The Dodge Viper has always been one of the most vicious performance cars on the road, with a huge V10 engine, rear-wheel drive and no stability control.
But now the Viper has been ever so slightly tamed, promising to be more usable and with a new name to match. Now called the SRT Viper, after Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology performance brand, the latest generation model comes with the likes of sat-nav, a plush
cabin and cruise control.
Admittedly, some things haven’t changed: there’s still a huge 8.4-litre V10 under the bonnet with exhausts that exit just behind the front door, and a look that’s as dramatic as ever. Finished in bright yellow with black stripes running down the length of the body, our Viper has got to be one of the most eye-catching cars on sale. The long bonnet, flicked rear spoiler and low-slung profile are all textbook Viper styling traits.
But while the interior of the old car was a bit bland and felt a little low-rent, the new Viper’s cabin is a huge improvement. The hand-stitched leather, soft-touch plastics and hi-tech screens lend it a feel that’s appropriate for a car that costs around £75,000.
Reassuringly, the driving experience feels as visceral as ever. Push the starter button and the 631bhp V10 bursts into life, shaking the car from side-to-side. The noisy, rough growl isn’t the kind of smooth note you get from a tuned Italian supercar, but it fits the Viper’s image. And the performance is staggering. Floor the throttle and work your way through first and second gears in the accurate gearbox, and you’ll find the Viper can accelerate from 0-60mph in around 3.5 seconds, on its way to a 206mph top speed.
It’s more civilised than the old car in a lot of different ways, though. The suspension, for example, feels a lot softer. As a result, the standard suspension is much more comfortable on an everyday basis. You don’t have to hold your breath every time you exit a quick corner anymore, either, thanks to standard traction control.
Even with a bit of steering lock on, you can begin to accelerate without the rear end stepping out. There is, of course, the option of turning the traction control off, but beware... this Viper can still bite.
As a package, this latest model is definitely more usable and accessible, and when you consider it starts from around £65,000 in the US, it sounds like a bargain.
But it’s not so appealing for British buyers. First of all, there are no plans to sell the Viper anywhere in Europe, so you’ll have to get one imported and pay all of the taxes and fees, which could add another £10k. Then, of course, there’s the fact that it will be produced only in left-hand drive. Taking into account the hassle and expense, most buyers will probably begin looking in the direction of similarly priced – and similarly quick – performance models like the Nissan GT-R.
There will be the brave few, though, who will opt for the Viper and they’ll be treated to the kind of brash drive that few cars currently on sale in Britain have any hope of matching.