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Snake Bit: Driving the 2013 SRT Viper

Worth the wait.

by on Dec.07, 2012

The 2013 SRT Viper and a 2010 Dodge Viper ACR face off at the Chrysler Proving Grounds.

The official unveiling of the 2013 SRT Viper at last spring’s New York Auto Show was a boisterous affair. Despite the loud applause, though, there were a few quick to razz the new sports car for looking like little more than a clone of the old coupe. True, the designs are strikingly similar – until you see them sitting side-by-side.  The new Viper is no carbon copy, nor is it the rebadged Alfa Romeo many had anticipated in those dark days between the time the old car was pulled from production, in 2010, and word began to leak out that an all-new model was in the works.

Ironically, some of those who loved the old design are also wondering what to make of the 2013 Viper.  The concept behind the original 1992 roadster was to come up with a car that was as raw, even brutal, as possible.  There were none of the usual amenities. Not even anti-lock brakes or airbags.  In a rainstorm it was easier to get drenched than try to install the fold-up vinyl “toupette.” But few cars of the era could come close to matching that first Viper’s pure fun-to-drive factor.

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With the addition of the first GTS Coupe and a subsequent list of limited amenities, the Viper did become – dare we say it – a bit more refined over the years. But what to expect from the new one, developed by an all-new management team and subject to new mandates requiring such “niceties” as airbags and electronic stability control? That’s what set out to discover as we headed over to the Chrysler Proving Ground in Chelsea, Michigan for our first drive.


Only Select Dealers to Get New SRT Viper

As few as 1 in 20 will get revived supercar.

by on Sep.21, 2012

The SRT Viper undergoing testing. Production begins in autumn, dealers officially launching sales in November.

If you’ve been saving your pennies for the return of Chrysler’s supercar, the all-new SRT Viper you now may be in for a search to find a dealer.

Letters are now going out to Chrysler’s 2,300 U.S. dealers letting them know whether or not they’ve been chosen to carry the reborn supercar.  The maker hints the number that have been approved will ultimately come to more than 100 to 150.

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That’s a turnaround from earlier plans.  When the maker revealed the reborn Viper, last spring, it initially indicated most retailers would be offering it.  But Chrysler apparently recognized that would create problems considering it only plans to produce about 2,000 of the 2-seaters annually, or less than one for each of its dealers.


First Look: 2013 SRT Viper

The snake charms again.

by on Apr.04, 2012

SRT chief Ralph Gilles - also Chrysler's corporate design chief, plants a welcome kiss on the new SRT Viper.

It’s the rare automaker that can keep secrets, but Chrysler pulled off a coup by keeping the covers on the reborn Dodge Viper up until the very moment the 2-seat supercar made its debut at the opening press day of the 2012 New York Auto Show.

Make that the SRT Viper, because the 2013 model will wear the badge of Chrysler’s Street Racing Team division when it returns to showrooms this year.  And it will live up to the full meaning of that name.  With its 640-horsepower V-10, Chrysler expects the 2013 Viper to dominate on both the street and the track, with the new model set to enter the American Le Mans Series.

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The launch of the snake is clearly one of the highlights of this year’s show, an overflow crowd struggling to get a look at the long-nosed sports car.  All but jumping for joy, Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s chief corporate designer and the head of the SRT division, recalled the improbable story of the fight to revive the Viper – which former owners Cerberus tried to sell in the months leading up to the maker’s 2009 bankruptcy.

“It’s huge that we’re here today,” proclaimed Gilles. “It’s like being pregnant for 24 months.”


Dodge Offers First Tease of Reborn Viper

Hints of retro for snake charmer.

by on Jan.31, 2012

Dodge offers a first hint of what's to come when the Viper makes its return.

With the reborn Dodge Viper scheduled to make its return debut at the upcoming New York Auto Show, the Detroit maker is offering a first vague hint of what’s to come in the form of this stylized silhouette on the SRT Facebook fan page.

The original Viper roadster,  designed to be a pure American muscle car, not even offering anti-lock brakes or airbags in its original incarnation.  A coupe roof was grudgingly added in 1996, with ABS, airbags and a few other niceties eventually becoming part of the package.  But from Day One, the snake was all about muscle and that’s expected to remain the heart-and-soul of the all-new Dodge Viper when it finally returns to showrooms next year.

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The front-view teaser suggests the design is a bit retro, though the new version of the Viper will be all-new, this time with a platform borrowed from Fiat’s Maserati division – though it is expected to feature a unique-to-Viper engine.