Used 2002 Dodge Viper Convertible Review
With a new Viper set to debut for 2003, fans of the current version should visit their Dodge dealer soon, as the '02s are expected to sell out fast.
Designed to be the modern incarnation of the Cobra, the Viper debuted at the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a show car. Enough people wrote to Chrysler requesting street versions that plans for production of the rakish roadster were set into motion soon thereafter. Viper was introduced for public sale in 1992, and became the darling of the automotive press, not to mention high-profile stars like Jay Leno and Kelsey Grammer (who flipped his).
A preview of things to come from Chrysler, the success of the Viper revitalized a company that many thought wouldn't last through the middle of this decade. It also paved the way for future concept-car-turned-production-car models, including the Plymouth Prowler and Chrysler PT Cruiser.
Dodge introduced the GTS Coupe midway through 1996. The 8.0-liter V10 was substantially reworked, featuring a new block, new heads, shorter cooling jackets and a revised sump. These changes resulted in a 35-horsepower jump, bringing peak numbers to 450 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque. Not only more powerful, the revised motor, found in both the coupe and roadster versions, is 85 pounds lighter than the one in the original RT/10.
Inside the Viper, analog gauges and dual airbags greet serious drivers, who have the much-appreciated option of adjustable pedals. Power windows and door locks are standard, as is ABS for the first time in Viper's history; but traction control and dynamic stability control are still not available. The interior is dominated by cheap-feeling plastic, and the seats are virtually nonadjustable. Getting into the car requires a waiver from a chiropractor, and getting out could result in singed legs due to the exhaust pipes being routed within the car's lower rocker panels.
For those individuals who need more than the standard Viper's 450 horsepower, a race-oriented ACR coupe edition is available in limited numbers. These fire-breathers gain an extra 10 horsepower and lb-ft of torque through the use of minor engine modifications while weighing slightly less than their GTS brethren. The ACR also comes with upgraded suspension components, 18-inch BBS wheels and massive Michelin Pilot Sport tires. Zero-to-60 times of 4 seconds and a top speed near 190 mph bear witness to the fact that this is a very special Viper. Despite the fact that Chrysler added air conditioning and a CD player to the ACR's option list back in 2001, we feel this car is best suited for weekend track duty rather than public highway hijinks.
Certainly it's got obvious ergonomic shortcomings and a lack of overall refinement, but the Viper is chock-full of character. The look and sound offer a classic take on modern sports car philosophy. Those "enthusiasts" who like their performance doled out in user-friendly fashion should look elsewhere (can you say Z06?). Those seeking the ultimate in exotic-car performance at less than an exotic-car price will find the Viper a bargain. Truly, Chrysler Corporation has created an American icon that rivals the Corvette's claim as "America's Sports Car."
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.