This is the best-looking Viper to date. It's jaw-droppingly fast on the street and looks like what a hyper-enthused grade-school student would draw as representing a fast car.
The Viper maintains its raw brutishness and is also refined at the same time; it is an interesting dichotomy that should appeal to past owners who know this snake and future buyers who like some spunk with their performance.
All that said, to its brutishness: I, personally, found the pedal box difficult to negotiate. Granted, I'm in the 65th percentile in height, so the clutch for me has a long stroke; to compensate, I slid the seat forward but noted there was no telescoping wheel, something I have come to expect in cars that should be adjusted for high-speed driving. Settling into the seat, I noticed a ton of support on the lowest part of my back, with little at the upper back and shoulder regions.
If I were to own this car, I would take the time to customize it to fit me. That's partly because I wouldn't let anyone drive this love of my life, and partly because the dead pedal needs adjustment to be really successful.
This Viper sticks to the road like bubble gum. I took a few expressway cloverleaf interchanges at speeds beyond posted and not once did I feel uncomfortable. Its traction control is well programmed to suit everyday needs and (dare we say) the occasional high-performance desires.
Its direct steering provides a robust mechanical feeling, and that's good. Bumps and road grooves come to the driver, and steering ratio is immediate; there is no waggle. Without question, this new version tears up the track, as did its forebear.
I even took this Viper to the golf course -- who doesn't want to show off to their driving buddies? -- and was sure my set of clubs was destined for the passenger seat. Nope! I popped the trunk and slid them in. Kudos to my friends at SRT.
This is not an everyday car. Not meant to be. It is a treat, a delight, a dessert -- a mind-blowing, high-speed nugget that will be tough to beat on the track or for any special driving pleasure.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Driving the latest SRT Viper remains a challenge: Yes, with even the newly added electronic safety nets like traction and stability controls, you must be aware of your surroundings. It is situational awareness. If a driver thinks he can hop in, fire up the Viper and proceed to drive like an idiot, he is sorely mistaken and will quickly be reprimanded by this V10-powered monster. There's a fair amount of slip angle allowed by the stability aids before they kick in and save a driver's bacon, but you'll get out of shape enough to soil your Levis if you're not ready.
If I wasn't intimidated by the Viper, it wouldn't be a Viper. SRT had to keep the fear factor in the car because that's part of its DNA. If it boasted an insanely luxuriant interior that any yokel could jump in and turn fast laps around a racetrack with, it would be pissing on its roots.
So we have V10 power, hydraulic steering, a tight pedal box, large blind spots and side exhausts that warm the back of your legs when exiting. All of which remains comfortably familiar. What changes -- particularly in our GTS test car -- is the napa-leather-wrapped interior, which is infinitely better than the hard-plastic Black Hole that was the cabin of the old car. A short-throw shifter is also a nice change that's easy to operate compared to the tall, broomstick-like shifter before. Then there's a large central touchscreen to give Viper a good dose of tech.
Besides the nicer interior, the GTS has a two-mode Bilstein Damptronic suspension with “street” and “track” settings to customize its ride. With street mode selected, it's not as jarring a ride quality as it had been in the past; it's still firm (with low-profile Pirelli tires adding to the mix), but I could manage it daily.
The V10 remains Viper's touchstone. Instant throttle response and power throughout the rev range come from the massive 8.4-liter beast. If one was to turn traction control off -- which, of course we'd never recommend -- there's power to spin rear tires through three gears. Getting all power down off the line remains tough, even with launch control; it's best to do launches with your right foot modulating power.
Steering feel is hefty, and thanks for the full hydraulic power-steering system that offers tons of feedback. I didn't push the car on public roads during my night, but I'd never doubt the huge amount of grip a Viper has in it. Again, respect the car and drive it smoothly to safely unlock it. Brakes with the two-piece StopTech slotted rotors provided all the muscle needed around town.
What makes Viper special is how elemental it is by modern supercar standards. It's better dressed, but not overly so. If a swanky party existed where all supercars showed, the Viper would wear a well-fitted tuxedo over an open-collar shirt -- maybe under a vest, but let the cummerbunds fill the other tuxes.
Main point to take away: You must actually drive this car. It is old-school cool. How can you not respect that?
2013 SRT Viper GTS
Base Price: $124,990
As-Tested Price: $129,490
Drivetrain: 8.4-liter V10; RWD, six-speed manual
Output: 640 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 600 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,374 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 12/19/15 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 12.1 mpg
Options: Track package including anti-lock brakes, performance tires ($3,500); 18-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio system ($1,000).
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