With the Ford Mustang and new C5 generation of Corvettes still working out the kinks, the 1997 Dodge Viper represents the only true American supercar in mass production right now. It is a basic, primal vehicle that essentially seats two, strapped to a light chassis with a very large, angry engine underneath the hood. It seems simple to operate, but difficult to operate well. It does not focus on comfort or practicality, but simply on impressing through looks and ability.
The recent model years have made the Viper slightly more accessible by adding creature comforts. The 1997 Dodge Viper sees the RT/10 roadster finally receive some necessary updates. Now equipped with the same engine as the GTS, it boasts interior updates and other conveniences. Most importantly, it now comes standard with exterior door handles.
Body Styles: coupe, convertible
Engines: 8.0-liter V-10
Transmissions: six-speed manual
Models: Dodge Viper GTS, Dodge Viper RT/10
The impressive super car from Detroit hasn't received too much in the way of updates for the new year. The 1997 Dodge Viper GTS coupe looks nearly identical to the 1996 version. The RT/10 gets a few necessary updates. For 1997, the RT/10 gets civilized, with power locks and windows, as well as dual airbags and even optional air-conditioning. The RT/10 now contains the same engine as the GTS. This gives the roadster 35 more horsepower than the previous year's model. Most importantly, it now includes exterior door handles, which drivers always appreciate. Both models now come in flame red, with or without white stripes.
The outside of the 1997 Dodge Viper still shows off the same curvy, sexy, bulging body. The bulbous forward fenders and thin, shark-like grille sit at the front of an exceptionally long nose. The cabin is a bubble from the rear section, and it dips down before swooping back up to an abrupt ducktail at the rear. The exterior looks like a cross between an A/C Cobra and a shark.
The nicest thing that can be said about the interior of the 1997 Dodge Viper is that it isn't the interior of a 1992 Dodge Viper. It looks simple, with dials and instrumentation that appear large and obvious. Occupants enjoy plenty of legroom, and the issue of too much legroom for the driver gets addressed by including adjustable pedals so that those under six-feet tall can reach them. The steering wheel and seats are leather, with no cloth option available. In a nod to creature comforts, an AM/FM/CD stereo provides standard equipment, and air-conditioning comes standard in the GTS and as an option in the RT/10. Driver visibility is decent.
Performance & Handling
The 1997 Dodge Viper performs incredibly in nearly every performance test. It has shown it can at least compete with supercar stalwarts such as Porsche and Ferrari in terms of acceleration, top speed, and handling. The Viper reaches 60 mph from a standing start in four seconds flat. It completes a quarter mile in 12.2 seconds—a 10th of a second faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo and a full second faster than the Ferrari F355. The Viper even handles well in curves, unlike many American performance cars of the past. This is done through a well-tuned sport suspension holding up an extremely lightweight chassis, sitting on massive 17-inch tires. The major issue in performance and handling concerns the completely inadequate brakes. Vented disc brakes with no anti-lock brake system cause the Viper to take an additional 10 to 20 feet to stop from 60 mph than its competitors, and full braking often results in lockup and loss of control.
The addition of the standard driver and passenger front airbags in both models of the 1997 Dodge Viper marks the extent of safety features. As stated above, the large vented disc brakes prove inadequate to bring the Viper to a quick, controlled stop. The large front end provides some protection, but mainly safety in the Viper relies on the driver’s skills.
EPA Fuel Economy
Dodge Viper: 13/24 mpg city/highway
- Performance in line with European super cars
- Head-turning looks
- Surprisingly agile
You Won't Like
- Price and insurance costs
- Poor city fuel economy
- Not practical
- Subpar braking
An American powerhouse.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Porsche 911 Turbo
- Ferrari 355
- Acura NSX-T