The 2014 SRT Viper may look like Viper models of years past, both in person and on paper, but it offers significant changes in several key areas. The biggest changes are to the coupe's comfort and everyday livability: Both have been enhanced significantly compared with the bare-bones, engine-strapped-to-a-chassis Viper models of years past. In fact, you'd be forgiven for using the term "luxurious" to describe certain upscale versions of this Viper.
The revisions are a welcome addition to the iconic 2-seater. After all, few sports cars possess such a notorious identity and charismatic personality, and as the Chrysler Group continues its recovery from bankruptcy, halo products such as the Viper cement the automaker's big-picture relevance.
The Viper has ballooned in price, starting around $100,000 and swelling to more than $122,000 for the GTS package, which includes electronically adjustable suspension, niceties such as a leather-wrapped dashboard and standard amenities that include navigation and a 12-speaker sound system. But most crucial, the Viper has grown in sophistication, as well, finally making it a viable competitor to well-rounded sports cars such as the Corvette ZR1 and Nissan GT-R.
What's New for 2014?
After going on sale for the 2013 model year, the Viper is largely unchanged for 2014.
What We Like
Thundering personality; hair-raising performance; interior refinements finally reach luxury car territory
What We Don't
The GTS package is desirable, but at $23,000 over a standard Viper, it's mega-priced; though driver feedback is vastly improved, at-limit handling can still be dicey; a 1-note performance personality gets tiresome during prolonged seat time
If you're interested in a Viper, we find it hard to believe you'll even read this section. But just in case, here goes. The Viper is powered by a 640-horsepower 8.4-liter V10 that makes a whopping 600 lb-ft of torque. All Viper models use a 6-speed manual transmission, and they all return an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 12 miles per gallon city/19 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The Viper comes in two flavors: a base-level Viper model and an upscale GTS.
Choose the Viper ($100,500) and you'll get alloy wheels with high-performance tires, an 8.4-inch center-mounted touchscreen, Bluetooth, satellite radio, an auxiliary jack and a USB port for music, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, automatic headlights and LED running lights.
Upgrade to the pricey GTS ($123,000) and you'll add floor mats, cup holders, a rearview camera, voice-activated navigation, leather seats with suede trim, a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system, a power driver's seat and contrasting interior stitching.
The Viper's list of options is immense. Base models offer many GTS features as optional, including floor mats, cup holders, rearview camera and voice-activated navigation. GTS models offer driver-selectable suspension settings, exterior carbon fiber, an advanced aerodynamics package and a track package with better tires and improved brakes. Drivers can also choose from a long list of color combinations and wheel options.
The 2014 SRT Viper includes anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control. Like all new cars, it features dual front airbags; side airbags, however, aren't available. A rearview camera is standard on the upscale GTS and optional on the base-level Viper.
At the time of this writing, the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had not yet crash-tested the Viper. Because of the model's low production volume, it's unlikely crash tests will ever be carried out.
Behind the Wheel
The world seems like your personal drag strip from inside the Viper cockpit: A new virtual tachometer and sub-menus offering data analysis reveal that the poisonous snake has assumed new technological aptitude, but one stab of the right pedal offers a not-so-subtle reminder that this is still a screaming, snarling hellion of a car.
It's not just the mammoth 8.4-liter V10 or the notchiness of the 6-speed manual shifter but the brutishness that emerges while hustling the Viper across city streets. Even in its soft setting, the suspension still hops around and has trouble tracking straight on bumpy roads. Forget about the track setting for real-world driving; it's simply too stiff for use, unless you actually enjoy the sensation of teeth rattling.
The Viper seems more in its element at the track, and capable of fully delivering its intended goals of automotive shock and awe. Grip from the Pirelli tires is considerable -- especially with the $3,500 track package, which wraps special Corsa rubber around lightweight wheels for even more handling prowess. The tires' steep drop off of adhesion during high g-force driving will put hair on your chest, though, as will the locomotive-like acceleration and the glued-down handling, which enables direction changes with much more feedback and intuitive steering than was offered by Vipers of yore. And once again, the suspension's track setting proves too stiff for off-road use, as it results in twitchiness that ultimately diminishes rather than boosts confidence.
Gut-punchingly potent and impressively capable, the Viper offers a challenging and ultimately rewarding experience for drivers bold enough to explore its limits.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi R8 -- Powered by V8 or V10 powerplants, Audi's top dog 2-seater takes a more technologically finessed tack to the supercar formula. It delivers a balanced mid-engine configuration that, unlike the Viper, pulls few punches when it comes to tackling road courses and twisting highways.
Chevrolet Corvette -- The all-new Corvette may not quite be able to tackle the Viper when it comes to all-out speed, but when you consider performance that you can use on the street, the 'Vette is just as much of a hoot. We happen to think it looks pretty nice, too.
Nissan GT-R -- Godzilla may have a lot in common with the Viper when it comes to spec sheets, but this Japanese 2+2 goes about its business differently. It allows the driver to lean on fighter-jet-like electronics and all-wheel drive to wring maximum performance from its twin-turbocharged V6, without the terror.
The 2014 SRT Viper's new lease on life draws primarily from extensive chassis and interior refinements that make it a vehicle that's comfortable enough to drive every day. But don't let those civilities fool you: The Viper is still a serious handful that commands respect, especially when tapping into the vast reserves of power produced by its monstrous 10-cylinder powerplant. For that reason, we'd go with a base-level Viper outfitted with as many performance goodies -- and as few luxuries -- as we could afford. The Viper is no luxury car, but you're probably buying it for performance, not a cushy ride or high-end equipment.