Just a few moments ago, Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of Chrysler’s SRT and Motorsports division, took the covers off the company’s new SRT Viper, ending months of speculation over the return of America’s most recognisable performance car.
The new Viper has been heavily influenced by the owner community, which is perhaps something of a disappointment to those of us hoping for a true challenger to Europe’s finest supercars.
disappointment? How could anyone be disappointed with its 8.4-litre V10 engine producing 640hp and 600 lb-ft of torque – which Dodge claims is “..the most torque of any naturally aspirated sports car engine in the world”.
The problem, if at all, is with people’s expectations of the Viper. Owners love it, but most of the buyers Dodge will be hoping to acquire are used to the Viper being a crude, if endearing brute – not the sort of car they’d consider in the same breath as Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche.
The all-new SRT Viper, for all the eulogising by Gilles, looks remarkably like the old one with its elongated bonnet, cab-back driving position and side-exit exhausts, which will give their sales team something of a mountain to climb convincing media and enthusiast buyers that it’s worthy of a second glance.
That’s a shame because it really does sound like Street and Racing Technology (SRT) have put a lot of effort into the details of this completely new model. It is 50kg lighter, at 1465kg (when fitted with the track pack option), 50% stiffer, with a 32% lighter body made mostly of carbon fibre.
Dodge has also paid a lot of attention to the Viper’s interior – creating an environment, whilst unlikely to be on a par with luxury brands, certainly appears to knock their home-grown opposition (Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang) for six.
Plenty of grunt
Whilst Dodge has focused on torque, it’s European rivals have lifted the bar in terms of power. 640hp may sound like more than enough power, but this pales somewhat when using Lamborghini’s 691bhp (510 lb-ft) Aventador and Ferrari’s 730bhp (509 lb-ft) F12berlinetta as reference points.
The SRT Viper’s 8.4-litre all-aluminium, V-10 overhead-valve engine is mated to a new Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission with a shorter throw shifter, closer gear ratios and a shorter final drive ratio (down from 3.07 to 3.55), with top speed now being achieved in 6th gear at 6,200 rpm.
Ride and handling
It always feels somewhat harsh to criticise the Viper’s handling, since this is a car with the kind of motorsport pedigree and Nurburgring lap performance that makes it answerable to none. But nevertheless, the Viper’s handling on the road has always been something other car maker’s have sniggered at and the media have labelled as ‘tricky’.
Dodge has worked hard to address the old car’s shortcomings, reducing the chassis’ weight by 44kg and increasing its torsional rigidity by 50%.
Major updates include the addition of a new aluminium “X” brace under the bonnet that ties the suspension pickup points to the magnesium cowl super casting. At the rear, the suspension has been re-engineered and the toe-link moved forward of the axle for better dynamic stability.
Perhaps the biggest news is the fitment of driver aids – something Viper enthusiasts have strenuously fought against in the past. For the first time, electronic stability control and traction control are fitted, whilst a new, driver selectable two-stage suspension system is available on GTS models, featuring Bilstein DampTronic Select shock absorbers with both street and track settings.
For the more playful owners, the all-new SRT Viper now comes fitted with a steering-wheel-mounted launch control.
Two new models at launch
SRT Viper comes in two flavours – straight SRT Viper and the more heavily-kitted SRT Viper GTS. Both come with the same 8.4-litre V10 engine, but if you’re looking for toys, then that’s where you tick the box marked GTS.
“The SRT Viper model is meant to offer a perfect blend of extreme performance and a deliberate preservation of what has become the iconic DNA of the Viper,” Gilles added. “We strove to deliver a supercar that continues to bring the driver as close as possible to the machine.”
“With two price classes of the SRT Viper and SRT Viper GTS, we have offerings for both the traditional core Viper customer and for the new customer who wants the same performance in a package with more technology and premium creature comforts”, said Gilles.
All-new interior designs with premium materials, superior craftsmanship and the latest technology should make the SRT Viper a viable everyday proposition for those people who need a more practical sportscar, so it looks like Dodge may just have convinced us to take a second look at their new supercar.
Viper returns to the American Le Mans series (ALMS)
The SRT Viper GTS-R was also revealed today along with the announcement that a factory-backed SRT Viper Racing team will return to the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in 2012.
“Racing has been a significant part of the illustrious history of Viper not only with wins on the track, but also in the continued development of the street cars – and our new 2013 SRT Viper models are proof of those lessons learned,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – Street and Racing Technology Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC. “Now with our new team and the launch of the GTS-R, we’re excited and proud to begin writing more chapters in the racing history of the Viper later this summer.”
Two identical SRT Viper GTS-Rs will compete in the production-based GT class in the series. Four drivers currently are signed to drive including Dominik Farnbacher, from Ansbach, Germany; Marc Goossens from Geel, Belgium; Ryan Hunter-Reay from Dallas and Kuno Wittmer from Montreal. Additional driver and team announcements will be announced soon.