The Viper is back. But this time, things are a little different for the iconic sports car. Yes, it still boasts the same wild formula that helped it make such a splash years ago: a low-slung, exotic profile, a front-mounted V10 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. It also offers huge power and the same distinct looks. But the latest Viper is more refined and grown-up than its predecessors. And more importantly, it's no longer a Dodge.
While the new Viper may look similar to previous models, it's fully redesigned from the ground up. That means a new body, a new interior, a new engine and even a new name.
That's right: The latest Viper is no longer a Dodge Viper, as many enthusiasts have come to know it over the years. Instead, it will be sold at Chrysler and Dodge dealers under the high-performance SRT brand, an acronym for Street and Racing Technology. Officially, it's the 2013 SRT Viper.
And that acronym is perfect for the muscular sports car. That's because it boasts an 8.4-liter V10 that produces a wild 640 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque. Going from zero to 60 miles per hour comes well under four seconds, and the car can reach speeds as high as 206 mph. That's supercar territory, competing with the very best from Ferrari and Lamborghini.
But the Viper is about more than just its massive, hulking engine. For example: Consider the interior, which was heavily redesigned in comparison to the previous model to provide a more upscale look and feel. It very much succeeds.
We like, for example, the soft leather that covers much of the dashboard -- an upgrade from the inexpensive plastics seen in earlier models. The same can be said for the stitching, which further contributes to the cabin's upscale feel. Rounding out the improvements are a center-mounted touchscreen and a full-color instrument cluster that features a G-meter. Sitting in the interior, you instantly realize this isn't the simple, raw Viper of years past.
The same is true when you take it on the road. The all-new Viper may stick to the formula set by its predecessors, but it's hardly a direct descendant. The main reason is that the latest Viper is much easier to drive fast.
For any Viper purists who enjoy exploring the car's limits, there's no need to worry. You can still throw around the high-performance coupe and you can still get the tail out in corners. But these days, that happens when you want it to, and not when you're least expecting it. That's because handling, steering and braking are all far more predictable than earlier Viper models thanks to fine-tuned suspension and confidence-inspiring brakes.
The Viper also boasts launch control, which allows drivers to score a perfect start off the line. Along with federally mandated electronic stability control, that feature is one of the few new technological advancements found outside the Viper's high-end new interior. Chrysler has resisted making the car too advanced, and Viper purists will likely appreciate that -- especially as they shift gears in the standard 6-speed manual transmission, rather than a lightning-quick new automatic like the high-tech units found in Porsches and Ferraris.
The all-new 2013 SRT Viper will have a wider appeal than its predecessors. Yes, it's true that Viper purists will love the latest model, as it combines V10 power with a manual transmission and exceptional performance. But we predict the SRT Viper will also find favor among many drivers who just want to enjoy some good fun. They'll find it in the Viper -- and along the way, they'll also find a surprisingly well-tuned chassis and a luxurious cabin.