2013 SRT Viper returned after a three-year absence
with a complete redesign billed under Chrysler's
newly spun-off SRT, or Street and Racing
2013 SRT Viper is the sort of car that should come with
disability insurance for neck injuries — not only for
the whiplash drivers could experience attempting to max
out its 206 mph top speed, but for its many admirers who
rubberneck, pivot and crane to get a better look.
the weekend I spent with the dead-sexy, fifth-generation
snake, men literally hung out their windows to take
pictures. Police cars routinely tailgated and sidled me.
Invariably, when I passed a BMW 3 Series on the freeway,
that same car would speed up to pace me and smile, to
which I responded as one would expect from a Viper —
with a wave and a stomp of the accelerator.
attention is understandable. Curvy in all the right
places, if the SRT flagship were any more voluptuously
alluring, it would have to be renamed Scarlett
after a three-year absence with a complete redesign
billed under Chrysler’s newly spun-off SRT, or Street
and Racing Technology, brand, the newest incarnation
Viper is skinned, for the first time, with aluminum door
panels and lightweight carbon fiber on the hood, roof
and deck lid — all of which contributed to a 100-pound
weight savings over the fourth-generation model, which
went out of production in 2010. Even the Viper logo has
been redesigned with more dramatically bared fangs, a
menacing graphic that graces the one area of the car
other drivers are most likely to see: its back end.
$99,390-plus Viper uses a slightly more powerful
8.4-liter V-10 engine mounted mid-front under a hood so
dramatically elongated I had to jack up the seat just to
see. A new double-bubble roof ensures that taller
drivers won’t inadvertently scrape their hair on the
headliner. It’s designed to accommodate helmets for
the Viper’s natural environment: slithering through S
curves on a track.
pipes are as hypnotizing as a snake charmer’s. The
exhaust begins with an enticing grumble at idle. By
4,000 rpm, it’s become a thrum that lodges in the base
of one’s brain. By 6,000 rpm, when the engine is
approaching peak horsepower, it reaches its most
musical, easily heard pitch. The exhaust is literally
just outside the doors. It ports to the sides instead of
street-legal race car, the Viper likes nothing more than
speeding into a corner at 5,000 rpm, when it reaches
peak torque of 600 foot-pounds — the most of any
naturally aspirated sports car in the world.
for extreme performance, with a new aluminum X brace
under the hood to increase rigidity in the turns, a new
dual-mode suspension system and a first-for-a-Viper
stability control system, it’s a machine begging to be
show-pony street driving, the suspension is a bit rough,
even in its softer street mode, but it isn’t designed
to soak up road imperfections. Whether it’s rolling on
the track or poorly maintained asphalt, the suspension’s
intent is to keep the car hunkered. And it does. If the
Viper were any more planted in the corners, it would be
as the chassis is, no one likes to be thrown around a
cabin, especially one as expensive as the Viper. While
drivers have a leather steering wheel to grip, the
passenger has a grab rail mounted to the center console.
Both occupants are held in place with new
high-performance racing seats shelled in Kevlar and
industrial-strength side bolsters that keep passengers
as grounded as the car in high-speed turns.
Viper is so wide and low-slung for handling that getting
in and out of the car is an art form. For 2013, the
seats are situated an inch lower than the last model.
Any lower, and I’d feel like a dog swiping his
hindquarters on the grass.
legroom has likewise expanded dramatically, by 3 1/2
inches — a feat enabled by pushing the cabin even
further back in the Viper’s long and low chassis.
signs aren’t a warning in the Viper. They’re a dare
to double them. A coiled snake tightly wound for attack,
its acceleration is instantaneous, though it requires
some double leg work to tap into its power.
Viper is the rare supercar to use a manual transmission
rather than paddle shifters. Being a motorcyclist, I
prefer the engagement of operating a clutch with a foot
and a shifter with the hand while also managing the
steering, even if paddle shifters are more convenient
and faster-acting. A Viper standard, the six-speed
manual has been updated with a shorter throw of the
shifter stick, though the clutch feels extraordinarily
new Viper includes steering wheel controls for the usual
features, such as audio and Bluetooth, as well as
something less usual: It’s outfitted with a
launch-control switch for quicker starts, the results of
which are displayed on the dashboard. Every time the car
launches from a dead stop, it starts a timer for its 0
to 60 acceleration time. The dash can also be customized
to display quarter-mile times, braking distance, top
speed and g-force, all of which can be stored and
bragged about — with proof — later.
15 mpg combined, fuel economy isn’t as abysmal as one
would expect for a car that bites pretty much anything
else on the road. Even thinking about fuel economy while
driving the Viper reminds me of my interview with Evel
Knievel shortly before he died, when I inquired about
the fuel economy of his motorcycle-toting RV.
you have to ask," he told me, "you can’t
people, of course, can’t, which only adds to the Viper
cars are deserved icons.
All-aluminum, 8.4-liter, mid-front V-10, OHV,
rear-wheel-drive, 6-speed manual transmission
640 at 6,200 rpm
600 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm
speed: 206 mph
to 60 acceleration: low 3-second range
clearance: 5 inches
estimated fuel economy: 12 city, 19 highway, 15 combined
as tested: $120,395
prices exclude destination charges.