SRT Viper


Debut: 2013
Maker: Chrysler
Predecessor: Viper Mk2


 Published on 8 Apr 2013
All rights reserved. 


3 years ago, poor Chrysler had just emerged from bankruptcy protection. In order to conserve cash, it pulled the plug of its halo car Viper and concentrated on bread-and-butter models. Things changed a lot lately. The company experiences a strong rebound on its renewed line-up and recovering US economy. Now it is time to revive the definitive American muscle car!

One thing should be mentioned before going into the details of the car: the new Viper is no longer a Dodge. Now it wears the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) badge, which officially becomes the performance brand of Chrysler group.

So what is the new SRT Viper? Basically, it is an evolution of the outgoing car. It keeps the old formula intact – a large push-rod V10 engine, front-mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive, side exhausts, manual gearbox and outrageous looks. It was developed in America under the direction of SRT boss Ralph Gilles. Its exterior design resembles the 1996 Viper GTS, the most beautiful Viper of all in my opinion. Highly curved fenders, double-bubble roof and duck-tail spoiler give it a muscular yet uncompromising character. After the scientific 2002-2009 model, the return to old-school styling is especially refreshing. That said, the new design employs plenty of modern features, such as LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, a new bonnet with extra air extractors, a more aggressive air dam and a side exhaust decorated with aluminum bezel. Fit and finish of the body panels seems better, too.



The majority of its bodywork is now made of carbon-fiber to save weight. These include the clamshell bonnet, the roof and the hatchback. Others, such as the doors and sills, are made of superformed aluminum. The windscreen is the only exterior part carried over from the old car. Coefficient of aerodynamic drag has been lowered from 0.39 to 0.364, although the latter is still hardly mentionable these days.

The chassis is a tubular steel backbone structure like before. It is a far cry from the standards of modern aluminum spaceframes or carbon-fiber tubs, but at least SRT spent a lot of effort to cut weight and add stiffness. An extruded aluminum cross-brace is added above the engine compartment to tie between the suspension towers and firewall. This helps the chassis to achieve a 50-percent increase of torsional rigidity. The front impact beam is made of aluminum, while the firewall is magnesium to save weight. The whole car weighs about 1520 kg, or 45 kg lighter than the last model. Weight is distributed 49.6:50.4 front to rear, a bit less rear-biased than before.

Displacement of the overhead-valve V10 engine remains at a massive 8.4 liters. Like the last 600 hp version (2007-09), it has an unusual cam-in-cam mechanism to enable variable exhaust valve timing. Revisions made this time around are less dramatic: a higher flow thermosplastic intake manifold (lighter than the outgoing aluminum unit), forged pistons, lighter valves, sodium-filled exhaust valves (better cooling), new catalytic converters (lower back pressure) and a lighter dual-mass flywheel (sharper throttle response). Overall the engine gets 11 kg lighter. Maximum output is lifted to 640 hp at 6150 rpm. Peak torque is up by 40 pound-foot to 600 at 4950 rpm. The engine now cuts out at 6400 rpm, a scant 150 rpm higher than before.


The only gearbox remains to be Tremec 6-speed manual, which sounds ancient in the seas of DCTs. Nevertheless, it is still an improvement, because the 6th is now geared to reach top speed rather than serving the task of overdrive. This means the 6 ratios get closer together, accompanied with a shorter final drive ratio it gives faster acceleration.

Chrysler said the new car can top 206 mph, up from 202 mph. 0-60 mph should be done in around 3.4 seconds, although American magazines can always manage faster sprint thanks to their countless of attempts, especially to homegrown cars. In terms of sheer speed, this car splits between a Porsche 911 Carrera S and a Ferrari 458 Italia, but it runs neck to neck with its compatriot Chevy Corvette ZR1.

Compare with the old car, the new Viper runs a 20 mm lower ride height. Its front double-wishbone suspension is largely carried over, despite of wider track. The rear double-wishbone suspension has its toe-control links moved forward of the axle for better control. Bilstein aluminum coil-over dampers are adopted, while the same supplier's electronic switchable damping is made optional. The latter is not exactly adaptive damping, as it offers two fixed rate modes (Street and Track) for the driver to choose from, without the intervention of computer.

For the first time in its history, the Viper is offered with stability control (in fact, this technology is now mandatory in the US market). It is also equipped with traction control and launch control. As for braking, it employs Brembo brakes with 4-pot aluminum calipers and 355 mm ventilated discs all round, but sadly, these discs are made of steel, unlike the ceramic ones on Corvette ZR1. The wheels are the same size as before, but they are shod with even wider rubbers - 295/30ZR18 and monstrous-size 355/30ZR19 Pirelli P-Zero. Track package uses P-Zero Corsa.



There are two versions of Viper to opt for: the base car or the pricier GTS. The latter gets a more luxurious interior, with leather upholstery, sat nav, better HiFi, more sound insulation and the standard fitment of the aforementioned switchable dampers. Externally, it can be distinguished from the lesser model with 2 instead of 6 air outlets on its bonnet. It costs some US$120,000, more expensive than a Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK. For an old-fashioned American muscle car, is it worth that much?

Let's get on board to find the answer. At a first glance, the new interior is a huge improvement from the old one. While the old car was cramped and finished with Mattel-grade plastics and truck-like controls, the new car finally sounds normal. There is fine leather wrapping the whole cabin and a decent pair of leather seats made by Italian supplier Sabelt. There is more room, too, as the cabin gains 90 mm in length and the seats are mounted 20 mm lower. Driving position gets better as the seats are more adjustable for height and longitudinal direction. The driver will also find his right arm rest more naturally on the slightly lower transmission tunnel. The dashboard now looks properly sophisticated. Its instrument cluster has been upgraded to a 7-inch TFT display, whose readings and information shown are customizable, while an 8.4-inch touch screen on center console acts as the user interface of modern infotainment system. You might notice that they come straight from Dodge Dart, but who cares? That said, the new interior clearly lacks the quality of Porsche, which has also taken a giant leap from 997 to 991. It also lacks the special, handcrafted feel of Ferrari, Maserati or Aston Martin. So the interior is not something to tempt you to buy the Viper, obviously.

Traditionally, you buy the Viper for its outrageous torque and performance. Fire the V10, you will find this is still very much its strength. Now it sounds even more aggressive with the new exhaust. The power delivery characteristic isn't much altered. It still revs rather slowly compared with modern multi-valve engines, let alone the low-inertia Ferrari V8 or Lexus V10. You can still smoke the rear tires easily if you switch off the traction and stability control completely. Even with launch control engaged, the Viper isn't as easy to lay down its power to the ground and converts to acceleration like a 911 Carrera S PDK. It is much rawer and some may enjoy its rough edges. However, the sensation of power and performance is no longer as strong, because nowadays we can have a 650 hp Mustang (GT500) or a 638 hp Corvette (ZR1) for less money. The Viper no longer presents a performance edge, although its looks and character still make it very much the definitive American muscle car.



In general, its handling is much tamed from the old car. Thanks to the stronger chassis, grippier rubbers and especially a 4-modes stability control (off, full on, sport & track), the Viper corners with higher stability. When it finally reaches its grip limit, it lets loose more progressively. Power-induced oversteer is now a lot more controllable on race track, although it would be foolish to do it on public roads. Meanwhile, the old-school hydraulic steering offers good feedback and precision to enhance your confidence. The gearshift is finally satisfying to use thanks to its closely packed ratios and a lighter flywheel which helps matching rev more cleanly. Only the steel brakes is prone to fade under hard use, but that is only likely to happen on track.

On public roads, the Viper is still far from a perfect A-to-B car. Although it is definitely better mannered than the old car, it is not as well sorted as a 911, GT-R or even a Corvette ZR1. On difficult sections, it could feel too large and clumsy to attack corners with confidence. Perhaps the suspension is not absorbent enough (even in the softer mode), perhaps the V10 sitting up front is just too heavy, perhaps its development was not carried out at Nurburgring, it isn't as agile and composed as its modern rivals. Then you can't help feeling the fortune it asks for is probably unjustifiable. Having said that, in a more and more united automotive world, we are glad that the American muscle car spirit still leaves on in the form of Viper. Sometimes a bit rough edges doesn't hurt.

Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Viper GTS
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Tubular steel backbone
Carbon-fiber, aluminum
4463 / 1940 / 1247 mm
2510 mm
V10, 90-degree
8382 cc
OHV 20 valves, VVT
-
-
640 hp / 6150 rpm
600 lbft / 4950 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
Switchable damping
F: 295/30ZR18
R: 355/30ZR19
1521 kg
206 mph (c)
3.2* / 3.5** / 4.1***
7.6* / 7.8** / 8.1***


















































Performance tested by: *C&D, **R&T, ***AMS




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