The Dodge Viper once had a bad-boy reputation as less controllable than sports cars like the 911 and Corvette, but in its current form the Viper’s become almost genteel. Low, long, and covered in muscular bulges and threatening vents, the Viper telegraphs its supercar intentions. Inside, the cabin is now more refined and luxurious, with available leather and tech packages pushing it fully into the 21st century.
The Viper has had a circuitous journey through the now-defunct SRT brand and back to its home at Dodge again, but along the way, it has only gotten better—and less expensive. If you’re a V-10 mega-sportscar fan, there’s hardly ever been a better time to get in on the action. In fact, it’s never been friendlier, either.
Updates for the 2015 model year include a 5-hp bump for the 8.4-liter V-10, a different sixth-gear ratio for upper trim levels, a new GT model to slot between base and GTS Vipers, a Viper TA 2.0 Special Edition model, and several new colors.
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Under the hood of the Viper you’ll find just one engine, no matter the trim: an 8.4-liter V-10 that drives the rear wheels. It now makes 645 hp (up 5) and the same 600 pound-feet of torque. Chrysler says it delivers the most torque of any normally aspirated sports car engine in the world, and the performance reflects that: 0-60 mph runs come in the low-three-second range; quarter miles fly by in the low 11s; 0-100-0mph takes less than 12 seconds; top speed is 206 mph. You can have any transmission you want, as long as it’s the standard six-speed manual.
The supercar game is not all about straight-line performance, however, and the Viper shines when it’s time to turn, too. The latest Viper generation is the first to be equipped with stability and traction control, and fortunately, they’re not the fun-killing systems of old. In fact, even in full-on mode, the system allows for yaw and slip angles suitable to spirited track-day antics. All Vipers get three stability-control modes (on, off, and rain), while the GTS model adds a pair of intermediate steps, with Sport and Track modes, which loosen the restrictions but keep a safety net. Even with everything fully off, however, the Viper is nearly balanced, transitioning from entry to apex to exit with massive grip and surprising feel through the steering wheel and the seat-bottom. There’s always the threat of the rear coming around when you come onto the gas too hard, but as a training tool, the mortal fear of 600 pound-feet of torque is unmatched.
The Viper’s cabin is surprisingly roomy for such a low-slung, coupe. Dodge claims drivers up to 6’7″ should fit within its confines. There’s plenty of head and leg room for most drivers, and the seats are both comfortable and adjustable. The steering wheel and pedals also move to get the best possible fit. You “ll want as much physical comfort in the Viper as possible, as it’s a very noisy place to be, even cruising at low engine speeds on a smooth country road. The ride quality is fair in base models, a bit better with the adjustable dampers , but never really objectionable for a sports car. Cargo space is fair, at 14.65 cubic feet, but the odd shape under the rear hatch means soft-sided bags will be the best bet for longer trips.
Differences between the Viper SRT and Viper GTS are primarily in equipment: the GTS gets a two-mode suspension system with Bilstein DampTronic Select dampers and the aforementioned extra stability-control parameters. The Viper SRT is the more minimalist take on extreme performance, while the GTS offers an extra degree of luxury and refinement in the cabin as well as its upgraded suspension system and electronic controls. The new-for-2015 GT model splits the difference, with a price to match, and adds the GTS’s Bilstein setup, the five-mode stability system, and a unique leather-and-Alcantara interior on top of the base model’s equipment.
Expensive, low-volume sports cars are often skipped in the crash-testing cycle by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); the 2015 Dodge Viper is no exception. Despite the lack of crash tests, the Viper should prove as safe as most modern coupes in an accident, with a full suite of air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and pre-tensioning seat belts all standard. A backup camera is available on base models, and standard on GTS models.
Gas mileage, as you might expect, isn’t one of the Viper’s primary concerns. That said, there’s a slight increase for 2015. Transmission refinements and the new engine calibration helped eke out a small improvement in highway mileage; the 2015 car gets 12 mpg city and 20 highway, up from 12/19 last year.