Dodge Viper Review
Since the moment it made its debut as a 1989 concept car, the Dodge Viper has been a part of American automotive lore. Part muscle car and part supercar, the Dodge Viper was perfectly over the top, from its cartoonish styling to its massive V10 engine to its ridiculously wide tires. It could run with the finest European supercars, but the Viper always maintained a distinctly American attitude.
One key element of the Dodge Viper legend was its inherent danger. Developed long before the advent of electronic stability control, traction control and even antilock brakes — not to mention airbags — early-generation Vipers were as dangerous as their namesake, and countless examples were lost to attrition thanks to drivers who did not drive them with the care and respect they deserved.
Though later-model examples received engine and suspension improvements that honed its dynamic precision, the Dodge Viper never lost its raw edge and lack of polish. With its cramped cabin, hellacious noise levels, 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.
Used Dodge Viper Models
After a two-year hiatus, the third (and final) generation of the Viper returned for 2013 and ran until 2017. For the first two years, the car was marketed as the SRT Viper, during the short period where Chrysler's Street Racing Technology group (which developed high-performance and specialty vehicles such as the Viper and SRT-series Dodge vehicles) was marketed as a sub-brand of Dodge. The Viper was rebranded as a Dodge in 2015.
The third-generation Viper was a two-door coupe that featured a six-speed manual transmission and a 8.4-liter V10 tuned for 640 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque. Output rose to 645 hp in 2015. Though the new Viper was slightly heavier than the previous generation, it could still get to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The new chassis was more manageable and less threatening than previous versions of the Viper, but no less thrilling or potent.
Dodge sold the 2013 Viper in base and GTS trim, the latter adding a few creature comforts. Performance enhancements came by way of the SRT Track Package, offered with both trim levels, as well as a TA package offered in 2014. For 2015, the model lineup was expanded to four models, called SRT, GT, GTC and GTS, with performance upgrades such as better brakes and driver-adjustable dampers on GT and higher trims. 2016 brought the introduction of a new track-focused ACR model. For 2017, the GT model was dropped and several special editions were developed to commemorate the end of production.
The second-generation Dodge Viper was produced from 2003 through 2010, initially as an open-top roadster. The 8.3-liter V10 engine generated 500 hp and 525 pound-feet of torque. 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.
The Dodge Viper took a hiatus for 2007, then returned in 2008 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, and the even more hardcore ACR edition debuted with plenty of goodies designed to dominate on a track.
Performance numbers for the second-generation Dodge Viper were otherworldly, with 0-60-mph times of 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 18-inchers). What it lacked, however, was a stability control system to save overzealous drivers from themselves. Side-impact airbags were also unavailable.
The first-generation Dodge Viper debuted for the 1992 model year, a production version of the smash-hit 1989 concept car. With lots of tail-wagging power and no life-saving electronic driving aids, the original Viper RT/10 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 — 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 8.0-liter V10 engine with lighter-weight aluminum substituting for cast iron. Power was bumped up to 450 hp for 1996, when other major changes arrived with the more powerful GTS coupe. The Dodge Viper became 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 most 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.
Read the most recent 2017 Dodge Viper review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Dodge Viper page.
For more on past Dodge Viper models, view our Dodge Viper history page.