Live-attenuated RNA virus vaccines are efficacious but subject to reversion to virulence. Among RNA viruses, replication fidelity is recognized as a key determinant of virulence and escape from antiviral therapy; increased fidelity is attenuating for some viruses. Coronavirus replication fidelity is approximately 20-fold greater than that of other RNA viruses and is mediated by a 3′-5′ exonuclease activity (ExoN) that likely functions in RNA proofreading. In this study, we demonstrate that engineered inactivation of SARS-CoV ExoN activity results in a stable mutator phenotype with profoundly decreased fidelity in vivo and attenuation of pathogenesis in young, aged, and immunocompromised mouse models of human SARS. The ExoN inactivation genotype and mutator phenotype are stable and do not revert to virulence, even after serial passage or long-term persistent infection in vivo. Our approach represents a strategy with potential for broad applications for the stable attenuation of coronaviruses and possibly other RNA viruses.