When the Viper first came to us in the early 1990s, it could tear the lungs out of a contemporary Corvette and was a nicer car to look at than just about anything being produced in the United States at the time. With its ten-cylinder truck engine, side-pipes that would burn you if you weren't careful, and minimal use of creature comforts or driver aids meant that the Viper was always a wild car, not to mention a world class performer that made buying a C4 Corvette look daft. Eventually, though, General Motors caught on and gave the Viper a run for its money with the Corvette Z06. The Viper then lost some of its cachet and, in the summer of 2010, production of Chrysler's flagship sports car ceased.
But it wasn't too long before another Viper was in the works, and at the New York Auto Show in 2012, the newest version was unveiled. No longer branded as a Dodge, the Viper from now on is to be known as the SRT Viper. It still very much looks the part with styling that clearly takes it all back to the old GTS of the 1990s with the double bubble roof and curves in all the right places, rather than the more angular appearance of the third and fourth generation Vipers. The rest of the car is actually quite familiar as well, and that's probably a good thing. The V-10 engine is still comically large at 8.4 liters, the wheelbase is still the same and the car still rides on basically the same steel frame as it did a couple of years ago. The new Viper, then, is not a completely new take on the old serpentine sports car, but the general improvement of a machine that never should have gone away in the first place.In 2013 terms, the Viper isn't as bonkers as it was the first time around, but it still puts up highly impressive numbers. That trademark ten-cylinder motor makes 640 horsepower and 600 lb/ft of torque and drives through a six-speed Tremec gearbox, a move that has surely left advocates of the classic manual gearbox relieved. Sixty will come in less than 3.5 seconds and a competent driver should be able to do 12 second quarter miles in it with ease. With some other clever moves like cocking the engine towards the passenger side to improve weight distribution and increasing stiffness with an underhood X-brace, the SRT Viper should also be just as exciting around the track as it is in a straight line.
Inside, the Viper of old was refreshingly spartan, but for the new car an extra trim level is offered called the GTS, which gets you more leather and goodies options for the interior as well as a new two-mode suspension system and more settings for the standard stability control, offered for the first time on a Viper because of a new law. These extras will cost you, though, as the GTS starts at $125,000, over $20,000 more than the standard car. But the standard car is more of a track day machine, and for people looking for a twenty-first century Viper that's at home in two worlds, the GTS is it.