The Viper has always scared the hell out of me.
My aversion to the famed American sports car has nothing to do with its immensely powerful ten-cylinder engine or its Matchbox-like styling – those attributes are genuinely captivating. Instead, I have found little to like in a vehicle that is brash, coarse, uncivilized and untrustworthy at the limit. Rather than unload a slew of bitter complaints directed at each of its previous four generations, let’s just say that the Viper has always represented the automotive equivalent of barbarous mechanical mayhem.
That is, until now.
After a three-year absence, an all-new Viper debuted at the 2012 New York Auto Show. No longer under the Dodge umbrella, Chrysler’s supercar returned wearing the new performance-oriented SRT (Street and Racing Technology) brand label. Despite its familiar shape and engine configuration, the completely redesigned coupe promised not only more power but better handling, superior craftsmanship, innovative technology and a world-class cabin.
While this may sound as if the automaker’s halo two-seater has been tamed after being forced through politically correct manners and etiquette classes, my observation – after spending a couple days with the snake on public roads and at Sonoma Raceway – is that the iconic Viper may be much more refined and less temperamental, but it still has some of the longest and sharpest fangs in the segment.
The original 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster was one outrageous street car. Available only in red, each of the 285 copies was fitted with a truck-sourced 8.0-liter V10 engine developing 400 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. While raw performance was impressive at the time (0-60 in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of about 165 mph), the two-seater was about as domesticated as Paleolithic man. It not only lacked a roof, but windows and air conditioning too.
Gallery : 2013 SRT Viper