SRT front man Ralph Gilles puts one leg into his latest low-slung supercar. He fires the engine and gooses the throttle. The V10 growls in reply, quaking and snarling. It looks slightly different, and it's far more advanced than its predecessor. But make no mistake, the Viper is back. After years of uncertainty, anticipation and high-powered emotions, the snake is reality. It's still a hard-core, world-beating performance machine, but there are more than a few technological advances and surprises under the skin. Shipments from Detroit begin late this year.
The Viper's bite comes from a 640-hp, 600-lb-ft, 8.4-liter V10. That's up 40 in each category from the last generation. Redline is 6,200 rpm, and fuel shuts off at 6,400 rpm. Top speed is 206 mph, 5 mph faster than before. The transmission is a six-speed manual, with the top gear now used for maximum speed rather than cruising.
The front mid-engine design makes for a 49/51 ratio of weight distribution. The base car weighs about 3,320 pounds, about 100 pounds lighter. It also rides 0.8 inch lower. Torsional stiffness is improved 50 percent, and there's a new crossbrace up front.
The car takes inspiration from the second-generation model of 1996, and the styling is largely evolutionary. Still, it's considerably more blinged out, with 21 LEDs in the headlights and 51 in the taillights. The front track is wider, the grille is more exaggerated, and there are sculptured side exhausts. The windshield is the only carryover part.
The material is used for the hood, roof, decklid and brake ducts.
The doors and sills are aluminum, helping to cut weight.
Stability control is included for the first time, and an 8.4-inch touch screen is offered in the center stack, where you can chart lap times or change the radio station.
SRT isn't confirming that a convertible is on the way, but the Viper has always had one. Consider it a certainty. A track pack will also be available at launch on the coupe.