For humans, flying has been one of the greatest dreams ever. Automotive aficionados have a different perspective though, with their dream being to drive a race car on public roads. Well, no other modern-day vehicle has come closer to completing this quest than the Viper. Of course, its raw character usually meant that this American Idol was nearly impossible to live with, but now there's a new one which promises to leave its Tourette behind.
The Chrysler Group's halo car has returned after a three-year hiatus and it appears to have experienced a truly spiritual journey. For starters, its name is different - while in the past it was offered under both Chrysler and Dodge labels, the vehicle is now called the SRT Viper.
Under its new Fiat ownership, Chrysler has pushed the Street and Racing Technology performance division past its usual form and all the way to a standalone brand. The Viper now leads this offensive.
When work started on the new Viper, the intention was to come up with an updated version of the last model. Let's just say they've overdone it a little, with the result sporting dramatic changes on almost all fronts.
The performance specs are even more serious now and yet this is not the most impressive side of the SRT Viper.
Instead, that title goes to the car’s claim of becoming a civilized offering. Something that resembles an actual car, not a piece of machinery that wants to kill you for its personal enjoyment.
Speaking of this aggressive gene pool of the Viper, one can't really blame the thing. After all, the Viper came to the world back in the early 90s with the purpose of being a modern-day Shelby Cobra.
The first-generation Viper had two incarnations, with the second-gen model following the same scheme. This is why the SRT Viper is called the fifth embodiment of the model, but we still regard it as No. #3 on the list.
To say that the first Viper was basic would be an understatement. The thing had no roof, side windows, or air conditioning. Consideration for human comfort was also missing. What it did offer was a bonkers experience. Nothing less than that could result from that mix: an eight-liter V10 Dodge truck engine re-imagined in aluminum by Lamborghini, all wrapped in a body with reptilian styling.
The second-generation Viper took performance even deeper into its core. While some labeled its predecessor as a bit of a shed-built supercar, the American crushed all of Europe's supercar members – it can pride itself with the lap record for the fastest mainstream supercar on both Laguna Seca and the Nurburgring. By the way, you'll find maps of both circuits hidden inside the SRT Viper's cabin.
Nevertheless, many feared the Viper may not come back too soon after it went out of production in 2010. Given Chrysler's financial misfortunes, that was a justified attitude.
Well, perhaps there was some good in all that trouble. The Viper never actually died, as the enthusiasts kept racing them. Ralph Gilles, SRT CEO, was involved in this himself. However, this time Chrysler wanted to actually sell the car, not just provide the right tools to a small group of enthusiasts. This and the fact that, like we said, the performance aura was already a well-known asset of the Viper, made them come up with a more reasonable approach for the new SRT Viper.
Of course, there's one inevitable question here: has the Viper gone soft in this evolutionary process? The recent years have offered many such examples on multiple continents, so we were eager to spend some time with the SRT Viper and come up with an answer.
The first signs are looking good, literally. The SRT Viper has a strong aroma. You can leave the car in any ramrod side of a parking lot. Don't struggle to memorize its location, you'll easily find it by following the trail of people heading to see it.
The front fascia is there to warn others that this is not a car you want to provoke
Then there's the overall silhouette, which has kept the long hood and cab-rearward details.
This is the point where we have to talk about the two main species of SRT Vipers. The standard model is accompanied by the Viper GTS, which offers a whole range of comfort features. First of all, you get Bilstein two-mode dampers and a stability control with four settings instead of the base model's on/off scheme. In addition, the SRT Viper GTS weighs 40 lbs (18 kg) more, due to the extra sound proofing and amenities, such as the extended leather finish.
Don't worry about the weight though. You can should opt for an SRT Track package including even lighter wheels, StopTech brake discs, as well as adding a "Corsa" at the end of the “Pirelli P Zero” tires' designation.
The base model with the Track Pack tips the scales at 3,297 lbs (1,496 kg). Only a little bit heftier than the original Viper. As for the weight distribution, this sits at an almost even level, with the rear axle supporting 50.4 percent of the total mass.
The easiest way to distinguish the standard and GTS Vipers is to analyze the hood. The GTS only features two air intakes on the sides, while the more libertine standard model has six of them
Not that it would matter too much when you're passing somebody, but we do have a gripe with the rear end. It's all about the new LED taillights, which simply don't look as impressive as the car itself. They do come alive nicely at night though. Moreover, the fit and finish on the SRT Viper's panels makes its predecessors look a bit like a kit car. That's because the old recipe, involving fiberglass panels, has been forgotten.
The hood, double-bubble roof and rear hatch are carbon fiber now, while the doors feature an aluminum construction. At the core of it all, we have an updated version of the previous generation's steel tubular frame.
Together with weight savings coming from the engine and alloy wheels, the SRT Viper sheds about 100 lbs (220 kg) compared to its predecessor. By the way, torsional stiffness is up by a whopping 50 percent. Apart from the new materials, this was achieved through the use of an aluminum cross brace
sitting on top of the V10 engine. Aluminum is also used fro the front impact beam, while the firewall is made of magnesium.
The Viper still has a set of deceiving dimensions.
In spite of what your eyes tell you, the SRT Viper measures 175.7 inches in length (4,463 mm), being a tad shorter than a Porsche 911
, for example. Nonetheless, the thing is wide, really wide, at 76.4 inches (1,941 mm).
You may have noticed the various vents, extractors and other such elements spread throughout the car. Unsurprisingly, they're all functional. For instance, the central intake on the hood feeds the V10 with air that's 10 degrees Celsius cooler. Moreover, on the flanks of the front fascia we find openings designed to channel air around the front wheel wells.
The Viper's fender gills have made a comeback on the new model. Not only do these extract hot air from the engine compartment, but the one on the right holds the lever for opening the bonnet. As for when you close the carbon hood, the process can be done with ease, despite the forward-placed hinges and massive size. Somebody please explain this to the Jaguar F-Type
, which almost requires two people to close its bonnet. As for the air intakes just behind the side windows, these feed the rear brakes with that much-needed cool air.
SRT's Viper still remains a stranger to active aerodynamics, so they had to settle for a compromise between downforce and a streamlined profile. The first was obviously favored, with the drag coefficient sitting at 0.364.