2013 SRT Viper Road Test Review
2013 SRT Viper evolves into a modern supercar, but doesn't lose its bite
Scores High: Ride and handling up to modern exotic car standards, high quality interior design, still scary fast
Scores Low: Too much clutch pedal travel with too-high engagement point
Total Car Score Analysis
It’s probably a good thing the 2013 SRT Viper looks a lot like the 2010 Dodge Viper that last represented Chrysler’s top-performance car. It’s good because, beyond the new Viper’s familiar proportions, V10 engine and side exhaust outlets, this is an all-new snake with an all-new bite pattern. If the new Viper’s exterior had changed as much as its driving dynamics, interior quality and overall refinement it’s likely no one would have recognized it.
Make no mistake, the Viper’s V10 still makes stupid-crazy horsepower and torque, the door sills still get hot enough to feel it through your Levis, and a heightened sense of mortality still invades your psyche when trying to wring every last ounce of speed and performance from the car. But each of these traits has been refined to a level commensurate with modern-day exotics. Let’s face it, everyone – including guys like Ralph Gilles, head of Chrysler’s new Street and Race Technology (SRT) brand – knew the previous Viper couldn’t compete with today’s six-figure performance cars. So they’ve evolved the car, with spectacularly effective results.
There’s no mistaking the new Viper for anything else, but a close examination of the exterior reveals a series of subtle (and even not-so-subtle) changes to the classic snake’s skin. The hood, for instance, has returned to the front-hinged design seen on the first generation Viper. But unlike the early car, the new Viper’s hood is constructed entirely of carbon fiber, as is the roof and decklid. Strategic airflow, managed by a combination of hood openings, brake ducts and rear air exhausters, provides cooling for the V10 engine and braking system. New LED daytime running lights, turn signals and brake lights convey a sense of high-tech performance, as do the flush-mounted, touch-operated door handles. Other familiar Viper cues, like the “double-bubble” roofline, dramatic fender “gills” and and side-mounted exhaust outlets, maintain the car’s iconic road presence.
The big news for the 2013 SRT Viper is the availability of two trim levels, two stripe designs (four colors), three wheel finishes and eight exterior color options. The standard SRT Viper is offered in six colors (Adrenaline Red, Venom Black, Bright White, Gunmetal Pearl, Race Yellow and Shadow Blue). The upscale Viper GTS adds the classic Viper GTS Blue shade along with Stryker Red Tri-Coat Pearl – the latter being a $14,600 paint option. Stripe colors range from Black Venom to Billet Silver to Gunmetal Pearl. A Bright White stripe package is offered on only the Viper GTS Launch Edition model (all of those cars are painted GTS Blue). All stripes packages are contained under a top-layer of clear coat paint.
That clear coat layer is officially for paint protection, but after driving the 2013 model we’re betting it was secretly done to keep those stripes from peeling off during launch control acceleration runs of the new Viper. Yes, the new Viper features standard launch control, along with traction and stability control and electronically adjustable shock absorbers. These are the kinds of tech toys previous Viper owners didn’t have access to, though some purists might claim they represent the death of the “real” Viper.
That perspective may work in theory, but drive the new Viper and you’ll be forced to acknowledge the reality: this is simply a superior performance car. Its starts with an all-new spaceframe composed of high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium. These upgrades combine with an aluminum structural cross-brace in the engine compartment to increase torsional rigidity by 50 percent. The engine itself carries the bulk of its weight behind the front axle, contributing to mass centralization and the Viper’s near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Total curb weight is also down by 100 pounds overall compared to the previous model, though an optional Track Package (two-piece lightweight rotors and ultra-lightweight Sidewinder II wheels wearing Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber) can reduce curb weight by an additional 57 pounds.
The same high-tech approach that went into re-engineering the chassis was utilized to improve steering response and ride quality. A widened front track works in conjunction with an updated hydraulic power steering system to give the Viper far greater feel and finesse while navigating turns. Standard Bilstein shocks balance effective roll control with a comfortable street ride, while GTS models get two-mode shocks offering street and track settings that can be toggled at the touch of a button.
Ride and handling improvements have undoubtedly refined the Viper’s character, but any thoughts of the car “going soft” disappear the first time its throttle pedal is fully engaged. In fact, this is potentially the new Viper’s greatest risk factor. Whereas the old car would clearly telegraph its potential to slaughter careless drivers the moment you got near it, the new Viper can lull you into forgetting about the monster 8.4-liter, 640 horsepower aluminum V10 lurking just beyond the gauge cluster.
But hammer the right pedal and things happen very quickly. In fact, zero-to-60 takes about 3.3 seconds. With 600 pound-feet of peak torque available at 5,000 rpm (the most for any naturally aspirated engine on the market), the 2013 Viper appeared to bend the time-space continuum between corners as we roared around Sonoma Raceway in California’s Napa Valley. Powerful, progressive Brembo brakes and a willing Tremec 6-speed shifter made it relatively easy to drive the Viper quickly. But again -- watch that speed! Even on a relatively tight road course this car will hit 120 mph before you can say, “Was that my braking point?”
A Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission connects those 640 horses to the Viper’s rear wheels. Shift quality with this unit is the best it’s ever been in a Viper, and closer ratios mean you can constantly swap gears for maximum velocity at the track while letting the V10’s massive torque carry you around in one or two gears on your favorite back road. The V10’s broader torque band also lets the new Viper reach its top speed – 206 mph -- in 6th gear (the previous car had to use 5th). And while brake and throttle pedal placement make it easy to heel-and-toe the Viper, the clutch pedal in our pre-production test cars seemed to have excessive travel combined with a narrow range of engagement (at the very top of all that travel). If there’s an area where the new Viper might be improved, it’s here.
But this was a minor issue in the overall experience. Drive the new Viper smoothly and it will reward you with rapid lap times and easy, controlled rotation through a corner. Even with the stability control set to “full on” there was minimal interference from the safety nannies, and when it did appear it was a reflection of a sloppy race line or excessive throttle application. The SRT Viper offers basic “on” and “off” settings for its stability control system, but the GTS model adds two intermediate settings (“Sport” and “Track”) for drivers who want less interference while retaining a base level of “save-my-bacon-in-case-I-really-screw-up” protection (never a bad thing in a 600-plus horsepower vehicle).
Interior Design and Function
You’d expect lightweight racing seats, constructed of Kevlar and fiberglass and capable of accommodating a 3- or 6-point racing harness, in the new Viper. And even the thicker, leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel didn’t surprise us. But when we realized every interior surface was covered with soft-touch material, and in GTS models most of this material is high-quality leather, we knew the Viper was ready to compete with the best European exotic cars (and not just because of its performance capabilities).
The new seats aren’t only softer to touch or prettier to look at, they also offer superior lateral support, increased fore and aft travel and a height adjustment to provide more clearance for helmeted drivers. Hand stitching on the steering wheel, dash, door panels and center console compliments a set of steering wheel buttons for the standard launch control, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and voice commands. The new Viper also benefits from the same cabin technology we’ve seen in recent Chrysler, Dodge and Ram vehicles, including a customizable 7-inch display within the gauge cluster and an 8.4-inch central touchscreen that can relay climate, audio and a range of performance information. These “SRT Performance Pages” include items like zero-to-60 and quarter-mile times, engine status and vehicle settings for suspension and stability control.
A lower center console makes it easier to reach the shifter, and nearly 15 cubic feet of cargo area allows for plenty of weekend getaway space (something 2013 Viper owners will readily undertake given the new car’s improved cabin and ride quality). The engine has been moved to the right for more space in the driver’s footwell, but you can guess what that does to the passenger footwell area. It wasn’t really a problem, but we did notice a rapid narrowing of foot space as our shoes approached the firewall from the passenger seat.
Primary Features and Options
With two levels of 2013 SRT Viper offered there’s a wide range of pricing and features to choose from. The standard SRT Viper starts at $99,390 (including a $1,995 destination charge). This model includes bi-xenon projector headlamps, LED daytime running lights, turn signals and taillights, a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, stability control, launch control, a 7-inch customizable gauge cluster display, an 8.4-inch touchscreen display, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and five-spoke “Rattler” polished alloy wheels wearing Pirelli P Zero tires (295/30 ZR18 front, 335/30 ZR19 rear).
A leather seat option is offered on the SRT Viper for $3,000, and three stripe packages are available for $4,500 each. A hyper black finish is also available on the standard Rattler wheels or optional Venom wheels for $1,100. Audio upgrades include a 12-speaker system for $1,995 or an 18-speaker system for $2,995. There’s also a $2,500 Grand Touring packing that adds technology like a reverse camera, upgraded infotainment and 3D navigation, an embedded cellular connection with live traffic updates, plus satellite and HD radio.
The 2013 SRT Viper GTS starts at $122,390 (with destination charge) and adds standard leather to every interior surface, color accent panels on the seats, doors and center console, plus contrasting hand stitching, four-stage stability control, two-stage suspension settings, a 12-speaker audio system and polished Venom wheels. Hyper or matte black versions of these wheels, or the Rattler wheels, are offered for $1,100 on the GTS, as are polished Rattler wheels for $500.
The 18-speaker audio upgrade costs $1000 on the GTS, and a Laguna Seca Interior Package with premium leather (in black or sepia) with special embossments in the seats and doors costs $7,500. Three GTS stripe options (Billet Silver, Black Venom and Gunmetal) are offered for $5,000 each. The Launch Edition Package for the GTS bundles the 18-speaker audio system with polished Rattler wheels, GTS Blue paint with Bright White stripes, special Stryker snake emblems inside and out, a numbered dash plaque and a color-matched dust cover for $15,500. And don’t forget that GTS optional Stryker Red Tinted Pearl paint (yours for a cool $14,600).
Both SRT and GTS Vipers can add an Exterior Carbon Fiber package (front brake ducts, rear brake inlets and taillight surround) for $5,100 or a Carbon Fiber Aero package (front splitter and rear spoiler) for $4,800. An interior Carbon Fiber package is offered on both models for $3,400; it includes a steering wheel bezel, AC vents and multiple dash and door panel surfaces sporting the leightweight material. A track package for either model costs $3,500 and saves 57 pounds through lightweight, two-piece brake rotors, lightweight Sidewinder II wheels and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires.
It’s Perfect For…
Viper owners wondered if they’d ever see their front-engine, V10-powered track weapon return to the showroom when the model was “retired” three years ago. Yet fans of the car felt it was a brand with too much equity to let go, and thankfully a resilient Chrysler agreed.
But the company didn’t just pull it out of mothballs and tweak the engine to juice up the power. The team at SRT remade the Viper into a modern-day performance machine worthy of the Viper’s legendary status, yet still capable of going toe-to-toe with the best 2013 premium sports cars available. That’s not an easy line to walk, so full kudos to the SRT Viper team – they did it.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 SRT Viper
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $97,395
Options on Test Vehicle: Black Venom Stripes ($,5000), Track Package (includes lightweight two-piece brake rotors, Sidewinder II wheels and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires -- $3,400), Destination Charge ($1,995)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $107,790
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.