2015 Dodge Viper: Viper, No Viping
June 30, 2015
Bring home something like a 2015 Dodge Viper GT and the temptation to show it off, open it up and generally revel in the 645 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque you just bought is irresistible.
But Dodge and SRT don't want you to go hell-bent for leather in the first mile. In fact, they strongly suggest you hold off until 1,500 miles appear on the odometer. During that time the break-in period for SRT-sourced engines is pretty specific, and it consists of four phases that get gradually more permissive. Page 21 of the Viper manual spells it all out.
This is why you don't see any motion blur in the photograph above. Note also that the tachometer is pointing at a piddling 2,000 rpm. I am abiding by Phase I guidelines, which apply between 0 and 100 miles: no extended idling, go easy while braking, accelerate gently to no more than half throttle, shift before 3,500 rpm and never exceed 55 mph.
We wrapped up Phase I and its Draconian restrictions about two weeks ago, then started on the somewhat more reasonable Phase II. From 100 to 300 miles, we could exercise the engine up to 5,000 rpm without exceeding 70 mph, but the gentle acceleration/half-throttle rule was still in effect. And even though it's not spelled out, extended cruising in one gear on cruise control is not the proper way to get through this.
Phase III begins at 300 miles and ends at 500 miles. At this point things start to feel normal and the break-in period will cease to be a daily issue for most people. How so? Now we can (and should) start using the entire rpm range, which means we can flirt with the red line. Wide-open throttle is permitted, but only momentarily. Speed cannot exceed 85 mph, which is very easy to comply with around here because the highest California speed limit is 70 mph.
Phase IV stretches from there to 1,500 miles, and the advice is straightforward: no track days, performance driving schools or "similar activities," which to us means no Edmunds track testing for numbers, no burnouts, and no drifting photography.
This last restriction is similar to one we place on ourselves. We generally don't take new long-term test cars out to the track until they've got 1,500 miles, whether the manual says we can or not. Electric cars are an exception, for obvious reasons.
Throughout the process, Dodge suggests checking the oil level at each fill-up. And they warn that oil and fuel consumption may be higher than normal (presumably tapering off as things wear in) through the first scheduled oil change. In practical terms, there's another way to look at this. You could view it as a "check yourself before you wreck yourself" situation as much as an engine break-in procedure.
Surely some fraction of new Viper buyers has never before owned anything with this much raw horsepower. This break-in procedure seems like sound advice for drivers as they come to grips with their new V10-powered machine.
As for the performance driving school prohibited until after 1,500 miles, that seems like a good idea as soon as the curtain lifts, too. We'll certainly be taking ours straight to the track as soon as Phase IV is history, at which point we'll immerse ourselves in a cloud of tire smoke as we make full use of all 645 of the Viper's prodigious horsepower.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 102 miles