Every accolade in the book still doesn't do this vehicle justice.
Once a raw monster of a machine with a rear end squirrelier than Kim Kardashian's, the SRT Viper has finally returned from its two-year hiatus. Before it disappeared -- back then it was the Dodge Viper SRT10 -- it was considered one of the most difficult street racers in the world to control. It lacked electronic stability control, balance and arrived with as much refinement as a 7-11 counter top. It was a blast to drive, all the way up until you plowed into a race wall, guard rail or parked car.
But now, the new Viper arrives with more than just raw power – though its aluminum 8.4-liter V10 cranks out 640 horsepower making it the most powerful naturally aspirated engine around. It's sleek, sexy and something even mortal men and women can control.
This is not merely the best car ever created by Chrysler Group LLC, dollar for dollar, it is one of the best sports car built by anyone, ever. (Though it's starting $100,000 price tag may keep most of us out of it.)
But engineers and designers, by no means, defanged this snake. No, this car still comes with a hair-raising factor calculated with exponential numbers – and at least there's a handle on the center console for passengers to grab while swearing as the driver whips the Viper through a 1-G turn, which is possible at nearly every corner.
This two-faced snake can act brutal and civilized, confident and scary, and vicious and sublime. The two-seater allows space for both the angel and devil who will sit on your shoulders when you get behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel and beg you to speed up or slow down.
Just remember this important phrase when driving this car. "I'm sorry officer, the Viper made me do it."
And the police, no doubt will be seeing a lot of this car. It's exterior is so sharp and stunning, cops can give you a speeding ticket while it's parked.
Attention to detail
While this Viper has similar looks as previous generations, it takes on a much more appealing low-slung stance with crisp clean lines sweeping back.
Every edge, vent and intake serves a purpose on this machine that is the culmination of high art meeting high function. Name another sculpture with a top speed of 206 mph.
SRT designers and engineers had to consult aerospace manufacturers to figure out how to stamp the aluminum doors with hard angles and unique patterns. The hood, roof and rear deck lid are all made of out of carbon fiber, selected for its strength and light weight.
Initially, the Viper arrives with six exterior colors, though more are on the way. The most outrageous of colors is the deep Stryker red that was originally used on the concept vehicle. This color is a $14,600 option – almost the same price as a base Dodge Dart.
But it's the attention to detail even in the painting that makes this Viper stands out. Previous models that included those big Le Mans stripes had problems. Those stripes were added after the initial paint job, thus, they were raised and could be felt if you ran your hand over it. Perhaps not as noticeable to some, but, my guess is that Viper owners hand wax their cars nearly as often as they drive them.
Now, the paint stripe is flush with the exterior paint: Wax on, wax off.
The same attention was given to the car's performance. If something didn't make the Viper better, it wasn't included. The body was made 50 percent stiffer, materials were chosen to cut weight (it has an aluminum flywheel), even the stability control, which was required by law, was carefully crafted to not be too overbearing.
On a race track, this Viper's Z-rated Pirelli P Zero tires hold its line at scary speeds – third gear tops out at 118 mph, meaning I never even needed fourth while testing it on Sonoma Raceway.
More impressive was the Viper on regular roads. The ride, while stiff, was not overbearing. It was comfortable, noticeably quiet and enjoyable. You could drive cross country and never have an ache or pain – though climbing out and falling into this car can quickly remind you how old you are.
Little changes were noticeable over the previous generation. Gone was that raw feeling of power. The transmission tunnel didn't heat up. The door sills, where the exhaust pipes are mounted, don't want to bite your leg every time you exit with overheated teeth.
It's actually very pleasant to drive at low rpms. Acceleration is quick. The Tremec TR 6060 six-speed manual shifter is precise but not difficult. (Engineers opened the gate some to allow for easier shifting.) And the throws are silky smooth.
Then again, if the road is clear and you want a little fun, the Viper can transition from fun to blast off as fast as your foot can mash the aluminum accelerator pedal to the floor. Some stats:
- Zero to 60 mph is somewhere in the low 3 seconds
- Quarter mile time is low 11's.
- It can go from 0 to 100 mph in less than 12 seconds
- It only needs 106 feet to go from 60 to 0.
That's not performance, that's insanity.
Perhaps the biggest improvements, though, come inside the cabin. Every surface is wrapped in leather making it smell like money when you sit down.
The seats were supplied by the same maker who creates Ferrari seats, but don't let that lull you into thinking this interior is anything but Viper.
A 7-inch full color screen is part of the instrument panel and the digital tachometer will turn red if the engine's rev's get too high. There's also an 8.4-inch UConnect digital screen in the center stack on the dash. The second generation UConnect system is an excellent interface for a driver. It's icons are easy to use and the readout is crystal clear. It can operate your phone hands free via Bluetooth, run apps, provide navigation and do almost anything you ask it.
The screen is also customizable to provide additional readouts such as 0-60 times, quarter mile times, g-forces, and other track oriented information.
Racing is important to the Viper, but the beauty is, it's no longer the only thing this car can do.
That is really the crux of this car. Yes, the Viper is a total hoot to burn incredible amounts of rubber. It will make you the envy of weekend track days. It can hold it's own with the best.
But now, you don't need a trailer. It's just as much fun on country roads as it is anywhere else. It's simply one of the best supercars around. And let me be the first to warn you, once you drive the new Viper, you'll be snake bit.
Scott Burgess is a senior editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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