Snakes alive! The Viper is back

Published Apr 5, 2012


After an unprecedented build-up and some very carefully orchestrated 'leaks' the fifth-generation Viper finally made its official debut on Wednesday at the New York Auto Show.

Whether the car - now badged as an SRT to help define Chrysler's performance division as a brand in its own right - will live up to the hype only time will tell, but one thing is certain: this is one serious muscle car.

Two versions of the Viper - the standard version and the Viper GTS with two-mode active suspension and more upmarket trim - will be hand built at the Conner Avenue assembly plant in Detroit - the home of the Viper since 1995.


Nevertheless, any performance car is really all about the engine - in this case the proven, 8.4-litre all-aluminium pushrod V10, upgraded with a new, high flow, lightweight composite intake manifold, high-strength forged pistons, sodium-filled exhaust valves, new catalysts to reduce back pressure and an aluminium flywheel, knocking more than 11kg off the weight of the complete engine.

Chrysler quotes 477kW and a tar-twisting 814Nm - the most torque of any naturally aspirated car engine in production, it says. The Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission has been updated with a shorter throw, closer ratios and a shorter final drive (down from 3.07 to 3.55).

Taking a leaf out of the superbike performance manual, the Viper now hits its top speed (which Chrysler carefully doesn't mention) right on the redline at 6200rpm.


The chassis has been stiffened with a new aluminium 'X' brace under the bonnet hood that ties the upper suspension mounts to the magnesium firewall casting, while other areas of the chassis have been reworked to take advantage of new materials, reducing thickness in some areas and reshaping components for more structural rigidity in others.

The carbon-fibre bonnet, roof and boot lid, and aluminium door panels are firsts for Viper, resulting in an overall weight saving of about 45kg.

A two-mode suspension system with Bilstein DampTronic shock absorbers is standard on GTS models.

For the first time on a Viper, electronic stability control and traction control are standard, as is a steering wheel-mounted launch-control switch.

Four-piston Brembo brakes with vented 355mm discs and monobloc callipers are used at all four corners, and the Viper has five-spoke, forged-aluminium rims while the GTS runs split six-spoked forged hoops. An optional track package throws in ultra-lightweight, race-spec rims.


There's no hard plastic in a Viper cockpit anymore: all the major surfaces are wrapped and stitched with extra padding in 'comfort areas' - and on the GTS, all those surfaces are leather.

Lightweight Sabelt kevlar/fibreglass racing seats provide improved thigh support and deep side bolsters; seating position is 20mm lower and seat travel has been extended 90mm by moving the rear bulkhead to stretch the cockpit. Seat height can now be adjusted by up to 40 mm - manually on the standard model and electrically on the GTS.

The 180mm, full-colour virtual instrument panel has a full-time rev-counter in the centre - everything else can be configured by the driver, controlled through a simple four-way steering-wheel control.

The Viper also comes with a choice of two connectivity systems for access to information, emergency services and entertainment, driven by an 215mm touch-screen and a set of hard keys for commonly used functions, including traditional knobs for radio tuning and volume.

The new steering wheel has fingertip controls for audio, cruise control (a first for Viper) and launch control.

Sound is provided by Harman Kardon, with Logic 7 surround sound and 18 speakers in the GTS, including four subwoofers behind the seats.

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