Road and Track first drive 2013 Viper


Sep 18, 2004
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2013 SRT Viper - First Drive

The all-new Viper makes a compelling case for the theory of evolution.

By Steven Cole Smith / Photos by John Lamm
September 9, 2012

When the Dodge Viper emerged from the swamp in 1992–crude, brutal, carnivorous–who knew that 20 years later it would evolve into a civil, almost friendly presence…sort of what King Kong would have been if he were allowed to attend finishing school.
Video window may take a few moments to load... Indeed, there is no better automotive example of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Recall the 1992 Viper–400 horsepower from the 8.0-liter V-10, a price of $50,000, and for that you got, or possibly didn’t get, a horrible little vinyl toupee-like top designed by sadists; plastic side-curtain windows; no air conditioning, no anti-lock brakes, no outside door handles, no door locks, no place to put your left foot except under the clutch pedal.
From that, the Viper has evolved into a poised, seemingly responsible member of society. Who, if necessary, can still kick your ass, but he would at least take you out back.

2013 SRT Viper

Darwin Would Be Proud
We were, literally, the first to drive the 2013 SRT Viper, which returns after a two-year hiatus. In the movie, Charles Darwin is played by Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of the SRT performance brand, and head of motorsports, and senior vice-president of product design.
Even during the car’s hiatus, Gilles managed to keep the Dodge Viper Cup racing series going, in which he often drove, and quite well. Russ Ruedisueli is the Viper’s vehicle line executive, and the head of SRT motorsports engineering. In a week or two, you will find Ruedisueli at the Sports Car Club of America Runoffs, where he has competed for years. You will not find Erich Heuschele, SRT manager of vehicle development, at the Runoffs, because as a driver, he has won so many SCCA races that now it’s like clubbing baby seals.

2013 SRT Viper

Bottom line: Yes, there is a civility to the new Viper, but the people who developed it are serious about performance. And that showed in our drive, which occurred at Gingerman Raceway, a 1.88-mile private road course in western Michigan. SRT provided a 2010 Viper–that was the last model year– and a pair of 2013s, one a base Viper, and the other the slightly more uplevel GTS. The “Launch Edition” will feature traditional blue paint and dual white stripes.
Gilles and his crew said the 2013 Viper started out as a mild-to-moderate refreshing of the 2010 model, but it turned into a much more involved makeover–right down to an all-new frame. They planned to tweak the 8.4-liter overhead-valve V-10 for a few more horsepower, and ended up with 640—that’s 40 more than the 2010 model had, but the same as the not-quite-street-legal 2010 ACR-X Viper. Torque is rated at a stump-pulling 600 lb.-ft. Top speed should be 206 mph–SRT test drivers have had it to 203 mph, in 6th gear, but the test track was too rough to squeeze out the few additional mph they believe is in there.

2013 SRT Viper GTS

Slimming Down the Beast
Always during the process, the development team was looking to save weight, and they did–a startling 150 pounds, which is indeed noticeable as you stuff the 2010 model, then a 2013, into a tight corner on the track. That original, ******* 1992 Viper with virtually no equipment weighed 3272 lb. This new one, with all the creature comforts and electronic safety features you’d ever want, starts at a svelte 3297 pounds, for a base Viper with the SRT Track Package.
And you’ll want the Track Package, which includes upgraded Brembo brakes and stickier Pirelli PZero Corsa tires (295/30ZR-18 up front, steamroller-sized 355/30ZR-19 in the rear).

2013 SRT Viper

The base Viper and the GTS both have stability control: In the base car, it is two-mode with launch control. The GTS has a four-mode system–full-on, sport, track, and full-off. The engineers said repeatedly that the stability control, even in “full-on” mode, is designed to intervene only when it’s really, really needed, and they are correct. You can go very fast in the turns, and brake very hard, and never engage the stability control or ABS.
So how does it work on the track? The sensation is surprisingly different from the 2010 model. The new Viper’s shifter for the 6-speed manual transmission has a much shorter throw than before–even shorter than the ACR’s, it seems—which takes some getting used to, as do the new gear ratios. Coming out of a short straight into Gingerman’s turn one, 3rd gear was just fine for the 2010 Viper. It was much a more frantic section in the 2013 Viper, what with the engine revving very near its 6400-rpm fuel cutoff.

2013 SRT Viper

Also different–quite different–is the steering. While the overall ratio remains 16.7:1, SRT has quickened the steering significantly. At first, it feels twitchy, but with more laps, you get used to it. Still, it may be the only thing on the new car I’d probably change back to 2010 specs.
Inside–that’s where the new Viper really shines. The car has always had a functional but fairly rudimentary dashboard and instrument panel, but now, sliding into the excellent new leather-clad seats, the Viper finally looks and feels like a luxury sports car. There’s plenty of headroom, even wearing a helmet. It’s also much quieter–it’s tough to eliminate all the road noise from these massive tires, but SRT has come pretty close.

2013 SRT Viper

Production should start in early November at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit–at, incidentally, a rate of maybe three cars a day, just like in 1992. The plant would max out at 12 Vipers a day, if the demand is there, and given the early dealer orders, it is. One limiting factor: The huge, complex carbon-fiber hood can only be made in one factory in Vermont, and that company is capacity-limited.
You Get Change Back From Your $100,000 Bill
The price? We’re guessing $99,995 to start, and when the price is announced later this week, you’ll find we were correct. For the GTS, add about $20,000.

2013 SRT Viper

This just-shy-of-$100,000 starting sticker makes the 2013 SRT Viper officially double the price of the 1992 model, and almost double the price of the Viper’s longtime domestic competition, the Chevrolet Corvette, which starts at $50,575 for a base coupe. Of course, to get Viper-like performance, you’d need the $113,575 Corvette ZR1.
Merely the existence of this new, fifth-generation Viper is a triumph, given the turmoil Chrysler has suffered in the last five years, including the new European ownership. That the 2013 SRT Viper is an excellent, much-evolved car–that’s just gravy.​


Viper Owner
Oct 7, 2005
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That video of the exhaust sounds exactly like my 94' with B&B's, just slightly quieter. I hope the production version sounds as good.

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