2008 Dodge Viper Performance
This performance review was written when the 2008 Dodge Viper was new.
Some reviewers argue that the Viper beats its primary competitor, the Chevrolet Corvette, in comparison tests. "In our 2007 Corvette Z06 versus 2008 Viper SRT-10 coupe comparison test, the Viper beat the mighty Vette in acceleration, top speed, braking and handling," reports Edmunds. "The Viper can even hold its own against exotic cars costing twice as much." In reporting the results of its own test, Car and Driver comments, "Vette and Viper are pretty much even (and impressive) in roadholding, lane change, and braking distance, but the Viper wins on the track. It's easier to drive around the road course as well, thanks to great feel from the quick steering and solid brake pedal."
Test drivers have 2008 modifications to thank for the Viper's excellent performance both on and off the track. "Enhanced ride comfort, reduced effort needed to push the clutch and a shorter movement of the shift lever make the 2008 Viper SRT10 much more enjoyable on the highway," says Kelley Blue Book. Cars.com adds, "This is no luxury cruiser, but I was surprised by how livable the Viper's ride quality was, and by how far automakers have come at diminishing the long-standing tradeoff between ride quality and handling." However, buyers take note: The Viper is by no means a commuter car, even despite the ride improvements. Edmunds explains, "It's not comfortable enough to be used as an everyday driver, but for those who can afford to have it as a plaything, this Dodge supercar answers to nothing."
Acceleration and Power
For 2008, the Viper STR-10 gets 90 additional horsepower over the 2006 version (Viper skipped the 2007 model year) and goes from 8.3- to 8.4-liter capacity. The result is a V10 engine with Variable Valve Timing that makes 600 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 560 pound-feet of torque at 5,100 rpm. Reviewers love the Viper's raw power. "The 2008 Dodge Viper is one of the fastest production cars in the world," says Edmunds. "The V10's massive pistons thump around with enough energy to shake the entire car, and its exhaust pops and bangs like a rusty Tommy gun."
In fact, several reviews say the Viper's powerful engine puts it in a league of its own. "In the limitless world of instrumented testing, the Viper bettered the Corvette at every opportunity," reports Edmunds. "Its 11.8-second quarter-mile time and 3.7-second 0-60-mph sprint are just plain ridiculous. And its 125 mph trap speed is the fastest we've ever recorded for any car in the quarter-mile." Car and Driver also makes reference to the Corvette, saying, "At 2500 rpm, the Viper makes more torque than the Z06 does at its peak." Likewise, Consumer Guide says the Viper's V10 is "explosive, even at part-throttle, even from modest rpm." Cars.com provides perhaps the most colorful description of the car's sheer power, commenting, "The thing pushes you into your seat like the washing-machine circus ride that spins around and then drops the floor out, leaving you plastered to the wall. If the car's seat cushions vanished, you'd probably be suspended all the way to the 200 mph top speed."
With all that power at a driver's fingertips, however, test drivers add a word of caution. "But this snake takes a little charming before you rev the engine and pop the clutch," advises the Road and Track adds, "The Viper, for all its brute force, rewards smoothness with a precision typically reserved for race cars. Lose concentration, even for an instant, and the Viper will bite you.". "When I was introduced to the new Viper in July, I nervously accelerated with so much power underfoot and braked too hard. The car wasn't too sensitive, I was."
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Viper coupe and convertible are expected to net 13 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. While those figures may seem low compared to many cars, Edmunds describes them as "remarkable" for a car with so much power under the hood. Cars.com sings a similar tune, noting that the 2008 figures are an improvement "over the previous generation's 11/19 mpg (using the same stringent 2008 calculation standards). That's impressive stuff when it accompanies a 90-hp power bump."
The Viper's V10 engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission. For 2008, it gets a new twin-disc clutch (to replace its previous single clutch) for reduced clutch-pedal effort. Most test drivers welcome the updated architecture, though they don't exactly heap praise upon the manual. "Power-shifting through the gears of the Viper's six-speed Tremec transmission is like driving a D9 Cat through a mobile home: There's a lot going on, but hold the wheel straight and nothing matters except the thrill," says Edmunds. Cars.com finds the shifter has "much shorter throws and clearly defined gates, which makes it a pleasure to operate. I'd accepted that a beefy gearbox needed a meaty and somewhat clumsy gearshift. Apparently not." The simply comments, "The six-speed Tremec manual transmission does not shift as smoothly as I'd like, but it never has."
Handling and Braking
The 2008 Dodge Viper's fully independent four-wheel suspension with lightweight coil-over shock absorbers is mostly a carryover from 2006, though it does get a new speed-sensing limited-slip differential. The suspension is generally applauded for keeping the Viper pinned to the road. "Carving a line through the twisting north course of Virginia International Raceway, the Viper turns in as quickly and precisely as any car we've driven, with more grip than we know what to do with," says AutoWeek. "This Viper handles so well it's difficult to tell how much difference those extra ponies make." Though Consumer Guide says that the ride can be "frequently choppy," most realize that a little choppiness comes with the territory. "The extra stiff suspension, designed for ripping through turns, also leaves the ride rough, which is fine for a car like this," says the . "On the highways around Detroit, the Viper bounced over concrete seams like a 25-cent store pony."
In addition, most say the rear-wheel-drive Viper is actually more comfortable on the road than the previous model. "Viper engineers have notably improved ride comfort with the 2008 Viper SRT10; switching away from stiff-sidewall run-flat tires helped," says Kelley Blue Book. "While still harsher than an average sedan, the Viper's ride is now comparable with the Corvette Z06."
Another plus is the rack-and-pinion steering, which gets excellent reviews for its racecar-like precision. Consumer Guide calls the steering "nicely weighted" and adds, "Viper's extraordinary width, low center of gravity, and steamroller tires provide uncanny grip and race-car response in changes of direction." Likewise, Edmunds finds the steering "direct and immediate when precision and placing the car matter, yet it never feels nervous in a straight line, even at triple-digit speeds. It might force its way down a twisty road like a parade of Nextel Cup cars, but manhandle it properly, and it does so faster than all of the above." AutoMedia.com simply calls steering feel "superb."
One concern is the Viper's historical tendency to understeer, but most reviews say this has been addressed with tweaks to the new model. "To compensate for a steady-state understeer, the rear anti-roll bar was made solid," explains Road and Track. "The result is a sensitive and responsive handling package that never wallows or hesitates in a corner. It is very direct and takes a steady hand to pilot." Edmunds adds that the improvements "allow us to stab the new Viper aggressively into low- and high-speed corners alike without speed-sapping understeer. The steering is sharp and direct, and you can use a quick lift of the throttle or trail braking to make a quick entry into a corner, as the 2008 Viper seems less likely to surprise you with snap oversteer."
The Viper's Brembo anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist garner unanimous praise. They feature 40/40 dual opposing piston calipers in front and 42/38 dual opposing calipers in the rear with 14-inch rotors. Dodge cites braking from 60 to 0 miles per hour in less than 100 feet (Edmunds cites a test time of 104 feet). Cars.com describes the brakes as "jaw-dropping, potent enough to make a believer of any seat belt denier" and Kelley Blue Book says they have "excellent feel and incredible stopping power." Popular Mechanics concludes, "Maybe even more compelling than the awesome acceleration and flexibility of the powerplant was the ability of the brakes to repeatedly haul this relatively heavy car down from race speeds lap after lap."