driving experience, a kind of high-performance boot camp, which Dodge lists as a safety feature.

A rearview camera comes standard on all Viper models, which partly makes up for the heavily compromised rearward visibility.

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2016 Dodge Viper SRT

Features

It's no longer a stripped-down street racer—today's Viper offers lush leather trim, a touchscreen interface, and smartphone connectivity.

When the Viper first was introduced in the early 1990s, its options list was quite short. Roof or no? Paint color? Fine, we're done then.

Today, the resurrected Viper has a much longer list of standard and optional features, some quite finely applied, some quite stiffly priced. It's gone from a very basic street racer, to a luxurious grand tourer with hardcore running gear.

The Viper comes in GT, GTC, GTS, and ACR models. The ACR is new for 2016: intended for club racing, it gets its own suspension tuning and aerodynamic add-ons, as well as carbon-ceramic brakes and track-ready tires.

Otherwise, all Vipers come with an extensive list of features that includes power windows, mirrors, and locks; air conditioning; a rearview camera; and a 7.0-inch color screen embedded in the gauge panel. It can measure and display performance metrics, from 0-60-mph runs, quarter-mile times, braking distance, G-force measurements, to top speed runs. The base seats are a nylon/vinyl combo, while Nappa leather (with or without Alcantara inserts) is available on the higher trims.

On the infotainment front, the Viper comes standard with an interface that controls its AM/FM/satellite radio; Bluetooth with smartphone connectivity and audio streaming; a USB port; and in-car data. It's all governed via an 8.4-inch touchscreen. More elaborate versions of this UConnect system get navigation with real-time traffic data; voice commands; 3-D maps; HD radio; and more. The standard Harman Kardon stereo has 10 speakers and two subwoofers.

Viper GTS coupes get a two-mode suspension system with Bilstein DampTronic Select dampers and a five-mode stability-control system. GTCs have similar equipment, but lets buyers customize the car and track its build online.

The GT model, which was new for 2015, splits the difference between base and GTS Vipers. It 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. Options include a high-end audio system with 18 speakers and four subwoofers.

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

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 are available in a range of packages offered on GT and GTS models; the Laguna Interior (with Laguna premium leather) and Ceramic Blue Special Edition packages can only be ordered on GTS models; and the Advanced Dynamics Package, with its carbon front-corner splitters and rear spoiler, is available on all three trim levels.

And, as always, there is a variety of stripe packages to help make that rare Viper truly personalized. We'd still probably go with the very unoriginal blue with white stripes. For 2016, changes to the features list include how long those stripes can be—it varies by model.

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2016 Dodge Viper SRT

Fuel Economy

The Dodge Viper puts fuel economy at the bottom of its list of priorities.

The Viper makes no pretense about gas mileage: it's a big, burly performer with almost no regard for what the EPA says.

Even so, in 2015 it picked up a single mile per gallon on the agency's highway economy ratings, thanks to a round of tweaks to its 8.4-liter V-10 and 6-speed manual transmission. Those tweaks lift its gas mileage ratings to a low, low, 12 mpg city, 21 highway, 15 combined.

A standard Corvette or 911 tops those highway figures easily, almost in the double digits even. The Viper lacks any of the accommodating technology that would enable better economy—stuff like direct injection and cylinder deactivation.

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Styling 10
Performance 9
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