SRT Viper: A sleek, thrilling neck-bender

  • Article by: SUSAN CARPENTER , Orange County Register
  • Updated: June 8, 2013 - 12:10 PM

Tuned for extreme performance, the Viper is a machine begging to be thrashed.


The 2013 SRT Viper returned after a three-year absence with a complete redesign billed under Chrysler´┐Żs newly spun-off SRT, or Street and Racing Technology, brand.

Photo: Chrysler Group, Mct - Mct

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger


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 mph 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 me. Invariably, when I passed a BMW 3-Series on the freeway, that same car would speed up to pace me and smile, to which I responded as one would expect from a Viper — with a wave and a stomp of the accelerator.

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, which went out of production in 2010. Even the Viper logo has been redesigned with more dramatically bared fangs, a menacing graphic that graces the one area of the car other drivers are most likely to see: its back end.

The $99,390-plus Viper uses a slightly more powerful 8.4-liter V10 engine mounted mid-front under a hood so dramatically elongated I had to jack up the seat just to see. A new double-bubble roof ensures that taller drivers won’t inadvertently scrape their hair on the headliner. It’s designed to accommodate helmets for the Viper’s natural environment: slithering through S curves on a track.

Its pipes are as hypnotizing as a snake charmer’s. The exhaust begins with an enticing grumble at idle. By 4,000 rpm, it’s become a thrum that lodges in the base of one’s brain. By 6,000 rpm, when the engine is approaching peak horsepower, it reaches its most musical, easily heard pitch. The exhaust is literally just outside the doors. It ports to the sides instead of the back.

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.

For show-pony street driving, the suspension is a bit rough, even in its softer street mode, but it isn’t designed to soak up road imperfections. 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.

Poised as the chassis is, no one likes to be thrown around a cabin, especially one as expensive as the Viper. 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 Viper is so wide and low-slung for handling that getting in and out of the car is an art form. For 2013, the seats are situated an inch lower than the last model. Any lower, and I’d feel like a dog swiping his hindquarters on the grass.

The legroom has likewise expanded dramatically, by 3½ inches — a feat enabled by pushing the cabin even further back in the Viper’s long and low chassis.

Speed signs aren’t a warning in the Viper. They’re a dare to double them. A coiled snake tightly wound for attack, its acceleration is instantaneous, though it requires some double leg work to tap into its power.

The Viper is the rare supercar to use a manual transmission rather than paddle shifters. Being a motorcyclist, I prefer the engagement of operating a clutch with a foot and a shifter with the hand while also managing the steering, even if paddle shifters are more convenient and faster-acting. A Viper standard, the six-speed manual has been updated with a shorter throw of the shifter stick, though the clutch feels extraordinarily long.

The new Viper includes steering wheel controls for the usual features, such as audio and Bluetooth, as well as something less usual: It’s 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.

Averaging 15 mpg combined, fuel economy isn’t as abysmal as one would expect for a car that bites pretty much anything else on the road. Even thinking about fuel economy while driving the Viper reminds me of my interview with Evel Knievel shortly before he died, when I inquired about the fuel economy of his motorcycle-toting RV.

“If you have to ask,” he told me, “you can’t afford it.”

  • 2013 SRT VIPER

    Powertrain: All-aluminum, 8.4-liter, mid-front V-10, OHV, rear-wheel-drive, 6-speed manual transmission

    Horsepower: 640 at 6,200 rpm

    Torque: 600 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm

    Top speed: 206 mph

    0 to 60 acceleration: 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 city, 19 highway, 15 combined

    Base price: $97,395

    Price as tested: $120,395

    All prices exclude destination charges.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Denver 3:25 PM
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters