2014 SRT Viper

The fire-breathing Viper sports car is back for a fifth generation, although this time around it's ditched the Dodge nameplate and is instead marketed as an SRT model. While it gains a more refined interior and a number of technology and safety features in order to appeal to a larger audience, the latest Viper still possesses the arresting styling, supercar performance and wild character of the original.

Recent Updates
After completing redesigning the Viper for the previous model year, SRT is this year releasing a limited-production, track-focused Viper Time Attack (TA) model that features upgraded tires, unique wheels, aerodynamic add-ons and several other performance tweaks. The automaker also added a new package called Grand Touring that aims to bring GTS features to the base model Viper.

This Snake Packs Venom
Under the Viper's long hood is the hand-built, all-aluminum 8.4-liter V10 that Viper owners have come to know, love and fear in their SRT-powered snakes. In its latest form it delivers 640 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque, giving it the most torque of any naturally aspirated production car engine in the world. Improvements to make those numbers possible include a new, ultra-high flow and lightweight composite intake manifold, high-strength forged pistons, sodium-filled exhaust valves, new catalysts to reduce back pressure and an aluminum flywheel that reduces reciprocating losses.

Despite all of the upgrades to the engine, SRT engineers actually managed to shed over 25 lbs of weight - just from the engine. In terms of the entire vehicle, roughly 100 lbs have been dropped, partially due to the all-new aluminum and carbon fiber body. Returning to the powertrain, the 8.4-liter V10 is mated to a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission with an improved short-throw shifter and final gear ratios that have been tightened from 3.07 to 3.55.

For the tiny minority of potential Viper buyers who care about fuel economy, the snake returns an SRT-estimated 13 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway - not bad for a 640-horsepower sports car.

SRT stiffened the structure and chassis of the latest Viper by 50 percent, much of which was adapted from the previous GTS-R race cars. Some of that strength comes from a new aluminum "X" brace under the hood that connects the front suspension to the magnesium cowl super casting.

In the rear of the car, SRT's engineers developed a new setup that locates the toe link forward of the axle for better tow control and dynamic stability. Thanks to federal law changes, the latest Viper also comes standard with electronic stability control and traction control, both of which are fully defeatable for truly brave drivers. There is also a steering wheel-mounted launch control switch for optimal acceleration runs.

Power is transferred to the ground via Pirelli P Zero, Z-rated tires that SRT promises to deliver substantially improved overall performance, cold weather performance, enhanced overall grip and steering response. There is also an SRT Track Package that features P Zero Corsa tires, which are "soft"-tuned and more of a racing compound, intended to deliver optimal track performance at the expense of longevity.

Bringing this snake to a stop are four-piston Brembo brakes with fixed-aluminum calipers and 355mm vented rotors on all four corners. Opt for the Track Package and those brakes will be swapped out for lighter slotted two-piece rotors from StopTech.

More Luxurious Interior
Getting with the changing times, the latest Viper boasts a significantly more comfortable, stylized and attractive interior. But don't think SRT went too soft on the interior: they also made a point of creating a very driver-focused cockpit-style layout to help drivers extract the most out of their car with minimal distraction.

All major interior surfaces are sewn and wrapped with additional padding applied in comfort areas, while triple-paint-finished Gun Metal appliques can be found on the cluster bezel, HVAC outlets, window switch bezels, shifter base, park brake bezel and the integrated passenger grab handle on the center console.

Relaying vital information is a seven-inch, customizable instrument cluster display with a full-time analog tachometer readout in the center to confirm the performance driving feedback philosophy of the Viper. Drivers have a wide range of custom and personal options such as an additional digital speedometer readout just below the tachometer.

The center stack houses Chrysler Group's Uconnect Access infotainment system (for a complete description of Uconnect Access, check out Leftlane's Spotlight On: Uconnect article).

Generally regarded as one of the more user-friendly infotainment setups on the market, Uconnect Access integrates most of the snake's audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. An 8.4-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard is the central component of the system, but redundant buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included.

Uconnect Access featres a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.

Despite its more luxurious trappings and high-tech features, the Viper's cabin still has one major flaw - seats that many drivers regard as seriously uncomfortable. Built by Italian company Sabalt, they look sleek and purposeful, but are quite firm and lacking in necessary upper-body support.

The misshapen thrones - along with an extremely stiff suspension - mean the Viper is best left in the garage when the time comes for a long road trip.

Trim Level Breakdown
The Viper is offered in two forms: a "base" model and a GTS trim level.

Standard features on the base model include a nine-speaker AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM stereo system with AUX/USB inputs and an SD card reader, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, Uconnect infotainment system with 8.4-inch touchscreen, LED daytime running lights and taillights, bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch front wheels and 19-inch front wheels.

The standard Viper can be upgraded with the Grand Touring package, which adds a rearview camera, voice-controlled navigation functionality for the Uconnect system along with real-time traffic updates and SiriusXM travel info,

The GTS trim brings the Grand Touring package's features in addition to unique leather upholstery with contrasting stitching, faux-suede seat inserts, a power-adjustable driver's seat and a 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon premium audio system. A model-specific hood with two vents (as opposed to the base model's six) in addition to unique wheels are also included. On the functional end, the GTS adds a four-mode traction and stability control system and two-mode Bilstein dampers that allow for both extreme track performance and more friendly daily-driving comfort.

For those seeking extra luxury, the GTS can be spec'd with a Laguna Interior package that includes higher-grade leather and faux suede headliner.

Both cars are available with an SRT Track package that brings two-piece lightweight brake rotors, lightweight wheels and extremely sticky P Zero Corsa tires. An Advanced Aerodynamics package tacks on carbon-fiber front splitters and a carbon-fiber ear spoiler.

Other options include numerous different wheel designs, exterior stripes, interior and exterior Carbon Fiber packages and an 18-speaker Harmon/Kardon sound system with Logic 7 surround-sound.

GTS Launch Edition
SRT is offering a limited-production Viper GTS Launch edition that features a number of distinctive aesthetic and luxury touches.

The Launch stands out from regular Viper models thanks to a GTS Blue paint job and contrasting Bright White racing stripes. Viper afectionados will immediately recognize the two-tone motif because it was used in 1996 and in 2006 on previous Launch Edition models.

To further differentiate itself from the rest of the lineup, the Launch Edition features model-specific five-spoke wheels that are made out of forged aluminum. The finishing touch is a blue Stryker emblem on the hood.

Inside, the Launch Edition's seats, dashboard, center console and door panels are all upholstered in black Laguna leather with contrast stitching. The car's serial number is engraved on a dash-mounted plaque.

Viper Track Attack
Intended to be the maximum expression of the Viper's race course prowess, the Track Attack (TA) starts life as the base Viper and adds firmed-up versions of the GTS trim's adjustable Bilstein dampers in addition to the Aerodynamics Package and the Track Package (both detailed above). The suspension also receives additional modifications in the form of track-optimized springs and anti-roll bars, while the standard aluminum engine bay X-brace is replaced with a carbon fiber piece.

The TA's exterior is painted in a model-specific, visible-from-space Crusher Orange hue that's also echoed in the interior trim. The seats can be fitted with a three- or a six-point harness for track use. Finally, TA emblems mounted behind the rear wheels and a black Stryker emblem on the hood wrap up the treatment.

Grand Touring package
The Grand Touring package aims to bring comfort and performance features borrowed from the more expensive Viper GTS to the base-model. The package consists of sport seats upholstered in premium Nappa leather, a track-friendly five-mode Electronic Stability Control system and a Blistein-designed two-mode DampTronic Select suspension.

Grand Touring cars can be ordered in Stryker Green or Venom Black.

Occupant Safety
All Viper models come standard with front airbags in addition to traction control and federally-mandated stability control. However, side and side-curtain airbags, which are standard fare on nearly every other new car on the market, are not available.

Key Competitors
Those looking for a high-performance ride with loads of curbside appeal should consider Viper alternatives such as the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Audi R8.