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A Future Mid-Engine Viper with Hellcat Power: Yay or Nay?

by Patrick Rall on

There is very little going on in the automotive world and social media is packed full of negativity, so today, we thought that we would discuss the future of the Dodge Viper. The legendary Mopar supercar officially left the lineup in 2017 and since then, there has been no word on a return. However, as was the case when the Viper went out of production back in 2010, fans of the brand continue to dream about what might be coming next.

When the Gen V Viper went out of production, it did so for a variety of reasons, the most significant of which was the fact that it could not be fitted with the air bag systems required of modern vehicles. Aside from that, the Gen V Viper didn’t sell very well, partially because it was outshined by the arrival of the Hellcat cars. While the Viper and the Hellcat-powered Challenger and Charger are very different types of performance cars, when the supercharged Hemi hit the market with 707 horsepower, the Viper’s 645 horsepower didn’t seem quite as impressive. The Hellcat cars got all of the attention, sold tens of thousands of units and the Viper slipped off into hibernation once again.

Some folks insist that it is gone forever, but Mopar fans believe that sooner or later, the Dodge Viper will return. With the arrival of the C8 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray with the new mid-engine design, some folks think that the best option for the Viper to compete is to also transition to mid-engine, but many of those folks also believe that a switch from the naturally aspirated V10 to a supercharged Hellcat Hemi is needed.

 

 

Now, we understand that many Mopar fans – especially hardcore Viper enthusiasts – don’t want to see a Viper with anything but a V10 mounted under the hood, but for the sake of discussion, here is a look at the pros and cons of making such a drastic change to the legendary Dodge supercar.

From V10 to Hellcat

In social media discussions about the Dodge Viper, critics of the car insist that it simply needed more power. By the end of the run, the Viper trailed the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 in both horsepower and torque, and the simple solution for many people is to replace the naturally aspirated V10 with a Hellcat Hemi. A Viper with 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque – or 797 horsepower and 707 lb-ft of torque in the case of the Hellcat Redeye engine – would certainly pack way more punch than the V10 models.

There were at least two problems with just throwing a Hellcat Hemi in the Gen V Viper. First, FCA engineers have told us that the supercharged Hemi is too wide for the Gen V Viper engine bay and the fact that the engine wouldn’t fit without considerable chassis changes all-but-ends the discussion. The other aspect, which was conveyed to me by Tim Kuniskis back in 2015, was that the Hellcat Hemi is too heavy for the Viper. The Viper engine weighs a couple hundred pounds less than the Hellcat Hemi used in the Challenger and Charger, so installing that engine in the Gen V Viper would have disturbed the perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Having that extra weight up front really doesn’t matter in the Challenger or Charger, but in the 3,400-pound Viper, those extra pounds would negatively impact the handling characteristics.

 

 

Those were the reasons why the Hellcat Hemi in the Challenger and Charger couldn’t be used in the Gen V Viper, but what if we were talking about a next generation car with a wider engine bay? Perhaps an engine bay located behind the rear seats, where there would be plenty of room for a supercharger to sit on top of a specially developed Hellcat Hemi? After all, if the key issues with installing a Hellcat Hemi in a Gen V Viper were fitment and weight distribution, moving the engine to the rear of the passenger compartment would solve both of those problems.

Imagining the Mid-Engine Possibilities

Let’s imagine that FCA uses information gained from the Ferrari years to develop a new Dodge Viper with a mid-engine chassis platform. If this car was designed from the ground-up with the intention of using a supercharged Hemi, the team could essentially build the Viper around the monstrous V8. Although the Hemi weighs more, the engineers could use high tech, lightweight materials to cut weight elsewhere, keeping the finished product in the same basic range as the Gen V Viper.

Now, you are probably thinking that if FCA is going to develop a mid-engine platform for the Viper, why not also develop a new, stronger V10? The biggest advantage of going with the Hellcat Hemi over a V10 is cost, and we aren’t just talking about the company making more money.

Developing a new V10 that would only be used in the Viper would be expensive and all of those R&D costs would be rolled into the price of the car. For this discussion, the mid-engine architecture would already high R&D costs, so adding the costs of a unique engine would lead to a price tag that might run off some prospective buyers. Also, the company would have to set up an assembly point for the V10 engines, which also adds to the total cost of the car.

Meanwhile, the R&D for the Hellcat Hemi was covered long ago and they are being produced in droves at the company’s Saltillo Engine Plant. In other words, using a Hellcat Hemi would lead to much lower costs in that area of the car, allowing FCA to keep the MSRP down a bit. In short, the Hellcat Hemi would offer more power while contributing far less cost to the bottom line. After all, if the “normal” Hellcat Hemi fits, the Redeye version would also fit. Just imagine a 3,500-pound, mid-engine Viper with 797 horsepower and 707 lb-ft of torque.

In addition to the Hellcat Hemi costing the automaker less, there are cost benefits to the owner beyond the price of purchase. Most performance parts for the Dodge Viper only apply to the Dodge Viper, so they are produced in low volumes. That leads to higher prices for performance upgrades, especially considering the fact that the V10 has always been naturally aspirated. To make big power, Viper owners add forced induction, but those setups are expensive. On the other hand, a fuel system upgrade, aftermarket pulleys, a beefed-up cooling system and a good engine tune and a Redeye Challenger will lay down 1,000 horsepower like its nothing.

 

In the long run, whether the Gen VI Viper has the engine mounted in front of the driver or behind, it is going to need more power. The company can spend the money to develop a more powerful V10, hopefully with forced induction, but using the Hellcat Hemi would be simpler and less costly. That would lead to less R&D cost being rolled into the MSRP and a Hellcat Hemi would be more easily modified by owners.

The only downside is that in swapping to the Hemi – regardless of where the engine is located – some of the historic allure of the Viper is lost. The Viper has always been a showstopper with a huge V10 and some enthusiast believe that without a V10, it isn’t a proper Viper. Then again, Corvette enthusiasts were upset when the C7 had rectangular taillights…and then they moved the engine to the rear and recreated the engine exterior look for the C8.

The V10 definitely offers more wow factor and it has been a staple component of the Viper since Day 1, but are those reasons enough to reject a Viper with a Hellcat Redeye engine and nearly 800 stock horsepower? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.


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