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I Hypermiled My Dodge Viper to See What Gas Mileage I Could Get

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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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. Hmmmm….as an owner of an ’01 Viper GTS for the past ten years AND a fuel economy nerd, I have gotten over 25 mpg on 3 or 4 occasions.  Sixth gear at 65 mph an you are barely turning 1,500 rpm.  Typical fuel economy is 15 – 16 mpg, but that requires highway miles.  “Spirited” commuting and turning in 10 – 12 mpg.

  2. Hey Doug, a little hypermiling fact for you. When going down a hill in a manual transmission car, don’t shift into neutral, just leave it in gear and let off the gas pedal.

    When you coast in neutral, the engine has to consume gas to maintain idle. However, when you leave the car in gear and coast, the ECU shuts down the injectors and no gas is consumed. Yes, the car may start to slow down as you coast in gear due to engine braking, which i imagine is quite aggressive in a Viper, but it’s far more fuel efficient than coasting in neutral.
    • I was just about to add the same comment. 

      There is a snag though. His car may be too old. Only in the past few years has full fuel cut off been programed into the majority of new cars being manufactured. 
      My ’96 Civic manual would get 48 mpg when hypermileing at 60 on nearly level ground. That was barely leaving a feather weight pressure on the gas pedal almost all the time.
      My current daily driver is a 1 yr old Camry Automatic. (Add snoring sounds here!!!) (And, don’t ask!) EPA 35 hwy. Knowing the gas is cut off when coasting, I barely add a feather weight to the gas pedal when coasting on level ground or going down hill, to avoid engine breaking. The result: 40-42 going 60 on the highway. The biggest gain is: 34 combined and air conditioned city/highway mileage. I get this tank after tank.
      I would love to hear the results of Doug NOT using coasting in neutral and maybe giving a (very) little gas to avoid engine breaking when downhill or trying to coast on level ground. Even if his ECU is an older one, I would think it would still be better than idling in full Neutral.  That baby has 10 cylinders to keep fireing after all.  The results should be much more pronounced than what an older 4 banger would show.
      How about it, Doug? EPA estimates CAN be topped!
      P.S. I used to frustrate the heck out of my old roommate when I drove his Insight around in Atlanta. My experience growing up with Hondas would allow me to leave his car with higher avg MPG and a better battery charge than when I started. Honda experience allowed me to up the mileage. Being able to lightly touch the break pedal and feel the regenerative breaking kick in, but not the actual breaks, is how I got the higher charge. I could “coast” almost to a stop using the regen braking a lot of the time in stop and go traffic. I never got your mileage driving on the Perimeter though. (But I never cut the entire car off either. Too dangerous there for my taste.)
  3. Yikes Doug, weird how low of numbers you got. Maybe they somehow got better between 98 and 02. I daily drove mine in mixed city/highway for one year and 10k miles and consistently averaged between 11-13 MPG. On my way across the country, going 85 on I-10, I got 20 MPG. Best I ever got was 21.5 doing around 65 on the interstate. I used Gas Buddy at every fill-up for a year to keep track of it all and see how much money I spent on premium fuel…thankful gas was cheap in 2015.

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