Dodge Viper Review

Dodge Viper Review

The Dodge Viper was conceived as a modern interpretation of the classic muscular American sports car. Debuting as a concept in 1989 to huge consumer enthusiasm, everything about the production Dodge Viper was perfectly over the top, including its cartoonish styling, giant 335/35-series rear tires and thumping 400-horsepower V10 engine.

The second-generation Dodge Viper stayed the course with outrageous styling and power, but it was a bit more livable and produced more power. Compared to the original, the sequel had a longer wheelbase, a stiffer chassis and revised suspension tuning, which gave the car greater dynamic precision. But that didn't mean the Viper lost its raw edge and lack of polish, and for the Viper enthusiast, that's the way it should be. The problem, perhaps, was that there just weren't enough Viper enthusiasts around. With sales sagging in comparison to other high-end sports cars, Dodge pulled the plug for 2010.

However, the Viper's departure was short-lived as a new, third-generation model arrived for 2013. It now belongs to Chrysler Group's new SRT division, so make sure to read our SRT Viper review for the latest information.

Most Recent Dodge Viper
The second-generation Dodge Viper was produced from 2003 through 2010.

At its debut, the V10 was 8.3 liters in size and generated 500 hp and 525 pound-feet of torque. Only the roadster was available. Power was sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and a standard limited-slip differential. Detail changes were limited only to colors and trim for the next couple years until 2006, when the SRT-10 coupe debuted along with a 10-hp increase.

There was no '07 model, but for 2008, the Viper came back better (and more riotous than ever). The V10 now displaced 8.4 liters and produced a prodigious 600 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. The styling was also refreshed that year, while the even more hard-core ACR edition debuted with plenty of goodies designed to dominate on a track.

Regardless of which year and engine you get in this Viper, performance numbers were otherworldly, as the Viper could reach 60 mph in either 4 seconds (8.3 liter) or 3.7 seconds (8.4 liter). Containing all this power were massive brakes and impossibly wide 19-inch forged-alloy rear wheels (the fronts were 18s). What it lacked, however, was a stability control system to save overzealous drivers from themselves. Side-impact airbags were also unavailable.

Indeed, pushing this Dodge to the limit required the skill of a seasoned driver -- although it was certainly more controllable than its predecessor. Yet even rookies could admire the Viper's unbelievable road-sticking handling and mammoth V10 that pushed it to triple-digit speeds seemingly in the blink of an eye. No matter your driving skill, however, owning a Viper takes some dedication. With its cramped cabin, raucous noise, rough ride, antiquated interior controls and leg-singeing side pipes, this no-nonsense supercar made a pretty lousy daily driver or road trip companion. Still, for those seeking a back-to-basics, wickedly intense all-American muscle machine, there's nothing quite like a Dodge Viper.

Previous Dodge Viper Models
The original Dodge Viper debuted for the 1992 model year. With lots of tail-wagging power and no life-saving electronic driving aids, the original RT/10 Viper roadster was a supercar that didn't suffer fools lightly. Minor concessions to "luxury" appeared over time, such as real windows that replaced clear vinyl side curtains, but Viper fans had nothing to fear, as Dodge's top-dog sports car remained obnoxiously loud and fast. Despite the release of a GTS coupe and simultaneous upgrades for the entire line, the Viper remained essentially the same car from its debut to its 2003 redesign.

At its heart was a 400-hp, truck-based engine with lighter-weight aluminum substituting for cast iron. It was bumped up to 450 hp for 1996, when other major changes arrived with the more powerful GTS coupe. It was now a bit more civilized, with dual airbags and air-conditioning. Dodge also changed the exhaust system from side- to rear-exit, which drew the wrath of some Viper nuts despite eliminating the oh-so-frequent leg burns that could occur during entry and exit. The RT/10 roadster received much of the updates applied to the GTS coupe the following year.

In 1999 the Viper received bigger wheels, optional Connolly leather inside, power mirrors and a remote release for the coupe's glass hatch. A track-biased Viper ACR trim level also became available that year. Used Dodge Viper shoppers might also want to note that a fairly significant feature -- antilock brakes -- did not become available until 2001.