- Ludicrous V10 power
- Tenacious handling
- Excellent infotainment interface
- An unfiltered, unapologetic sports car
- Stiff ride quality
- Poor visibility
- Overly firm seats
- Difficult entry/egress
- No automatic transmission available
The 2016 Dodge Viper flies in the face of contemporary sports car progress. While most new high-performance coupes benefit from refined interiors, somewhat agreeable ride qualities and a slew of electronic assistants that can help even newbies look like Juan Pablo Montoya circling around a racetrack, the Viper is brash, loud, rough and challenging to drive. For those with a seemingly unending appetite for raw performance, it's delightful. For everyone else, it can be taxing.
At the Viper's core is a humongous 645-horsepower 10-cylinder engine squeezed between comically wide tires under a very long hood. It creates a furious roar when pushed hard, but it sounds more like a delivery truck when loping around town. It has very high handling limits in the hands of gifted drivers, but it can be downright frightening for the uninitiated.
With such a narrow focus on performance, comfort and convenience take significant hits. The Viper isn't particularly comfortable to begin with and for longer trips, it can be rather punishing. Those extremes are further accentuated with the return of the track-tuned ACR (for American Club Racing) model.
It takes a big commitment to own a Viper when you consider that its chief rivals are similarly fast but with far fewer drawbacks. Chief among them is the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, which proudly waves the same American supercar banner. The Ford Shelby GT350 has also been causing a stir and benefits from friendlier driving dynamics and a lower price. The Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 are also intriguing alternatives, but place technology above brute power. So when it comes to a raw, traditional beast of a sports car, the 2016 Dodge Viper has the market all to itself. The question is, are you up for that kind of a challenge?
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016
The 2016 Dodge Viper ups the ante with the return of the even more track-focused Viper ACR model.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2016 Dodge Viper is a two-seat sports coupe that is available in five trim levels: SRT, GT, GTC, GTS and the more track-focused ACR.
The base SRT comes with standard features that include 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels with high-performance tires, keyless ignition and entry, manually adjustable seats with faux suede inserts, a tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, air-conditioning, an 8.4-inch touchscreen (Dodge's Uconnect infotainment system), a navigation system, SRT performance apps, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with satellite radio and a USB port.
The Viper GT trim steps things up with a racier hood, upgraded brake rotors, two-mode driver-adjustable dampers, a taller 6th gear ratio, a six-way power driver seat and leather-trimmed seats. The GTC adds a five-mode stability control system, unique gunmetal interior treatments, premium leather upholstery and trim. The GTS goes further with 19-inch front wheels and an 18-speaker premium Harman Kardon audio system.
The ACR does an about-face by reducing some feature content in the name of saving weight. There's less sound insulation, lighter-weight carpeting and less of it, manual adjustable seats and a minimal three-speaker stereo. In return, the ACR gains carbon-fiber aerodynamic elements (with a large dual-element rear wing and a front splitter with a removable extension), more aggressive summer tires, six-piston brake calipers, carbon ceramic brake rotors, a stiffer suspension with 10 manually adjustable damper settings for compression and rebound, and manually adjustable spring rates.
Some premium features are available on lower trimmed models at additional cost. Other options include numerous carbon-fiber exterior and interior treatments and the Extreme Aero package for GTC and ACR trims that adds an adjustable rear wing, a carbon rear diffuser and even more aggressive aerodynamic tweaks.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
This third-generation Viper represents a huge leap forward in regard to interior design and quality, but it still trails behind other similarly priced sports cars in many aspects. Materials quality is good compared to the average consumer car, but not for one that costs more than $100,000 when new. On the plus side, the Uconnect infotainment interface is one of the better systems for ease of use and responsiveness.
Just getting in and out of the Viper exposes one of its most significant drawbacks. The wide and tall side sill requires an inelegant shimmy to clear, followed by a clumsy drop into the seats. It's especially challenging to larger occupants or those wearing dresses, as the hot side exhaust pipes have a tendency to singe unprotected legs. Once seated, there's not a lot of space to move around, either. There's just enough room for a 6-footer, but perhaps not enough if they are wearing a helmet. Lateral space is also at a premium since the wide transmission tunnel keeps things very tight.
Visibility is also limited, with a very low roof line that makes you feel as though you're peeking through a mail slot. Side visibility is compromised by wide rear roof pillars, and the small rear hatch forces heavy reliance on the rearview camera. On paper, the 14.7-cubic-foot trunk capacity is generous, but that's only if you pile your cargo to the roof. The usable space is really limited to a narrow well behind a massive hump. In the passenger compartment, storage is also light, with a few small pockets and bins. Our best advice is to pack light.
Standard safety features for all 2016 Vipers include antilock brakes, stability control, side door-mounted airbags and a rearview camera. In Edmunds testing, the Viper came to a stop from 60 mph in103 feet, which is a few feet longer than other ultrahigh-performance coupes but still far shorter than the average sports car.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Powering all 2016 Dodge Viper models is a massive 8.4-liter V10 that produces 645 hp and 600 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual, which is the only available transmission. In Edmunds testing, a Viper GT accelerated to 60 mph in only 3.6 seconds.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 15 mpg combined (12 city/21 highway), which is poor, even for this class of high-performance cars. Drive the Viper as it was intended (aggressively) and single-digit mpg figures are likely.
The 2016 Dodge Viper is about as raw and unrefined as cars get these days, and that's actually one of its stronger selling points. In an age where computers are supplanting good old-fashioned driver skill, the Viper relies on gifted and brave pilots to keep it on the road. It's unapologetic in its approach to performance and has a certain cool factor that just can't be measured.
It's certainly not the sharpest-handling sports car out there, but it makes up for it with its massively wide tires and an overabundance of power. Even for seasoned high-performance drivers, the Viper can be a challenge to take to its limits. It's thrilling and terrifying in a way that few cars are or ever have been. Interestingly, the ACR's aero and tire enhancements make the Viper both more capable and more stable — and therefore more confidence-inspiring — on a racetrack.
But away from the track and on public roads, the Viper is less appealing. On the street you feel every bump and rut in the pavement and after a short amount of time, it becomes tiring. The same can be said of the V10's loud, droning engine note at highway speeds.
If you have an insatiable appetite for unbridled power and performance, the 2016 Dodge Viper could very well be the sports car for you. But the drawbacks in terms of comfort, refinement and convenience are significant.