Under the Hood
Let's get the drivetrain specs out of the way first: The 2013 SRT Viper has rear-wheel-drive with a 10-cylinder, 8.4-liter engine that can generate 640-horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque. The SRT engineers say it has the potential to hit a top speed of 206 miles per hour (331.5 kilometers per hour). That would be the "racing" part of Street and Racing Technology. As you know, there aren't many streets in the United States where 206 miles per hour (331.5 kilometers per hour) would be legal -- but there are quite a few where it would be lethal.
That's one heck of an engine, and it's a lot more powerful than anything you would have seen from Detroit as recently as just two decades ago. The 1992 Dodge Viper only had a 400-horsepower engine and maxed out at 150 miles per hour (241.4 kilometers per hour), though that was still about three times faster than you could have gone on the local freeway without a speeding ticket (and possibly helicopter video coverage on the evening news). In putting this new drivetrain together, SRT had to make some compromises, but they've tried to make them as subtle as possible, so classic Viper drivers won't notice that a computer is monitoring their car's every move. For a large contingency of its owners, part of the Viper's charm has always been its unruliness, its all American refusal to adopt the domesticated charm of its European counterparts. Make the ride too smooth and these owners might feel that somebody has made the Viper downright prissy. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has made this somewhat difficult by mandating ABS braking and traction control. In other words, the 2013 SRT Viper has to feature computer-controlled smoothness -- whether owners want it or not. The SRT Viper will, however, allow you to simply turn stability control off (a feature that's been possible for several years). There's also launch control for racers who want to get moving as rapidly as possible from a standing start. And for drivers with more refined tastes, those who prefer a smoother, more European driving style, SRT offers a pricier GTS model with two-way adjustable shocks and sound-dampening equipment to keep the roar of that 640-horsepower engine from drowning out any Brahms that might be playing on the satellite radio system.
What else? The SRT Viper has 14-inch (35.6-centimeter) disc brakes and Pirelli tires. A lightweight aluminum flywheel makes the engine rev faster, a six-speed manual transmission with improved gear ratios and a lighter body and chassis. Oh, and it's faster than the older Viper, too -- for several reasons. One is that 640-horsepower engine. Another is that the body has been streamlined for a lower drag coefficient and the engine has variable-valve-timing. And the base model is 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms) lighter than the old one. This is a car that screams both sleekness and power without too much loss of American ruggedness.
But what about the one feature of the old Viper that probably drew the most owner complaints: Its interior? Yeah, that's had a work over, too.