Road Test: The 2013 SRT Viper
The 2013 SRT Viper is the sort of car that should come with disability insurance for neck injuries -- not only for the whiplash drivers could experience attempting to max out its 206 miles per hour top speed, but for its many admirers who rubberneck, pivot and crane to get a better look.
In the weekend I spent with the dead-sexy, fifth-generation "snake," men literally hung out their windows to take pictures. Police cars routinely tailgated and sidled up alongside me.
The attention is understandable. Curvy in all the right places, if the SRT flagship were any more voluptuously alluring, it would have to be renamed Scarlett Johansson.
Returning after a three-year absence with a complete redesign billed under Chrysler's newly spun-off SRT, or Street and Racing Technology, brand, the newest incarnation Viper is skinned, for the first time, with aluminum door panels and lightweight carbon fiber on the hood, roof and deck lid -- all of which contributed to a 100-pound weight savings over the fourth-generation model. Even the Viper logo has been redesigned with more dramatically bared fangs.
The Viper uses a slightly more powerful 8.4-liter V-10 engine mounted mid-front under a hood so dramatically elongated I had to jack up the seat just to see.
A street-legal race car, the Viper likes nothing more than speeding into a corner at 5,000 rpm, when it reaches peak torque of 600 foot-pounds -- the most of any naturally aspirated sports car in the world.
Tuned for extreme performance, with a new aluminum X brace under the hood to increase rigidity in the turns, a new dual-mode suspension system and a first-for-a-Viper stability control system, it's a machine begging to be thrashed.
Whether it's rolling on the track or poorly maintained asphalt, the suspension's intent is to keep the car hunkered. And it does. If the Viper were any more planted in the corners, it would be a tree.
While drivers have a leather steering wheel to grip, the passenger has a grab rail mounted to the center console. Both occupants are held in place with new high-performance racing seats shelled in Kevlar and industrial-strength side bolsters that keep passengers as grounded as the car in high-speed turns.
The new Viper is outfitted with a launch-control switch for quicker starts, the results of which are displayed on the dashboard. Every time the car launches from a dead stop, it starts a timer for its 0 to 60 acceleration time. The dash can also be customized to display quarter-mile times, braking distance, top speed and G-force, all of which can be stored and bragged about -- with proof -- later.
2013 SRT VIPER
Base price: $97,395
Price as tested: $120,395
Engine: 8.4-liter, mid-front V-10
Power: 640 horsepower at 6,200 rpm
Top speed: 206 mph
0 to 60: low 3-second range
Length: 175.7 inches
Wheelbase: 98.8 inches
Width: 76.4 inches
Height: 49.1 inches
Ground clearance: 5 inches
EPA estimated fuel economy: 12 mpg city, 19 highway
Bottom line: Sleek, thrilling neck-bender