2016 Dodge Viper – HD Track Drive Video
It is pretty fashionable to hate on the Viper right now. Its latest generation took a big leap in price, dropped its ragtop bodystyle option, and lacks the sheer, effortless sprint times so adored in the Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911 Turbo, and even the Hellcat twins.
We have heaped a bit of scorn on the Viper as well, and after an oh-so-brief drive last year came away confused. This hulking beast of a car felt heavy, uncomfortable and hopelessly one-dimensional versus the STELLAR Corvette Z06 and even Z51 base engines.
Even that legendary V10 with its deep-throated side exhaust fired up with a burb and a fart; but none of the magic we expected. Without experiencing the Viper at its full strength only shows you the rough edges of the car, leaving a perplexed first-block impression among journalists and auto shoppers alike.
But this time, the Viper’s charms have overpowered all around Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois.
What a difference full throttle can make!
The Viper for 2016 offers numerous cheaper trim levels to get its base pricing into the $87k range for the Viper SRT trimline, from its previous $100k-plus window stickers. There are five trims for the 2016 lineup: SRT, GT, GTS, GTC and ACR.
Alongside the new-for-2016 GT, GTC and SRT trims for less than a hundo, there are loaded flagships in the form of the American Club Racer and the new One of One customization program.
The Viper ACR already proved its chops: the 2016 ACR holds the all-time production car lap record at the ultra-fast Laguna Seca racetrack. Of course, pricing for the ACR is quite steep indeed: passing $120k fairly easily and becoming the most-expensive new Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep product of all time. (Excluding new step-siblings from the Fiat empire, of course.)
Yes, the Viper is still quite off-putting when you first plop deep into its racing buckets. The gorgeous cabin of this One of One custom wore a delicious tan hide for every inch of its cabin, from top to bottom. These are seriously plush leathers — as aromatic and evocative as the Ferrari’s they also grace.
The drive position feels deeply flawed when static, parked up in the Viper. The side window is nearly kissing your left cheek from the driver’s seat, while the power-adjustable pedals are a bit tricky as well. They do slide up and back for the gas and brake, but less so for the clutch pedal. So you must fit yourself into the Viper versus the Viper instantly being a perfect-fit drive position.
You fire up the beast and realize this is an exceptionally serious machine. Your front passenger is wide across the center tunnel, perched on the other edge of the bodyshell.
Setting off, the Viper is deeply intimidating. Its inputs throughout are extremely heavy and crude: steering, throttle and brakes all need dedicated shoves into action. The clutch travel at first feels impossibly long and imprecise, yet is also very hard to flub thanks to all the V10 torque a toe-bash away.
All those gripes wash away out the tiny side windows around 50-mph. What feels like a behemoth at parking speeds instantly lightens itself, diving into and out of corners with zero slop and intense feel all around.
Grip feels fairly endless on this first lap: we tease up the throttle inputs near half-mast and are loving the tactility and meatiness of the Viper around corners. The car feels like it is fully capable and designed to handle this track with zero braking input, and few shifts down into the starter gears.
But still, a few double-clutched downshifts approaching corners shows the totally radiant feel of the six-speed manual at speed. The heavy clutch action and wide-spaced shift gate suddenly makes sense: it, like all of the Viper, only comes to life at big speed.
Then it happens. A straightaway with some room in front to near a floored gas pedal. Third gear at around 60-mph on corner exit becomes 95-mph in a violent torque dump. The coarse-sounding 645-horsepower, 8.4-liter V10 comes into its own — no longer pouting and grumbling. Instead, the engine at full throttle sings like a scramjet going supersonic.
The deep bellow from in front is matched right in the cochlea of your eardrum: the side exhaust breathes and resonates in real-time with your right foot. It is informative and helpful: the tachometer might as well be invisible for how needed it is on track. You just know, physically, where the Viper is and wants to go.
And there, in this blissful howl of pure power and G-forces, the Viper finds a huge new superfan.
Yes, it is a mess at being a dual-purpose supercar like the Z06 or GT-R. But when the Viper finds its zone, ideally with a long track ahead of you, there are few cars with such a sense of occasion. Memorable barely does it justice.
And while forcing the full picture of the Viper for this story, we came home only smiling and marveling at the Viper.
A single-purpose legend. The Viper is not just one of the fastest track supercars in the world. But it also delivers that speed with such a glorious sense of purpose — of active driver involvement, input and talent.
The Viper is all-hands-on-deck in fast drives, as it should be. We wish the car were a bit more likeable before you dig deep in its throttle travel. We wish there were a much cheaper version with a HEMI and/or an automatic of some kind. Simply to burnish its sales numbers versus the excellent new Corvette.
But for my personal Viper One of One?
After scratching the surface of the car’s talent on track, we wouldn’t change a thing.
The 2016 Viper is a one-of-a-kind thrillride of a supercar.
2016 Dodge Viper GT