By Matt Degen
Most cars today are known for – and strive for – fuel efficiency, comfortable and quiet driving manners, and all-around practicality. The SRT Viper proudly champions none of those virtues. While it's true that this 6-figure American supercar, resurrected in coupe form for 2013 as the flagship vehicle under Chrysler's SRT performance brand, is more livable and much better equipped than previous versions, the Viper still puts performance over pampering. Like former models, the 2013 Viper uses a massive, naturally aspirated V10 engine that makes a staggering 640 horsepower and delivers head-snapping acceleration. With the SRT Viper's svelte new exterior also comes a cabin rich in technology and materials. The Viper is still a beast to be sure, but one with a bit more domestication.
Despite its $100,000-plus price and exotic looks, the Viper feels more blue-collar wage earner than Wall Street wonder kid. It's a handmade American supercar whose power hinges on a massive engine, not gee-whiz technology. If you're of the mindset that there's still no replacement for displacement, this should all be music to your ears.
We realize that if you're a diehard Mopar fan, no car outside the Chrysler brand will compare to the Viper. Just consider it trivia, then, that a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 makes more horsepower with two fewer cylinders than the Viper and costs half the price. The current ZR1, meanwhile, boasts similar performance – and a new Corvette is right around the corner.
The Viper returns after a 3-year absence with a sensational new skin, a cushier cabin, more technology, and something no other Viper has had: electronic stability control. Formerly under the Dodge brand, the Viper is now the flagship car for SRT. For now the Viper is only available as a 2-seat coupe, but a roadster is expected down the road.
Driving Impressions This reinvented Viper is meant to be more civilized, and it is. But that's only relative to its past incarnations, the first of which didn't even have side windows. The...... 2013 Viper is indeed more comfortable and amenity-laden than its predecessors, but it's still basically a street-legal racecar. And what makes it work as a track car hinders it as an ordinary one. The interior is tight, visibility is limited, the ride is rough, and there's the constant roar of the engine and tires. Cargo space, too, is stingy, so you'll have to plan your shopping trip accordingly. But the Viper's performance is simply exhilarating. That massive, naturally aspirated engine just gives and gives, and those wide tires help the Viper cling to the road. We found the 6-speed manual transmission a bit notchy but enjoyed its short throws. And the stability-control system works just as intended, letting you enjoy a slide before it kicks in to tame the tail. As a daily driver the Viper is a compromise, but for jaunts on winding roads or at the track, it's a blast.
The Viper's heart is also its headline. As it should be. This is what enables the Viper to rocket from 0 to 60 mph in the low 3-second range and propels it to a top speed of 206 mph. More than an engine, this is an adrenaline factory – and its product output corresponds with your right-foot travel.
The SRT Viper has brains with its brawn. We know what the brawn is (see above). The other is served up in the latest version of Chrysler's Uconnect system that combines entertainment features, phone connectivity, and vehicle information. The way you connect with it all is via an 8.4-inch color touch screen in the middle of the dash.
The Viper's 2-passenger interior remains tight (some optimistic types might dub it "cocoon-like") but is a major step up from past models. Just getting yourself into the cabin still requires some dexterity, as you must lift your legs over the wide doorsill and then plunk your torso into the low seat. Once hunkered in, the large, 8.4-inch color touch screen in the middle of the dash acts as Mission Control for the Uconnect system. A wide transmission tunnel separates driver and passenger. Premium fabric is the material of choice on regular models. We favor the leather-lined cockpit of higher-end GTS versions – and their extra 40 pounds of insulation. Small touches such as a tiny inlay of the fabled Nurburgring racetrack near the window switch are impressive.Exterior
A long hood, deep side sills and muscular curves help make the 2013 SRT Viper appear menacing even when parked. The Viper is just an extraordinary looking car that struts its muscle at every opportunity. Those six big air extractors atop the carbon fiber hood? Consider that the automotive version of the "six pack." Those menacing LED light treatments up front mimic snake eyes, and the exhaust outlets spit their fury not from the back, but – in Viper tradition – from the sides. The Viper's overall length is deceiving. The hood makes this coupe appear long, but at 175.7 inches, the Viper is actually an inch shorter than a Porsche 911.
Yes, there is more to the Viper than its extraordinary body and V10 engine. The 2013 SRT Viper also comes with single-zone climate control, 8.4-inch touch-screen display, 9-speaker audio system with USB, SD card and auxiliary inputs (there is no CD player available), auto-dimming rearview mirror, and backup camera. Brembo performance brakes are standard, as are Pirelli P Zero tires, 18 inches in front and 19 inches at rear. Upper-trim GTS models have leather interior with additional sound insulation, power seats, a navigation system, dual-mode adjustable suspension, 4-mode stability control, and a 12-speaker harman/kardon sound system. All new Vipers come with the SRT Track Experience, which includes a one-day driving course.
Upgrades you can make to the SRT Viper include an 18-speaker harman/kardon audio system with four subwoofers, a premium Laguna leather interior, and carbon-fiber cabin accents. Performance upgrades include a Track Package with StopTech lightweight brake rotors, ultra lightweight wheels, and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. A Launch Edition of the vehicle with special color combinations and interior upgrades is available on the GTS model.
Just one engine is offered in the Viper, and it's a monster: a naturally aspirated (not turbocharged) 8.4-liter V10 that sends up to 640 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. A 6-speed manual is the sole transmission. For as big as this engine is, the clutch pedal is surprisingly light and engages beautifully. Fuel economy figures are still being tallied by the EPA, but if you're buying a Viper for its fuel efficiency, you're buying the wrong car.
640 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
600 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: NA/NA mpg (manual)
The 2013 SRT Viper comes in two trims, base and GTS. A base version starts just over $100,000, while the higher-trim GTS trim is around $125,000. The Corvette ZR1, by comparison, starts a little over $113,000, a Porsche 911 Turbo starts just over $138,000, and an Audi R8 with a V10 is over $153,000. If you're in the coveted position to be in the market for an SRT Viper, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. Because the SRT Viper is all new for 2013, we have not yet calculated its predicted residual value. Past generations of Vipers have had just marginal resale value.