By Matt Degen
With its massive V10 engine, brutish looks and performance-over-practicality manifesto, the 2016 Dodge Viper is about as subtle as a tsunami. This is America's exotic car, and it's a beautiful beast. Yes, compared to the original model that didn't even have side windows, let alone traction control, the latest-gen Viper has been tamed. But don't let the Nappa leather seating and fancy touch screen fool you: The Dodge Viper coupe is big, brash and unapologetic. Compared to the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 or a Porsche 911, the Viper is not well-suited for everyday driving, and its manual transmission will either dissuade potential buyers or exclude posers, depending how you see it. On the flip side, the Viper attracts crowds like kids to candy.
If you want a loud, proud, all-American muscle car with an extreme emphasis on muscle, the Dodge Viper is it. If its $90,000-plus starting price doesn't deter you, neither should the attention you'll grab (which, let's be honest, is part of the appeal).
Despite its braggadocio, the Viper is actually handily out-performed by a wide variety of other cars, and not all of them are hyper-expensive Italian exotics. The new Chevrolet Corvette Z06, for example, costs less than a Viper, but is faster, handles better, is more civilized, and even more fuel-efficient.
If the standard Viper isn't extreme enough, new for 2016 is the Viper ACR, essentially a track car that's still street-legal. It boasts carbon-ceramic brakes, aero and suspension mods, and myriad other performance upgrades.
Driving the 2015 Dodge Viper quickly is like running with the bulls at Pamplona, Spain: frantic, exhilarating, loud and with the ever-present possibility of slipping up and getting gored. You...
... adrenaline junkies get it. The big V10 engine throws its power to the rear tires with glee, and the 6-speed manual transmission features a tight, notchy action that demands a deliberate hand. The adjustable suspension settings do help, but even at their softest you'll never mistake this for a luxury cruiser, even with the interior's higher-end materials, including available Alcantara upholstery, carbon-fiber accents and soft-touch surfaces. It's a blast on the track, but it takes dedication to drive as a normal, everyday car. The engine noise and stiff ride soon become grating, and the tight interior and hampered rear visibility present their own challenges. The Viper's raw power can make you a deviant, but its compromises are many.
That long hood on the Dodge Viper hides its heart and headline: an 8.4-liter V10 engine that's responsible for the car's low 3-second 0-to-60-mph time and 206-mph top speed. It's one of those rare engines that just pours out more and more power, seemingly without end.
One nod to civility in the Dodge Viper is the inclusion of Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system. Similar to what you'll find in a wide variety of Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles, the Viper's Uconnect system's 8.4-inch touch screen offers big icons, making it easy to tap your way around the system.
The Viper's 2-passenger cockpit is a cozy place, and we're being euphemistic about that word. Once settled, the seats do a commendable job keeping you in place as you drive with glee but can become uncomfortable during longer commutes. The steering wheel only tilts and doesn't telescope. Thankfully, the pedals are power-adjustable. GT and GTS models have a premium touch thanks to leather seats and an Alcantara headliner in the latter. Just getting into the Viper over the wide sills requires surprising dexterity, even when those sills haven't been heated to cooking temperatures by the side-mounted exhaust pipes.
The Viper SRT's long, curved nose sports six vents on the hood -- think of them as a "six-pack" -- and the hood shakes just a bit as the car's V10 engine idles. The fastback shape looks sinister in a majestic way. The huge scoops behind the front fenders are big enough to stick your arm through, and the twin-bubble dome over the cockpit is a throwback to race cars of days past. Yet, despite its apparent length, the Viper is smaller than you think; at 175.7 inches, the Viper is actually shorter than a Porsche 911.
What does $90,000-plus buy you in a 2016 Dodge Viper SRT aside from the intangible attention you'll draw everywhere you go? There's that V10 engine, of course, and all the performance bits inherent to every Viper. Standard amenities are far more lush than previous generations and include an 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen system with navigation, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, 12-speaker harman/kardon audio system, cruise control, rearview camera (you'll need it), universal garage-door opener and automatic climate control.
If you're getting the base Dodge Viper, the most important upgrades are the TA packages, which essentially turn your Viper into a race car with special tires, suspension upgrades and other components. Viper GT buyers get leather seats with Alcantara inserts, or they can upgrade to sport bucket seats. GT models also get a 2-mode suspension and a power driver's seat. The Dodge Viper GTS features special "Venom" polished aluminum wheels and a standard 18-speaker audio system. The new Viper ACR Coupe adds performance elements (aero wing, carbon-ceramic brakes), and, as a minimalist measure, a 3-speaker audio system and manual-adjust seats.
One engine remains for the Dodge Viper SRT: an 8.4-liter V10 pumping out a whopping 645 horsepower to the rear wheels. There's no supercharger, no turbocharger, just 10 pistons pumping up and down furiously. It sends that power, along with the 600 lb-ft of torque, to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. That's it. No automatic, no all-wheel drive, and the only reason stability control even exists is because it's the law (the old Viper didn't have it). Despite the huge torque loads, the Viper's clutch is surprisingly light and progressive. While the shifter isn't smooth, it's easy enough to use once you get used to its notchy engagement. However, the Viper drinks premium gasoline with a seemingly unquenchable thirst.
645 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
600 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/21 mpg
Dodge recently made it less prohibitive to get into a Viper, last year reducing the entry price some $15,000 to around $91,000. For 2016, a base Viper’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $92,500 including destination charge and $2,100 gas-guzzler tax. The plusher Viper GTS jumps to over $112,000 and the track-oriented Viper ACR starts over $120,000. You can get more power and performance for less money in the Corvette Z06, and a range of other performance cars such as the Porsche 911, Nissan GT-R and Aston Martin Vantage can be had for less or near the Viper's price. But we get it: If you're seriously contemplating a Viper, only this Mopar monster will do. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. Down the road, the Dodge Viper's resale value is expected to be below average.