- Jul 31, 2013
Detroit's Street-Racer Viper Takes A Bite Out Of The Big Apple
Long after the official unveiling, dozens of people were still milling around the 2013 SRT Viper. Typically, a car at the New York International Auto Show collects a crowd and then everyone leaves for the next press conference. But the Viper is different. People couldn't just walk away from it. It takes a while to soak up all of its sexiness.
It's extremely long hood, giant wheels and refined cockpit make this car one of the ultimate street racers. The 640 horsepower V-10 under the curvacious carbon fiber hood creates more torque at idle than most engines make, ever.
The return of the true American supercar -- designed in Auburn Hills, Mich., and hand-built in a small Detroit assembly facility that is more workshop than factory- has finally happened. For Chrysler Group, the Viper appears like the prodigal son, once banished from the showroom because too few buyers found it appealing to drive anywhere but on a racetrack, and critics said it was too raw a driving experience to truly compete against the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 or Ford Shelby Mustang GT-500 King of the Road.
Now, a more refined Viper brings with it a means to compete in the ultra-performance category, out muscling many super-cars while undercutting their price. More importantly for Chrysler Group, the Viper renews some of that attitude and "mojo" every brand needs to reach customers.
And since it is bolted together in a facility in downtown Detroit, it furthers Chrysler's ad campaign, "Imported from Detroit."
For two decades, the Viper was one of the most powerful and difficult vehicles to handle. It was a weekend track regular for wealthy enthusiasts ready to chew through $1,000 worth of tires in a very short period of time. No car required as much skill and fortitude to truly handle.
Chrysler had sold just over 25,000 units and when the company fell onto tough times, ultimately filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009, the Viper was cast to the side.
By 2010, the 18-year run of the Viper was over and it's future uncertain. Design guru and SRT brand president Ralph Gilles said it was "gut wrenching" not knowing what was going to happen with it. However, he and others managed to convince new Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, who is also CEO of Fiat and a big Ferrari enthusiast, to rev this $100,000 vehicle back to life.
"The launch of the 2013 Viper proves that we simply would not let the performance icon of the Chrysler Group die," Gilles said.
No one expects the Viper to bring in big money for Chrysler Group. The company hopes it will turn a profit. More to the point, the Viper will serve as a halo vehicle for the SRT brand and helping sell more Dodge Challengers and Chargers that have some of the same performance hardware as the Viper.
"The Viper is the SRT brand," Gilles said.
The new Viper, which will be available to the public at the end of this year, will also be a much more refined driver for those who want to be able to keep it on the road without working up a sweat or pulling a shoulder muscle. The new Viper gained power (+40 horsepower) over the last one, and still dropped 100 pounds in overall weight. The suspension has been re-engineered and includes a driver selectable feature for street or track settings.
But that's only relative to the previous Viper, which was brutal with a powerful engine, a narrow front track and no electronic stability control. Vipers were one of the few vehicles on the road that required a driver's complete attention, skill and some decent physical condition.
The 2013 Viper has a significantly upgraded interior. Whereas the previous model had a raw interior to match the car's raw power, the new Viper features the same premium leather seats found in Ferraris (there is the Fiat-Chrysler connection coming in handy). On the GTS model, every surface in the cockpit is wrapped in leather. It will also arrive with connectivity through Chrysler's Uconnect system, which enables smart-phone connectivity through an 8.4-inch color screen on the dash.
The previous model hid it's cheapish and spare interior behind the guise of being racing inspired. But anyone plunking down $100,000 for a car that can be driven on a regular road doesn't want to feel cheated. Now they won't.
One of the cool design points of the new car is a double bubble roof design that maximizes headroom while keeping the the windshield to a minimal size that in turn lowers the car's resistance.
The more one looks at the Viper the more they are likely to appreciate the efforts of those who designed it The devil is always in the details and 2013 SRT Viper covers every detail.
Maybe that's why so many people took so much time to look at the Viper after it rolled out.