No other car in the history of Dodge has placed a halo firmly over the brand as the Viper. Sure, the Hellcat has its place in brand lore, but the Viper is what gave Dodge its modern performance panache. Without the Dodge Viper, the brand’s Hellcat models might yet be an unfulfilled dream.
Sadly, the Viper’s days are gone. This delicious two-seater is no more, due in part to economics and regulations. The last models were built in 2017. Is a revival possible? Maybe, but let’s look at the model at hand first before considering the possibility of its return.
Dodge Viper History
Before we look at what the future holds post Viper, let’s do a quick run-through of the sports car’s history. The first Viper prototype was tested in 1989, with a pre-production model introduced in time to pace the 75th Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 1991. That debut was more than seven months before the first production models were available.
The original Viper RT/10 was built from 1992 to 2002 and powered by an 8.0-liter V10 engine that initially made 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. Dodge paired this engine with a six-speed manual transmission. Variations on the Viper theme rolled out during the intervening years, including the Viper GTS Coupe. Enhanced power and an updated six-speed gearbox enabled the Viper to up its game.
The second-generation Viper was introduced in 2003. Dodge went with an 8.3-liter V10 and again paired it with a six-speed manual transmission. Performance ramped up to an even 500 horsepower. Known as the Viper SRT-10, this model was produced through 2010. It was refreshed for the 2008 model year, with improvements that include an 8.4-liter V10 engine making 600 horsepower and 560 foot-pounds of torque.
SRT and Back to Dodge
Miraculously, Viper survived the Chrysler Group’s restructuring, although the third-generation model rolled out in 2013 after a two-year production hiatus. For the first two years, this model sported the then-new SRT brand name.
The current iteration maintained its SRT name through the 2014 model year before it was sent back to Dodge. Powered by an 8.4-liter V10 engine, this Viper is the most powerful one yet, making 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of twist.
Killed by Regulations
The Viper’s demise was assured because this sports car cannot meet federal safety regulations requiring all cars to come outfitted with side-curtain airbags. It isn’t that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) couldn’t figure out a way of designing this safety feature. Rather, it simply could not justify the cost. After all, only 676 hand-built Vipers were sold in 2015.
Before you hang your head mourning for Viper, hope remains. Especially with Ferrari and Alfa Romeo yet in the fold.
“Given the architectural developments that we have going on inside the group … there is a possibility that a new version of a Viper will eventually — may eventually — surface,” the late FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told Automotive News.
Marchionne went on to indicate that there are vehicle architectures within the FCA arsenal (now Stellantis) that could underpin a new Viper. In his usual vague if not coy way, Marchionne says, “But I don’t think we’ve made the decision.” In any case, Marchionne died in 2018 and Fiat Chrysler was absorbed into the Stellantis universe in 2021.
Dodge Performance Beyond Viper
Most Dodge enthusiasts don’t have the Viper on their “to buy” lists, as they’re content with the current Dodge Challenger and Charger in their many forms.
The full-size Challenger coupe and Charger sedan will likely survive, but considerable weight reduction is in order. Both are expected to soldier on, however fully electric versions may take over. Initially, though, we expect Stellantis’ new 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine to motivate this duo, in twin-turbo fashion, of course.
As for the Viper, just as Corvette will soon see an all-electric version, the revived sports car might return in that form. If it does, a pure-electric Viper would share its EV architecture with other Stellantis vehicles, perhaps finding itself closely aligned with select Ferrari and Maserati models.
See Also — New Mid-Engine Corvette is the Best One Yet
Image by michael link from Pixabay