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2016 Dodge Viper: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2015

The 2016 Dodge Viper is now entering its fourth model year in its current form -- though it sports a new name, turning last year's SRT moniker into a trim level. Dodge also adds a high-performance Viper model -- ACR -- this year for shoppers especially interested in track-ready performance.

Otherwise, the Viper's key selling points -- and enhancements over previous models -- remain the same. That means dramatically improved comfort and livability compared to Vipers of years past, so much so that you'd be forgiven for using the term luxurious to describe certain upscale versions of this Viper.

The improvements are a welcome change to the iconic 2-seater. After all, few sports cars possess such a notorious identity and charismatic personality. Unfortunately, that hasn't been enough to attract big sales: By all accounts, the Viper hasn't exactly been flying off the shelves. We're eager to see if a rumored Viper convertible will debut in the next year or two to help reverse that trend.

What's New for 2016?

In addition to losing SRT from its name, the 2016 Viper's primary addition is a sporty new track-focused ACR model.

What We Like

Thundering personality; hair-raising performance; interior refinements finally reach luxury-car territory; lowered pricing

What We Don't

No side airbags; no convertible; pricy options; a 1-note performance personality gets tiresome during prolonged seat time

How Much?

$90,100-$121,000

Fuel Economy

If you're interested in a Viper, we find it hard to believe you'll even read this section, but here it is just in case: The Viper is powered by a 645-horsepower 8.4-liter V10 that makes a whopping 600 lb-ft of torque. All Viper models use a 6-speed manual transmission, and they all return an EPA-rated 12 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.

Standard Features & Options

The Viper comes in four trim levels: the base-level Viper SRT, the midlevel GT and GTS, and the track-focused ACR.

If you choose the SRT ($90,100), you'll get automatic xenon headlights, power adjustable pedals, steering-wheel audio controls, passive entry, Chrysler's Uconnect system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, Alcantara interior trim, alloy wheels (18 inches in front and 19 inches in back) with high-performance tires, SiriusXM radio, a backup camera, a sport suspension, automatic climate control and a USB port for music.

Upgrade to the GT ($98,000), and you'll add Nappa leather seats with Alcantara inserts, aluminum Viper sill plates, a 2-mode sport suspension, 5-mode stability control, red brake calipers, a power driver's seat and 2-piece brake rotors.

Next up is the GTS ($111,100), which adds an 18-speaker sound system, Laguna leather seats, dual power front seats, an Alcantara headliner and leather-finished accessories including door panels, a center console and an instrument panel.

Topping the range is the sporty ACR ($121,000), which is a serious track car that adds enhancements to just about every performance-related system -- including the brakes, the suspension and the steering. The ACR is also lower than a standard model, featuring an aerodynamic body kit and a huge rear wing.

The Viper's list of options primarily includes a long list of color combinations and wheel choices.

Safety

The Viper includes anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control. Like all new cars, it features dual front airbags, but side airbags aren't available. A rearview camera is standard on all Viper models, but no other modern safety gadgets are available.

Due to the Viper's low production volume, it's unlikely that crash tests will be carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Behind the Wheel

The world can seem like your personal drag strip from inside the Viper cockpit. While a virtual tachometer and submenus featuring data analysis reveal that the poisonous snake has assumed new technological aptitude, one stab of the right pedal offers a not-so-subtle reminder that this is still a screaming, snarling hellion of a car.

It's not just the mammoth 8.4-liter V10 or the notchiness of the 6-speed manual shifter but the brutish ride quality and driving feel that emerges while hustling the Viper across city streets. Even in its soft setting, the suspension still hops around and has trouble tracking straight on bumpy roads. Forget about the track setting for real-world driving; it's simply too stiff for use, unless you actually enjoy the sensation of teeth rattling.

The Viper seems more in its element at the track, where it's capable of fully delivering its intended goals of automotive shock and awe. Grip from the Pirelli tires is considerable, especially in ACR guise, which wraps special high-performance rubber around lightweight wheels for even more handling prowess. The tires' steep drop-off of adhesion during high g-force driving will put hair on your chest, though, as will the locomotivelike acceleration and the glued-down handling, which enables direction changes with considerably more feedback and intuitive steering than was offered by Vipers of yore. And once again, the suspension's Track setting proves too stiff for off-road use, as it results in twitchiness that ultimately diminishes confidence rather than boosting it.

Gut-punchingly potent and impressively capable, the Viper offers a challenging and ultimately rewarding experience for drivers bold enough to explore its limits.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Audi R8 -- The recently updated Audi R8 takes a more technologically finessed tack to the supercar formula. It delivers a balanced midengine configuration that, unlike the Viper, pulls few punches when tackling road courses and twisting highways.

2016 Chevrolet Corvette -- The Corvette may not quite be able to tackle the Viper when it comes to all-out speed, but when you consider performance that can be used on the street, the 'Vette is just as much of a hoot. We happen to think it looks pretty nice, too.

2016 Nissan GT-R -- The GT-R allows drivers to lean on fighter-jet-like electronics and all-wheel drive in order to wring maximum performance from its twin-turbocharged V6, without the Viper's terror.

Used Porsche 911 Turbo -- If speed is your drug, few cars offer it like the Porsche 911 Turbo. Featuring virtually unmatched 0-to-60 times, the 911 Turbo boasts staid 911 looks but packs a mean punch. You'll have to get a used model to match Viper prices, though.

Autotrader's Advice

With its new lower base price and its longer list of standard features, the base-level 2016 Dodge Viper SRT is the one we'd take. It might be the best performance-car bargain on the road.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Dodge Viper: New Car Review - Autotrader