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 numbered. After 2017 this delicious two-seater will be no more due in part to economics and regulations, Automotive News reports. The good news is that an unconfirmed model possessing a similar amount of charm could be in the works.
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 for 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 for 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 where it belongs. 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 is assured because this sports car cannot meet an upcoming federal safety regulation requiring all cars be outfitted with side curtain air bags in 2018. It isn’t that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) can’t figure a way of designing this safety feature. Rather, it simply can’t 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 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,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne tells Automotive News.
Marchionne went on to indicate that there are vehicle architectures within the FCA arsenal 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.”
Dodge Performance Beyond Viper
The full-size Challenger coupe and Charger sedan will likely survive, but considerable weight reduction is in order. Both models will reside on Alfa Romeo’s new rear-wheel drive architecture, with a convertible ‘Cuda variant due (a popular name once ascribed to a potent Plymouth product).
The lighter and tighter platform should yield several new engine choices, including perhaps a twin-turbo four-cylinder engine and maybe the 3.2-liter, V6 found in the Jeep Cherokee. V8 power seems likely too, as the Hemi should see another day and Hellcat models stand a chance.
Given that the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro have their own series of four-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines, the Dodge trio may do likewise. Expect a nice selection of manual and automatic transmissions with an all-wheel drive option returning to the Charger lineup. Who knows, maybe the Challenger and ‘Cuda will receive an all-wheel drive option too.