The 2013 SRT Viper stole the New York Auto Show this week with its 640-horsepower 8.4-liter V10 and the promise of even better tire-melting performance. It's the crown jewel in Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology brand headed by Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of SRT, Senior Vice President of Chrysler Design and the man most credited with resurrecting this beast.

Discontinued in 2010, the Viper was always a brutal and unforgiving car. It was the baseball bat of supercars.

Autoblog got a chance to sit down with Gilles and ask him five questions. Always the gentleman, Gilles answered six.

Gilles and his team walked a narrow line refining the Viper to the point of Italian Boss Sergio Marchionne's acceptance, but still remaining true to the car.

Before, the Viper was brutal, it's transmission tunnel heated up so much, the sparse cockpit turned into a crock pot. It did not even offer stability control, now required by law, meaning one wrong move, one slip of the clutch and the Viper would be wrapped around a light pole faster than an airbag deployment.

Even getting out of the Viper, with its side-mounted exhaust pipes, could be a challenge, giving the car one last chance to leave its mark, literally, on your calf.

Autoblog got a chance to sit down with Gilles and ask him five questions. Always the gentleman, Gilles answered six.

AB: The new design is pure Viper, but it seems to have some influence from those Italian super cars. What's the percentage of the Viper that's American, percentage that's Italian?

Gilles: Maybe five percent Italian. The seats, the seats are the same supplier as Ferrari. It's all American. Done inside, done outside, it's all all American.
AB: You've raced Vipers before. How has your experience on the track influenced the changes made to this car?

"It's taken me almost a decade to figure out how to drive that car... But it shouldn't have to take a decade, you know?"

Gilles: It allowed us to have a conversation with our motor sport side. They brought in the racing technology, like the X brace for example. That comes straight from the ACR-X, and our Competition Coupe and our GTS-R history. We know our chassis so well, we know its, quote, unquote, weak points, and we took care of all of that. A lot of that came from racing and putting stress on it.

As a driver, to me I think, it's taken me almost a decade to figure out how to drive that car, and I love driving it. But it shouldn't have to take a decade, you know? The new car, the mission for (the development) team, was to make it so that any one can extract the best out of this car. It still has a bite to it, but it's subdued. But I'll tell you, this car is incredible, you wear this car, you don't manage it, you wear it.


AB: The previous Viper had some idiosyncrasies such as the hot exhaust pipe that could burn you when getting out and the loud and hot transmission tunnel, how were those issues addressed?

Gilles: We have a cast tip instead of the actual tip on the exhaust, so people won't get that kiss, that famous Viper kiss anymore.

The previous car had no sound deadening in the past. So now we've added a very lightweight high tech sound deadening material in the tunnel that is also a heat manager. It allows the cockpit to be a much more hospitable place, keeping the bad (noise) out but keeping the engine note and letting the good noises in.


AB: When is the roadster coming?

Gilles: We don't talk about future product.

AB: How are you going to get people to stop referring to it as the Dodge Viper?

"People usually refer to it as the Viper. Just the Viper. It's become iconic that way."

Gilles: I'm not too worried about it. I think over time, It'll take some time, a long time. People usually refer to it as the Viper. Just the Viper. It's become iconic that way. I'm not too worried about it.

I'm more worried about talking to SRT owners as a group. I really see this as essential to our entire SRT brand.

You have to talk to that performance enthusiast community separately than we talk to our regular customers. Especially now, more than ever.


AB: (Bonus question) Was that a Barracuda behind you during the 60 Minutes piece?

Gilles: I can't say what it was, but It wasn't exactly a Barracuda. It was a student model of a certain car that was a derivative of our L (platform). That's all it was, a student model.


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  • 94 Comments
      donnieorama
      • 2 Years Ago
      'We don't talk about future product.' lol--OK.
      Sam
      • 2 Years Ago
      " I can't say what it was, but It wasn't exactly a Barracuda."....doesn't this mean that the Barracuda exists and is coming?
      Nickoo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hey Ralph! When is the cam-in-cam VCT going to trickle down to the hemi?
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        alexkoolur
        • 2 Years Ago
        Lol, judging by how they dress. No .
        msspamrefuge
        • 2 Years Ago
        I think I'll just settle for asking you if you know that despite all of that 'technical engineering,' that the Fiat 500 is one of the worst values on the market from a performance and efficiency standpoint.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      alexkoolur
      • 2 Years Ago
      "It still has a bite to it, but it's subdued. But I'll tell you, this car is incredible, you wear this car, you don't manage it, you wear it." = how we ruined the icon owners loved It's amazing, everything this clown is saying basically describes how they refined the soul and fun out of the viper. The idea that they think people never thought it was a dodge and just viper is ridiculous and is a false insight , basically a lie . He is telling this lie because he knows that they are about to drop a $135k+ sticker on this and knows as a dodge that is crazy , but an SRT , that's a different story. Lol stupid. Ask him this question....if its not a dodge....where do I buy it ....ohh right dodge.. Show me one viper owner who wanted their viper quieter??? Most like me, got a corsa exhaust week one, the 2008 was great because it game with the x manifold removed already , making the exhaust louder and more sporty. The hot side sill just made it easier for me to keep my wife out of the car, searching for the problem with that ? :) Anyway, this guy talks about this stuff like it was what ALL owners wanted, but its not. It as if they listened to the prissy dorks who never should have bought one in the first place on how to improve the new one and ignored all the hardcore enthusiasts wishing it got even wilder , not tamer
        blitzkrieg550
        • 2 Years Ago
        @alexkoolur
        You got all that out of him saying the Viper wouldn't burn your legs anymore? I think you're trying too hard. Whats the exec of "SRT" Supposed to say about his flagship car being known as a Dodge? "Oh it'll always be known as a Dodge, there's nothing we can do about it"? That isn't confidence inspiring to share holders. Marchionne is wearing his old title, and if he wants to keep his new one, he better make it sound like SRT has a purpose, a vision, a separate identity and all that crap. And if you need a reason to keep your wife out of your car, your marriage isn't worth a hill of beans. It means not only does she not give a damn about your space, but more importantly you don't have what it takes to get her to do so so you rely on your car making her miserable to do so. You better work on that... And how the crap was the Viper supposed to get any wilder? Did you want it jam a syringe full of meth into your neck when you start the engine? That's the only way I see it even being possible...
          Nickoo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @blitzkrieg550
          @alexkoolur, the old viper had a kitcar interior and finish before now with a big engine and excellent chassis. This is a car that is more in line with it's price tag. Keep your old viper, enjoy it for what it is, and realize the world moved on and left you behind.
        Jason Farnsworth
        • 2 Years Ago
        @alexkoolur
        You haven't touched or driven this car and you're proclaiming that all the fun and soul have been removed from it? Do you think there aren't going to be exhaust kits loud as hell anymore? There is a clown around, but it's not Ralph Gilles...
        inthelv
        • 2 Years Ago
        @alexkoolur
        I have to wonder, have you ever thought about investing in a Fleshlight? You have some angst issues that may make you the perfect customer.
        FreeThinker
        • 2 Years Ago
        @alexkoolur
        Coming from a guy who has never driven a Viper and will never afford any exotic car, I'm sure SRT doesn't care what you think.
        Dan Paredes
        • 2 Years Ago
        @alexkoolur
        If you knew just a bit about the car industry, you wouldn't call Ralph Gilles a clown.
          alexkoolur
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dan Paredes
          I don't who he is, rather going of what he says. His statements were clownish, nothing personal. "Can't talk about future products" ? Why not? It's not a Dodge it's a viper? Really? Again, just let the sales tell the TRUE STORY. Look at the SRT Jeep. NO ONE is buying it @ $70k! Once the viper is priced at $130+K no one is going to buy it....all the sales speak and PR bs in the world isn't going to prompt people to drop $70k at a jeep dealer and $130k at a dodge dealer.....regardless of whether or not you call it an "SRT" you still have to go into those dealers don't you?
      Clipper44
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'll just say it now.. Ralph Gilles is the most important person amongst American auto executives in quite some time. Dude is awesome and I really can't get enough of hearing him talk cars.
        e30
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Clipper44
        I feel the same exact way. He was the designer of the 300 that brought Chrysler back from utter extinction and total irrelevance and as head of Dodge and SRT he has brought Chrysler and Dodge back. i am really enjoying the cars that are coming out now.
      stclair5211
      • 2 Years Ago
      Here is one, whose dumb idea was it to not cal it a dodge? Other than fiat plans to fold dodge and Chrysler replaced with alfas.
      MotionDesigner
      • 2 Years Ago
      I know I'm in the minority when I say this, but the design already looks dated. It looks like it's already 5 years old.
        alexkoolur
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MotionDesigner
        because 90% of it is from 1996
        waetherman
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MotionDesigner
        I was the same way, but here's how I got over that; think E-type Jag. There are some classic lines represented in those lines that I'm almost on the verge of appreciating. Dodge has to deliver on actual performance and quality with is to get my vote, but I'm almost there.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MotionDesigner
        [blocked]
        thecomedian
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MotionDesigner
        I think it's the headlights. For some reason they look a few years old.
      Hazdaz
      • 2 Years Ago
      Doesn't this car owe at least some of its platform development to Mercedes? Because of its long gestation period, it started life before Fiat even owned Chrysler, I believe. At that time, Mercedes was supposed to be developing this platform for the Viper and a modified version for either the SLS or SLR one of its other supercars.
        Mike D
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        They were going to sell the platform while under Cerebus management and when Fiat took over Sergio approved the keeping of the name and redesign. Pretty sure this was solely developed under Fiat ownership. The SLS is rumored to have started out as the next Viper platform but when they split back in 2007 (that's 5 years ago now, pretty sure they didn't have a hand in the new Viper) Mercedes kept the platform and made the SLS.
        k_m94
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        When they were still partnered, Mercedes "borrowed" the architecture for the next Viper, which became the SLS. After Daimler and Chrysler divorced, I think Dodge (soon SRT alone) either continued developing their own version that the SLS branched off, or started again. I think they did start again, because those Daimler era plans were all but scrapped during the Ceberus era. When bought out by FIAT, the Viper program was reinstated, and although they looked at Italian platforms, they went back to the old Viper platform and worked from there, lightening and stiffening it up considerably.
      Quintas
      • 2 Years Ago
      8.4? eight point four? Dear god... You americans... I like your style!
        NB
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Quintas
        Yeah, we like big numbers here in America.
          Juffinstuff
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NB
          It's too bad many of my fellow Americans, ironically, don't know math to work with those big numbers.
      XJ Yamaha
      • 2 Years Ago
      I would have been a lot more impressed with a smaller, more efficient engine, but similar performance. But in the end it doesn't matter. I'll never be able to afford to buy one, and those who can afford it need not worry about efficiency.
        Mike D
        • 2 Years Ago
        @XJ Yamaha
        The previous generation got 22 mpg highway, better than any Ferrari available now I'm pretty sure. This one is probably slightly better, can't get much more efficient than that out of a car like this.
          k_m94
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Mike D
          I remember Road and Track averaged 17mpg in their test of the 2008 Viper, wierdly exactly the same as they got with a Subaru WRX. I guess someone was driving the Viper like grandmas and driving the WRX like they stole it. Phenomenal efficiency for the world's biggest production engine making 600+hp, probably because you could drop the rpm to idle at highway speeds, using very little gas because theres so much torque. Better than supercharged sportscars like the ZR1 (engine drag) or high revving high tech smaller displacement ones like Ferraris and Lamborghinis because high revs=guzzle gas.
        alexkoolur
        • 2 Years Ago
        @XJ Yamaha
        Go buy s smart car loser
        ryanandrewmartin
        • 2 Years Ago
        @XJ Yamaha
        There are plenty of other cars to be impressed by then. Go marvel over those and totally miss out on what the Viper represents.
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