Used 2008 Dodge Viper
- Eye-widening acceleration, racecar-caliber brakes, track-ready suspension, friendly ergonomics for a supercar, exclusivity of limited production.
- No stability control or side airbags, too extreme and impractical to be a daily driver, exploiting its considerable capabilities requires expert skill.
Edmunds' Expert Review
The unquestioned king of speed in the under-$100K supercar segment, the tightly focused and admittedly primitive 2008 Dodge Viper makes no apologies for its lack of key luxury and safety features.
Within the realm of big-screen fighting heroes, styles can differ greatly. On one hand, you have the precise, almost dancer-like martial artists, where super-fit and acrobatic guys like Jackie Chan deftly neutralize their foes. On the other, you have big, muscle-bound tough guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger who simply pummel the bad guys into submission by dint of sheer brute force.
Make no mistake. If the 2008 Dodge Viper were an action film hero, its nickname would be "Ahh-nold."
After taking a year off to concentrate on getting even stronger, the Viper returns more buff than ever. Those of you who found the former 510-horsepower V10 somewhat lacking, you may have issues. But at least you should be thrilled with the new mill: an 8.4-liter V10 that sends no less than 600 hp to the Viper's steamroller rear tires. If that's not enough power, may we suggest something built by Bugatti or Boeing. Other hardware improvements for the newest Viper include an improved six-speed manual gearbox (more precise and less trucklike in action) as well as the fitment of non-run-flat Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s, which are lighter and more responsive than the previous run-flat tires. The big snake's exterior is slightly updated via a larger hood scoop, more aggressive hood vents and a choice of three wheel designs. Also, the cockpit gains newly available two-tone treatments.
Though side airbags are still not available, the front bags adopt multistage deployment and occupant-sensing technology. However, you "purists" who think stability and traction control are for sissies will be glad to know that those safety features still don't sully the spec sheet of this vicious snake. Without them, however, make sure you have enough driving acumen under your belt to prevent unwanted bouts of careening off canyon roads.
But this rather primitive nature is precisely where the appeal of the Viper lies. It's nothing less than a brash, muscle-bound and simple blunt instrument that in the hands of a skilled driver can cover blacktop, straight or curvy, at a ludicrous rate of speed.
In our 2007 Corvette Z06 versus 2008 Viper SRT-10 coupe comparison test, the Viper beat the mighty Vette in acceleration, top speed, braking and handling. The Viper can even hold its own against exotic cars costing twice as much. And there's no denying that the Viper has a certain visceral (and visual) charm about it, but be forewarned that the compromises are many. In addition to its lack of save-your-butt safety aids, the Viper also has a small cockpit with plenty of hard plastic and little in the way of luxury features.
All said, the 2008 Dodge Viper is the car to get if it's an all-American weekend or track-day toy you're lusting after. This is most definitely Arnold, circa his "Terminator"/"Commando"/"Predator" years. But if you're looking for a supercar that you can enjoy every day, then we'd have to say the somewhat less thrilling -- though still absolutely stunning -- Z06 or Porsche 911 Turbo would be our cars of choice.
Trim levels & features
The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is available as either a two-seat coupe or a soft-top roadster. Standard equipment includes heavily bolstered racing-style seats, power-adjustable pedals, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel, keyless entry and a seven-speaker, 300-watt audio system with a six-disc CD changer. The wheels and tires are massive: 18-inch forged-alloy wheels in front, 19s at the rear, clad in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup PS2s sized 275/35 in front and 345/30 out back. The brakes are equally oversized, as there are 14-inch ventilated discs at all four corners.
Options include a couple of different styles of wheels, racing stripes, optional paint colors, available dash accents and a two-tone interior treatment. But apart from an optional navigation system and satellite radio, there's not much in the way of available luxury features. You won't find heated seats or steering-wheel-mounted audio controls on any Viper.
The eagerly awaited American Club Racer (ACR) package resurfaces later in the model year and is only available in coupe form. The street-legal ACR is clearly intended for track use with carbon-fiber aerodynamic additions including a massive, high-mounted wing on the the tail, front splitter, fender-mounted dive planes and additional underbody treatments. As a result, a claimed 1,000 pounds of downforce is generated at 150 mph. Lighter wheels with stickier tires (both slightly wider up front), lighter brake rotors, a stiffer suspension with 14-way adjustable shocks and deleted foglamps round out the ACR package. In the end, the ACR weighs in 46 pounds lighter than the standard coupe.
The ACR package can be further intensified with the Hard Core Package. The cost-free package removes non-essential items that include the radio, speakers, amplifier, trunk upholstery, hood pad and tire inflator. The additional 42 pounds pulled from the Viper may not sharpen the performance noticeably, but for those who live life to the thousandth of a second, it is well worth the sacrifice.
Performance & mpg
Under the long hood is an 8.4-liter V10 engine that puts out stupendous numbers: 600 hp and 560 pound-feet of torque. All that thrust runs to the fat rear tires through a six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission available) and can catapult the Viper to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and through the quarter-mile in only 11.8 seconds. Not much on the planet can touch this Dodge.
Apart from the mandatory front airbags (which now have multistage deployment and occupant-sensing technology), safety equipment on the Dodge Viper is sparse. There are no side airbags, no traction control and no stability control. Massive four-wheel antilock disc brakes assure rapid stops from 60 mph in just 104 feet.
The 2008 Dodge Viper is one of the fastest production cars in the world. The V10's massive pistons thump around with enough energy to shake the entire car, and its exhaust pops and bangs like a rusty Tommy gun. Even without traction control, the massive rear tires make fast starts easier than you might think. First gear is good for 62 mph and so forceful and unrelenting is the Viper's acceleration that keeping it pinned will push the coupe to 200 mph.
Drive the Viper hard in a series of corners and in spite of its direct and precise steering, you won't settle into a smooth rhythm like you might in a less powerful, lighter Porsche 911 or Z06 Corvette. Rather, its power delivery, weight and high-effort controls make the driving experience more World of Outlaws than Formula 1. Still, it never feels nervous in a straight line, even at triple-digit speeds. Pushing the Viper to the limit still requires the skill of a seasoned driver, but even rookie pilots will admire the car's unbelievable abilities. It's not comfortable enough to be used as an everyday driver, but for those who can afford to have it as a plaything, this Dodge supercar answers to nothing.
Although the optional two-tone interior schemes (black with red, tan, blue or slate) and available graphite or "light arc" dash panel accents dress things up considerably this year, the cockpit is still rather blasé for a car whose price comes very close to $90K. The Viper just goes about its business, though, with a large center-mounted tachometer that sits next to a 220 mph speedometer. Additional gauges reside between the speedometer and center console, angled toward the driver. Pedals, which are power-adjustable, are placed directly in front of the driver, and there's also a dead pedal. Seat comfort is surprisingly good and the controls are user-friendly; there's even a real center console storage compartment (but no cupholders, as specifically requested by Viper owners). The audio system has a fully integrated head unit, complete with an in-dash six-CD changer. Adding to the racecar feel is a red starter button that's used to fire the beast's V10 engine. A word of warning: The Viper's signature side exhaust pipes make the side sills dangerously hot. Expect to occasionally singe your calves.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
"Brute strength and awkwardness" is a phrase that we heard a lot while growing up at Dad's race shop. He used it to describe a powerful yet ill-handling machine; or, more often, the driving technique of a hero driver attempting to cope with one. Both definitions rattled around in our brain as we traveled to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) to drive the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10.
Consider the specifications: 600 horsepower (90 hp more than before) from an improved 8.4-liter V10; 200-mph top speed; and a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive chassis with no stability control.
My God, do they even make cars like that anymore?
Brute Strength? Check
The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 isn't all-new, but the signature V10 lump under the hood is. Serious, meaningful changes have increased the V10's output and improved its fuel economy (and even its air emissions, too). And yes, it really is rated at 600 hp, which peaks at 6,100 rpm. Torque is up to 560 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm — as if this descendent of a truck engine didn't have enough torque already.
Stouter pistons and rods from Chrysler's popular 6.1-liter Hemi V8 have made possible a 1-millimeter increase in the V10's cylinder bore, swelling the displacement from 8.3 to 8.4 liters — a whopping 510 cubic inches.
A substantial increase in the compression ratio from 9.6:1 to 10.2:1 results from reworked combustion chambers. The fuel injectors now reside in the heads, close to the intake valves instead of farther upstream. Each spark plug now has its own coil. And a swinging pickup in the oil pan (borrowed from the Viper Competition Coupe) prevents oil starvation in the V10 during high-g driving.
Putting the increased muscle to the pavement requires a beefed-up Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission with 10 percent wider gears and triple synchronizers. A stronger twin-plate clutch copes with the power increase.
A More Radical Cam
The biggest trick here is the 8.4-liter V10's variable cam-phasing device known as Cam-in-Cam. Variable valve timing is mechanically straightforward for DOHC applications, but an OHV engine with a single cam mounted within the block as found in the SRT-10 presents a challenge.
Here the hollow camshaft has fixed intake lobes on its outer circumference, while the exhaust lobes are attached to separate, movable inner shaft. A computer-controlled mechanism in the cam sprocket continuously adjusts the relative phasing between the two shafts. As a result, the valve overlap can be made radical enough for maximum power or conservative enough for a smooth and clean idle.
A surprising benefit is a 17 percent increase in fuel economy for this new V10. While the 2006 Viper was rated at 11 mpg city and 19 mpg highway (adjusted for 2008 equivalency), the 2008 Viper is good for 13 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Plus a buyer of a 2008 Viper pockets a $1,700 savings in gas-guzzler tax.
Unleash the Beast Already
Once we take to the track at VIR, we soon find that the new engine's increased grunt flings the Viper out of the slowest hairpins with even greater authority. The absence of traction control proves of little concern thanks to accurate throttle response, wide Michelin rubber and a new GKN Visco-Lok speed-sensing limited-slip differential.
The acceleration down the long straights is simply crushing, and the V10's broad torque curve smothers the gaps between the six widely spaced ratios in the gearbox and overcomes the tall 3.07:1 axle ratio chosen to deliver a top speed of 200 mph. The engine's 6,250-rpm redline might seem a bit truckish for some, and the throaty thrash of the mighty V10 isn't exactly musical, but 8.4 liters of displacement and 10 pistons get the job done in a hurry.
Once we put the new Viper on our test track in California, we found that bursts to 60 mph can be accomplished entirely in 1st gear, and the mark comes up in 3.7 seconds, a full 1.2 seconds quicker than the 2006 Viper SRT-10 we tested. A couple of shifts later, the quarter-mile disappears in 11.8 seconds at 125.3 mph — a stunning 0.8 second and 7.9 mph better than the old car.
It Gets Better
Though the performance of the reworked engine grabs headlines (and the seat of your pants), the tweaks to the Viper's suspension are arguably more significant. They make the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 simultaneously more livable on the street and more corner-capable on the track.
First and foremost, the former run-flat tires have been cast aside and replaced with Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 high-performance tires — and a sealant kit. Freed from the necessity to be stiff enough to bear the burden of running without any air pressure for support, the sidewalls of the PS2 tires are less rigid, improving compliance and suppressing skittishness over bumps and cracks in the pavement.
That said, the Viper is still all about fast driving on a track. Spring rates that are 5 percent firmer preserve the overall wheel rate of the previous suspension calibration, and shock damping has been adjusted to capitalize on the capability of the new rubber. This setup also allows increased negative camber in the static alignment (now negative 1.4 degrees at every wheel). The end result increases mechanical grip and improves poise from this very heavy, very powerful car with a very short 98.8-inch wheelbase.
These improvements have also allowed the SRT engineers to address the excessive understeer that has been dialed into the Viper over the years in an effort to control the beast in its nature. By simply replacing the previously hollow rear stabilizer bar with a solid one of the same diameter, rear roll stiffness has been increased.
Awkwardness? No, Not Really
At VIR, these tweaks allow us to stab the new Viper aggressively into low- and high-speed corners alike without speed-sapping understeer. The steering is sharp and direct, and you can use a quick lift of the throttle or trail braking to make a quick entry into a corner, as the 2008 Viper seems less likely to surprise you with snap oversteer.
Within a lap or two, the predictable responses of the 2008 Viper's new suspension tuning make fast driving almost effortless. Even with 600 ponies underfoot, this new Viper is far from being the handful we'd imagined on the way here. It just hauls butt and makes no excuses.
On our testing surface in California, the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 scorches our skid pad with a 0.99g two-way effort. (The counterclockwise run was 1.02g.) Had conditions been less hot and slick, Dodge's own 1.05g "performance target" seems possible.
The Viper's 74.2-mph slalom speed places it near the top of the heap of front-engine machines. Weight distribution of 49.5 percent front/50.5 percent rear for the car's 3,437 pounds helps. None of the cars in our 2006 American Exotics test (Viper included) got close to the 70-mph mark.
Down to Business
We haven't said much about the rest of the Dodge Viper because not much has changed. It's still a tight squeeze in and out, and our tallest tester complained about seat travel. A navigation system is now available, though.
Perhaps the most striking attribute of the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is its price. Despite the extensive engine do-over and the chassis refinements, the as-tested price of our coupe is actually $945 lower than a similarly equipped 2006 model.
Including destination, a roadster costs $83,995, and a coupe like ours starts at $84,745. These figures are slightly higher than last year, but that $1,700 drop in gas-guzzler tax tips the scales the other way.
The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 certainly ups the ante in the brute strength quotient, but it's anything but awkward. Even the most ham-fisted hero drivers among us can now wield it. Prepare to trade in your 2006 edition. It's the best negative $945 you'll ever spend.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Inside Line Executive Editor Michael Jordan says:
We were there in 1990 when Chrysler rented a warehouse to introduce the first production prototype of the Dodge Viper. It was not far from the original Shelby American shop on Princeton Avenue in Venice, California, and Chrysler had hired up everybody with any connection to the Shelby Cobra (from Carroll Shelby to Dan Gurney) to give the Viper a sense of historic importance. We seem to remember fog machines, too. It was the silliest, most transparent public relations exercise ever.
But now that almost 25,000 Vipers have rolled off the production line since 1992, you have to say this car has lived up to every promise it made. Like the Cobra, it's an amazing, one-of-a-kind piece. Like the Cobra, it went to Europe and won races with American technology. And like the Cobra, the Viper is a total menace to drive.
Just like a Cobra, the Viper makes us feel like we're going to crash any second. Sure, this thing might seem rational on a racetrack, but it's a different thing in a world with telephone poles, big trees, mailboxes and curbs. You can't help lighting up the rear tires, and then they stay lit for so long that you get spooked waiting for them to hook up again. The Viper totally terrorizes you, and it's no wonder women weep, kids shout and dogs bark.
The 2008 Dodge Viper makes you fear for your life every second. It's terrific. Maybe they could make flames shoot out of the exhaust, too.
Used 2008 Dodge Viper Overview
The Used 2008 Dodge Viper is offered in the following submodels: Viper Coupe, Viper Convertible. Available styles include SRT-10 2dr Coupe (8.4L 10cyl 6M), and SRT-10 2dr Convertible (8.4L 10cyl 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Dodge Viper?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.