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.

2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Convertible

With lots of tail-wagging power and no face-saving electronic driving aids, the original RT/10 Viper roadster was certainly a supercar that didn't suffer fools graciously. Eventually, however, minor concessions to "luxury" appeared in the second-generation Viper roadster, such as real windows that replaced the clear vinyl side curtains.

But Viper fans had nothing to fear, for the Dodge sports car remained obnoxiously loud and fast. And despite the release of a GTS coupe and simultaneous upgrades for the entire line, the first two Viper generations represented much the same car for an entire decade.

The Dodge Viper's next era kicked off in 2003 with a third-generation redesign of Chrysler's icon -- the SRT-10 roadster became a true convertible with a top that folded down all the way versus the soft targa panel of the previous RT/10, and the Viper SRT-10 coupe returned a few years later featuring the previous coupe's "double bubble" roof and dramatic rear styling. An astounding amount of power is delivered over a broad range; to handle it the Viper uses a beefed-up transmission and massive brakes. Compared to the original, newer Vipers have a longer wheelbase, a stiffer chassis and revised suspension tuning, which give the car greater dynamic precision.

A new SRT-10 Viper is on the way for 2008 with, of course, even more power -- 600 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque to be exact -- from a fully revised engine displacing 8.4 liters. The new engine and additional hardware updates are meant to counter the Viper's nemesis, the Corvette Z06, which undercuts the Viper on price and beats it in terms of versatility. But the charm of the Viper is its raw edge and lack of polish. For the Viper enthusiast, there's no other way it should be.

Current Dodge Viper model

Recently updated, the Dodge Viper sports car is offered as a two-seat coupe or roadster. Standard equipment includes racing-style seats, power-adjustable pedals, keyless entry and a 300-watt audio system with in-dash CD changer. An 8.4-liter V10 engine delivers 600 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a Tremec six-speed manual transmission and a standard limited-slip differential. Performance numbers are quite impressive, as the Viper can reach 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. Containing all this power are massive Brembo brakes and 18-inch front- and 19-inch rear forged-alloy wheels.

Though modern cars are increasingly equipped with the latest safety features, the Viper remains true to its visceral roots. There are neither side-impact airbags nor traction or stability control. Inside, the cabin is a collection of hard plastic panels and parts pin switches. Seat comfort is surprisingly good, but entry and exit, particularly on the coupe, is tricky.

Fresh off the showroom floor, the Dodge Viper is one of the fastest production cars in the world. Its mammoth V10 pushes it to triple-digit speeds in the blink of an eye, and it keeps right on going. Pushing this Dodge to the limit still requires the skill of a seasoned driver, but even rookies will admire the car's unbelievable racecar-like capabilities. While not comfortable and well-rounded enough to be an everyday driver, the Dodge Viper remains a no-nonsense supercar for those who can afford to add one to their stable.

Past Dodge Viper models

The original Dodge Viper debuted for the 1992 model year. At its heart was a 400-hp, truck-based engine with lighter-weight aluminum substituting for cast iron. Inspiringly one-dimensional, the first Viper continued on with only minor power tweaks and an optional hardtop with sliding side curtains until the second-generation Viper debuted as a more powerful GTS coupe in 1996 -- now a bit more civilized, with dual airbags and air-conditioning.

As the Viper matured into its second generation, paint schemes were shuffled and the RT/10 roadster received much of the updates applied to the GTS coupe. Also crossing in 1997 were the coupe's adjustable pedals and revised exhaust system, which changed from side- to rear-exit. 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 Viper shoppers might also want to note that a fairly significant feature -- antilock brakes -- did not become available until 2001.

The third-generation Dodge Viper, the SRT-10, has been available since 2003. At its debut, the V10 was 8.3 liters in size and generated 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. At the start, only the roadster was available. Detail changes only to colors and trim for the next couple years -- including a special "Mamba" package in 2004 for only 200 vehicles -- were followed by a return of the SRT-10 coupe in 2006 and a 10-hp increase. There was no '07 model, as Dodge was preparing for the '08 model's changes.


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