The GTS, aimed at winning over Audi, Porsche, and Lamborghini (but not Ferrari) buyers, goes all out. It has unique wheels, graphite black trim on the brake ducts and headlights, exposed carbon fiber on the rear panel, harman/kardon audio, red brake calipers, and an even more luxurious interior.
Color and trim options abound, and there's more to come. SRT learned during the last run of 2010 models that customers loved the customizability, so you'll see plenty of it on the new car. In fact, the company eventually wants to be able to offer complete customizability, just like Porsche, AMG, and the rest. Special packages, such as a carbon-fiber package, are already under consideration.
When it launches in the fourth quarter of this year following its New York debut, the SRT Viper will be the first ever to launch as a coupe. Why? Because of racers. Viper owners race their cars, and more and more tracks are demanding fixed roofs for safety reasons. But what about the Roadster? "Stay tuned," SRT says. SRT isn't talking price yet, either, but it's going up.
The Viper made its name on racetracks around the world, and SRT isn't abandoning that reputation. A factory-built race car will also debut in New York and go on sale to privateers around the same time as the coupe.
The new SRT Viper is a product of its predecessors. It's still a raw, track-focused sports car that refuses to give in to pressures from cupholder lobbyists and dual-clutch transmission promoters. At the same time, it's come forward into the present day with a proper interior and an attention to detail sure to attract the attention of new customers.
Advantageous traits retained, poor traits discarded. Adaptations made, but still unique to its environment. It's not a musclecar. It's not an exotic. It's a Viper.
2013 SRT VIPER
Base price $95,000 (MT est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door hatchback
Engine 8.4L/640-hp (est)/600-lb-ft (est) OHV 20-valve V-10
Transmission 6-speed manual
Curb weight 3300 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 98.8 in
Length x width x height 175.7 x 76.4 x 49.1 in
0-60 mph 3.3 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ Not yet rated
The Viper, According to Ralph Gilles
"We had the privilege to design the Viper -- not the right," SRT brand president Ralph Gilles told Motor Trend. Gilles and his team were faced with a tough decision. Evolve the Viper's design as in the past, or tear it up and start over? After considerable debate and clinics with owners of Vipers, R8s, Lamborghinis, and all other manner of supercars, the answer was clear: The Viper's shape is "iconic," as Gilles puts it, and you don't mess with an icon. The long hood, the "extreme cab-rearward" design, the double-bubble roof, the big "gill" vents on the sides, the side-exit exhaust: "These are forms that Viper owns," said Gilles.
Gilles started by opening the design competition to the whole office. They weren't given much direction. Gilles wanted to see what they each thought the Viper should be. From their submissions, a final design was whittled out and, still lacking official approval, designers began working nights and weekends in a locked room to come up with a design. If you see a lot of 1996 GTS Coupe, you're not alone. Even Gilles admits that car had a big influence on the new Viper's design.
One of Gilles' mandates, aside from "no cupholders," was that every scoop and vent be functional. In the nose, scoops feed the radiator and the front brakes. In the hood, they feed the engine while vents release hot air. Even the scoops behind the side windows are functional -- they send cool air down to the rear brakes. The car you see here, according to Gilles, is nearly identical to the concept. Small changes made to the front fascia improve high-speed stability and top speed, and the rear deck was altered slightly.
When he could no longer hide the project, Gilles brought Sergio Marchionne to the studio and surprised him with a full-size model. While Marchionne wasn't thrilled with the deception, he was stunned by the car. With his help, the same trick was soon pulled on the board.
"I remember Sergio shushing everyone," Gilles said of the board review. "He just wanted to look at it."
A Delicate Balance
If there's anything the Viper's known for, it's the car's low-tech approach to speed. No automatic or dual-clutch transmissions, no stability control, no AWD, no torque vectoring, not even forced induction. There's an allure in that minimalism, to be sure, but the Viper had to evolve in order to stay on the market. After all, stability control is federally mandated now.
The SRT team worked for a balance between modern technology and purist ideology. Per brand president Ralph Gilles, the development team spent nearly half its time working on the stability control. The goal, Gilles said, was to create a system that would assist the driver in a way that he wouldn't even notice. Just enough help to make you feel like a hero behind the wheel -- nothing obtrusive or frustrating. Of course, if you're still not convinced after you've driven it, you can turn it all off and "you're on your own," Gilles added.
Further aiding the driver is a standard limited-slip differential and, Gilles conceded, a small amount of torque vectoring via the brakes when stability control is engaged. The drive-by-wire throttle has been retuned for quicker response, and the steering ratio has been reduced for quicker reactions. Bilstein shock absorbers are standard, but electronically adjustable shocks are optional and provide Street and Track levels of stiffness.