When asked if I wanted to drive the all-new for 2013 SRT Viper, I reacted as many car enthusiasts would, given the chance. Upon reading the email delivered to my inbox, I high-fived myself, danced around my office, threw up a couple of fist pumps, and squealed like a little girl at a tea party with Tiana, Belle, Ariel, Merida, AND Rapunzel all present. Do not ask how I know about such things. Maybe I wasn’t that bad (I didn’t dance), but I was pretty excited. You see, although we at AutoAcademics get to drive many vehicles, we’re still a fairly new company, that’s even newer at official car reviews, so opportunities like this do not come very often.
Viper, formerly sold under the name of Dodge, was discontinued in 2010, only to be revived and rebranded under the SRT nameplate in 2013. And now there are two versions available, the standard SRT Viper and the Viper GTS. Like some other great American contemporary sports cars, however, previous-gen Vipers have always been criticized for their lack of refinement and comfort, as well as their plain old crude build quality, when compared to European counterparts. So the makers of Viper decided to do something about it.
Most noticeably, a major overhaul was done to the interior. Gone are the multitudes of hard plastic and other cheap materials. In their place you will now find high quality leather covering enough electronics and data telemetry to impress Kazunori Yamauchi.
Outside, the car is pleasantly refreshed, while still retaining design cues that are unmistakably Viper. Muscular fenders flare over the large forged aluminum wheels, wrapped in 295/30ZR18 Pirellli P Zero tires in front and even larger 335/30ZR19’s in rear. Track Package models pack on even more rubber out back with 355/30ZR19 Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires.
Our Adrenaline Red GTS example had large functional heat extractors in the elongated carbon fiber hood, with purposeful scoops, slats, and vents down below. LED daytime running lights underscore the headlights, with air diffusers located below the LED tail lamps. Along the rocker panels, the classic side pipes maintain their residence, yet lose some of the parcel delivery truck buzziness of the previous car in favor of a more raspy tone that likes to cackle and pop when revved.
The producer of said “cackling and popping” is still a V10, but notably a larger one. At 8.4L, it makes 640-hp and 600 lb.-ft. of torque, which according to SRT reps is the most torque of any naturally aspirated production engine ever made. An aluminum X-brace mounted over the engine helps to hold all of this monstrosity in place. The transmission is a manual 6-speed with overdrive that is synchronized in all gears, has electronic 1-4 skip-shift, and reverse lockout mechanisms.
The standard Viper has 4-wheel independent aluminum suspension, while the GTS employs a two-mode, driver selectable version with Bilstein DampTronic shock absorbers. During my drive, I was able to test both settings and the only way I can describe them is the “STREET” setting was firm, while the “RACE” setting took firm and sandwiched it between two slabs of concrete and topped it with a garnish of gravel. It truly was a setting meant for a smooth race track and not public roads.
For those of you who like numbers, 640-hp can propel the approximate 3200 lb. Viper to 60 mph from a dead stop in about 3.3 seconds, eclipsing the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds at 129.3 mph, with continuous acceleration all the way up to a reported top speed of 206 mph. In case you cared, EPA fuel economy estimates are 12 mpg city / 19 mpg highway.
I’m sure you’re wondering what the driving experience was like in the 2013 SRT Viper GTS. Well, think of everything you’ve ever heard about the car. Think about how raw it supposedly is, how edgy it is. Think about the noise that you’ve heard time and time again on YouTube videos. Imagine the vibrations. All of that was present, plus some.
It’s hard to quantify the feeling someone experiences when he or she gets behind the wheel of this 640-hp mythical beast from childhoods past, especially knowing that this version is even more powerful. It’s faster, and at around $130k in GTS guise, more expensive. When you get behind the helm, the hood is longer than you ever imagined and those previously mentioned front fenders appear to crest higher up and over the corners than should be legal.
It didn’t matter that the adjustable pedals either made the clutch too far or the gas and brake too close. It didn’t matter that an SRT rep was riding shotgun to make sure I didn’t break it (or steal it, for that matter). It also didn’t matter that I had previously witnessed another person have his “Viper-Driver Credentials” revoked, due to the fact that, for some reason or another, he could not get the car in motion after about 6 repetitive stalls. Then had to exit the car to the humiliation of chuckles and finger points, and swap places with his female chaperone only to ride Mitch as the car now under new command roared to life and angrily departed to catch up with the rest of the den. But this was my chance. And I’m Chris from AutoAcademics so I’ve got this!
With a push of the starter button, all of those childhood dreams came true. I’ve driven Ferraris and Porsches, R8s and M3s. I’ve experienced the allure of Carroll’s Shelbys and the intrigue of Malcolm’s Bricklins. I have even been working on the complicated craft of starting and driving a 1931 Ford Model A (which is kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly simultaneously). But this was somehow different. It wasn’t better, or worse, just different.
Surprisingly enough, the 2013 SRT Viper was not a difficult vehicle to handle on the road. Yes, it had its supercar quirks of poor visibility, difficult ingress and egress, and interior noise. Man, was this car loud! But it also had alcantera headlining, supple leather EVERYWHERE, and fuel economy that was comparable to that of the oversized vehicles used to shuttle little children to soccer practice. Best of all, it was pretty cool. I knew it. The SRT rep knew it. And so did most everyone who happened to see (or hear) us driving down the street that day.
Now that I’ve had that experience under my belt, it will be filed in my mental Rolodex with all the other automotive pleasures I’ve been blessed to experience. But don’t get me wrong, if I were to get another invitation from SRT, or Ferrari, or any other special vehicle available to drive today, I would still react the same way. Heck, I might even dance.
Take a look at AutoAcademics’ video below, where SRT reps give an overview of the Viper, and we take you along during our first drive of the GTS.