This third-generation Viper nearly didn't happen, almost succumbing to the vicious jaws of bankruptcy. But in this case hotter heads prevailed, and the Viper was reborn as the flagship of SRT, a new performance division of Chrysler. The Viper's core values remain: It's awesomely fast, wildly styled, and that 8.4-liter, 640-horsepower V10 engine at full throttle sounds absolutely amazing right up until it shatters your eardrums.
SRT likes to say that this Viper is more civilized than its predecessors. That's true, in the same way an angry Rottweiler is more docile than a wild timber wolf. The new interior looks great and is a huge improvement, even if some of the materials fail the touch test. The navigation system is the same as the ones in the rest of the Chrysler family, which means it's one of the best on the market. The Viper's clutch is now easier to use, and its tremendous torque means it can even trundle through traffic on cruise control in 6th gear. But although the Viper took a class in civility, it wasn't a star pupil. The noise levels inside are ridiculous, and unless you're at full throttle, they aren't even all that pleasant. Even on its softest setting the suspension is often too harsh for regular streets, and its steering is unreasonably heavy and surprisingly lacking in communication. The wide door sills still get cooked by the hot exhaust, and the aluminum plate SRT placed there simply guarantees that your inevitable sear will temporarily brand you with the Viper script.
Lack of Civility a Virtue?
But that's all part of the fun, right? It's not supposed to be too civilized, otherwise it wouldn't be a Viper. I suppose that's true, and when the Viper was a five-figure car, that kind of rawness was more fun, and more acceptable. But those days are gone, and today, the base Viper starts at more than $100,000, and quickly goes up from there. Our 2014 SRT Viper GTS had a starting price north of $125,000; with options and destination, that topped $140,000. One school of thought says, "Where else can you get a carbon-fiber, 640-hp exotic for just this much?" and there's some legitimacy to that. But on the flip side, this Viper is outperformed by the less expensive 2014 Nissan GT-R. The 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo is just as quick, only a little more expensive, and exponentially more pleasurable to drive. The new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette isn't as fast, but it's half the price, boasts twice the refinement, and even its performance isn't too far off the Viper's numbers; just wait until the Z06 comes out, with "at least" 625 hp.
So if you're thinking that with its pretty interior and higher price, this newest SRT Viper is as refined or civilized as its price-comparable competition, you're going to be disappointed. But if you think a raw, rough edge is all part of the Viper experience, don't worry, it's still there.
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