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.