One of the most important debuts at this week’s NYIAS – at least to enthusiasts – is the fifth iteration of Chrysler’s giant mallet, the V10 Viper. Once an over the top but unlikely production-bound show car, the original 1992 Viper was audacious not just for what it contained – a 400-horse V10 and in-your-face styling – but for what it didn’t. That original car lacked side windows, ABS, and the accommodation of a learning curve to drive. The Viper’s next strike addressed a number of these omissions, and while that car continued to be venerated as Mopar’s crowning achievement, some bemoaned its nods to civility, dunning it as being little more than Dodge’s Corvette – as though that was a bad thing.
The 2013 car has been freed from the limitations its makers seemed to think the Dodge brand contained, now being marketed as the SRT Viper. It’s styling has been overseen by Chrysler design head and extremely handsome man, Ralph Gilles, and its 8.4-litre all-alloy V10 gains 40-horses over the last generation, now pumping out 640. It also sports traction control and stability control making it less of a certain suicide mission for neophyte pilots. The new Viper’s interior also lacks the drastic plastic look of previous generations, meaning you can concentrate on things like the quality of the dashboard stitching and Nav system rather than focusing on keeping the car from killing you.
And maybe all those are good things. Perhaps it’s time for the Viper, like the rest of us, to grow up. After all, the Corvette has models that encroach on the Viper’s performance envelope while not being anywhere near as hair shirted, and Ford’s brilliant but short-production run GT is a better all around performer, with greater civility. So what’s your take on the new Viper, is its styling and feature set a step in the right – and necessary – direction? Or, is it just another car that has seen middle age move the target? Is this new range-topper a hit, or does Chrysler have a hot miss on its hands?