A lot of people assume the most uncomfortable part of owning a Dodge Viper is driving along bumpy roads or sitting in heavy traffic. They’re wrong. The most uncomfortable part of owning a Dodge Viper is going 53 miles per hour in the far-right lane of the freeway when you’re trying to hypermile it.
Before I explain what that was like, allow me to give you a little background. As many of you know, I own a 1997 Dodge Viper GTS, a tremendously exciting sports car with exotic styling and a giant 8.0-liter V10 engine made for high performance, track-tuned handling and impressive, at-the-limit driving characteristics. So, naturally, I wanted to see what kind of gas mileage it could get. See the 1997 Dodge Viper models for sale near you
The answer: not much.
Actually, I had an idea of what kind of gas mileage my Viper would get before I even set off, because I possess the original factory window sticker, which includes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel-economy rating: 11 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. That’s quite bad — the sort of fuel economy you’d get in a normal car if you needed to make a 5-hour drive but didn’t know how to shift out of first gear.
So I decided to put these numbers to the test in two real-world situations. First, I would drive around the city for a couple hours and measure the gas mileage. Then, I’d get on the highway and reaaaally try to hypermile the Viper, using tricks I learned years ago when a viewer taught me to hypermile with his Honda Insight. I had no idea what sort of gas mileage I’d get in the city, but my highway goal was 25 mpg.
So I filled the car up and set off around the city. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the middle of Philadelphia probably isn’t what the EPA had in mind when they were doing fuel-economy ratings. For example, on several occasions during my drive around the city, I got stuck behind a horse and wagon on a carriage ride. Once, I was passed by a group of people doing a Segway tour. And there was one street where I sat through four traffic light cycles in a row before finally advancing to the next block. After about 40 minutes in the city, my left leg grew so tired that I decided I could never personally become a flamingo. Nonetheless, I pressed on, sacrificing myself so that you, reader, could find out what kind of fuel economy a Dodge Viper gets in city driving.
And so, after roughly 2 hours of this, I pulled into a gas station, filled up again and measured my numbers. The gas-mileage result of driving a Dodge Viper in the city: 5.6 mpg.
Five. Point. Six.
This is not an exaggeration — although I fully expect people to believe that I doctored this figure somehow, that I intentionally made it worse for comedic effect or possibly that I engaged in some sort of hour-long rev battle with a Corvette Z06, in which neither of us moved but instead bounced off the rev limiter and talked trash about each other’s vehicles. ("Bowling Green? More like Bowling PANEL GAPS! AMIRITE?!?!?!")
But none of these things happened. I got 5.6 mpg in normal, regular, everyday Philadelphia city driving. Actually, it’s worse: I did this on a Saturday morning. I can only imagine what you’d get if you attempted to commute with this car on a weekday during rush hour. Sure, you’d get really bad gas mileage, but you’d become the person they call in when people get trapped in a collapsed mine, because your left leg could single-handedly prop open the mine shaft.
So then I took my Viper on the highway. It was time to make up for my abysmal city gas-mileage numbers with some serious hypermiling.
For those of you who don’t know what hypermiling is, it involves doing everything you possibly can to conserve fuel as you drive. This means anticipating hills, shifting into neutral to coast, drafting behind semi trucks and driving at whatever speed allows your car’s engine to operate at the lowest number of revolutions per minute.
I really hate hypermiling. Of course, there’s one obvious reason why: It’s absolutely no fun. But it also requires you think about so many non-driving things while you’re driving. Instead of wondering if there’s a car in your blind spot, you’re thinking, "Is there a car in my blind spot? And is a hill coming up? And am I over 1,500 rpm? And is my gas pedal pushed down too far? And am I carbon-neutral? And am I contributing to the hole in the ozone layer? And have I killed any baby sloths today with my pollutants? And did I remember to cut up my soda-can holders so a baby seal doesn’t get stuck in them?"
In the Viper, the best possible speed for hypermiling is somewhere around 51 mph. Have you ever gone 51 mph on the interstate? You’re crawling. Sure, you might be saving baby seals, but if the baby seals had driver’s licenses, they’d be telling you to hurry up.
So anyway, after a couple hours of hypermiling, I pulled into a gas station and measured my gas mileage. And the result? Of considerable hypermiling effort? Of desperately driving slower than everyone else? Of turning off the climate control, shifting into neutral and praying that nobody ahead of me slowed down?
Final calculation: 18.6 mpg.
And so, good people of Oversteer, we have a range. If you drive a Viper, I suspect your gas-mileage numbers fall somewhere between an absolutely abysmal 5.6 mpg and a still-pretty-abysmal 18.6 mpg. I also suspect you don’t really care. Find a 1997 Dodge Viper for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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