2013 SRT Viper: First drive review
America's V10-powered super coupe is fully modern in its rebirth.
The original Dodge Viper was the improbable brainchild of four hard-core sports car visionaries seeking to create a modern interpretation of that legendary reptile, the Shelby Cobra. (Yes, Carroll Shelby was among the conspirators.) The Viper concept car was a smash hit at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show. Developed into a production-ready roadster by a skunk works team of passionate engineers, designers and hot-rodders, the Viper R/T 10 was launched as a 1992 model. Soon it spawned a potent coupe variant and has been redesigned three times.
Along the way, the Viper became a cult car and a formidable racer with an overall win in the grueling 24 Hours of Daytona, and class victories at Le Mans. Now it's back after a three-year hiatus. The fully redesigned SRT Viper is true to its young tradition, yet packed with leading-edge materials and technologies with the aim of delivering top-rank performance, handling and refinement.
Reviews: Find expert and user reviews
The new Viper, no longer built by Dodge but by Chrysler's performance brand SRT (for Street and Racing Technology), is a coupe with two distinct variants aimed at different audiences: the SRT and GTS.
The Viper SRT seeks to deliver the raw, visceral thrills Viper fans expect, albeit in more than decent comfort and with the latest in safety systems and electronic trickery. The SRT has less sound insulation, less standard equipment and less opulent trim than the GTS, but it gets the same 8.4-liter V10 engine and a 6-speed manual gearbox.
The new Viper GTS is SRT's bid to move its sports car upscale and make it more versatile. Its mission is to cruise streets and highways effortlessly and then storm racetracks with gusto. To accomplish this, the GTS uses a dual-mode suspension that lets the driver pick between a Street mode that delivers a smoother ride and a no-compromise Race mode for track outings. GTS versions also get a 4-mode electronic stability control system (Full-on, Sport, Track, Full-off), while the SRT's system is either Full-on or -off.
The car's spectacular skin and proportions are unmistakably Viper, although lines and surfaces have been painstakingly refined in the studio and wind tunnel. The result is a strikingly elegant, shapely, gorgeous sports car with a drag coefficient that has improved to 0.369 and lift characteristics attuned to its claimed top speed of 206 mph.
The new SRT Viper is also roughly 150 pounds lighter than the previous model, thanks to an upper body made of aerospace-grade carbon fiber and aluminum over an optimized, 190-piece space-frame steel chassis that is 50 percent stiffer. It can weigh as little as 3,297 pounds, making it lighter than a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 or Porsche 911 Turbo and much lighter than a Nissan GT-R. The SRT runs on 5-spoke, polished aluminum Rattler wheels, while the GTS has Venom polished aluminum wheels with six slender, split branches. The wheels are also available in Hyper Black or Matte Black finish.
To the SRT, the Grand Touring package ($2,500) adds a number of the features that are standard on the GTS. Among them are a rear backup camera, an upgraded version of the Uconnect system, Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius XM satellite radio with traffic info, and a navigation system with 3-D graphics.
The exterior carbon-fiber option ($5,100) includes front and rear brake duct bezels, while the Advanced Aero package ($4,800) adds a front splitter and rear spoiler in this lighter, tougher material. A Carbon Fiber package for interior trim will be available in early 2013 for another $3,400.
A Launch Edition package combines a classic Viper (and Cobra) blue paint job with double white stripes, all Track Pack features, the Laguna package and the optional 18-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with a special Stryker hood badge, unique badging, and a dust cover for an extra $15,000.
But the most effective option in dynamic terms, for both the SRT or GTS, is the SRT Track Pack ($3,500) that lightens the Viper by another 57 pounds. It comprises lighter, slotted brake rotors, lighter alloy wheels and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires with a softer compound than the standard P Zero rubber. Both are run-flat designs.
Under the hood
The Viper's 8.4-liter overhead-valve 90-degree V10 engine has the same bore and stroke as its predecessor, but is otherwise new, with all components revamped or replaced. The result is a 40-horsepower gain for a total of 640 horses at 6200 rpm and 600 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm — the most torque of any naturally aspirated engine currently produced.