2014 SRT Viper GTS Review: A Supercar That Defies Commonality
Noisy, inefficient, flashy. Those are just three words boring, practical folks would use to describe the SRT Viper. But who gives a damn, I’m neither of those things. I like attention, I like the rumble of an 8.4-liter V10 at my feet, and I like the challenge of venturing into single-digit-MPG fuel economy. At $130K, the SRT Viper GTS isn't your average American sportscar. When we got behind the wheel of this monster machine, it was all thrills and no frills. Details, Details, Details
It takes 18 hours to paint the stripe on top of a production Viper. It takes even longer to wet sand, clear, and then wet sand again before painting. And much longer than that to fully develop the superformed aluminum doors (which is a first for Chrysler).
“We’re handmade,” said SRT CEO Ralph Gilles in a recent interview. “We’re trying to build a custom show car that you can own.” That line kept ringing through my head every time I carefully slithered my way into the drivers seat. In top-spec GTS trim, the high-quality leather, elegant touchscreen infotainment system, digital gauge cluster, short-throw shifter and racing bucket seat stitched with the SRT logo on the headrests were all stunning. The presentation of performance and power gave me goosebumps even at rest.
It lived up to the hype.
Inside, it was so clean and oh so precise — it made doubly and triply priced Ferraris and Lamborghinis look silly, to put it bluntly, and it’s American. Considering that SRT has Chrysler engineers at its disposal, who spend their days thinking of ways to make comfortable daily drivers, the cabin of the Viper trounces the European exotics.
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Outside wasn’t much different. We received a red model with black wheels, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way (ok, maybe the black on black would have been nice). It kept that signature Viper style of the long hood and short back, but made it modern and sophisticated. Not to mention that aforementioned immensely detailed paint job.
640 Horses Trying to Escape
Let’s talk about performance, shall we? It’s got 640 horsepower, and at 8.4-liters, it's the largest engine in any car to date. Simple enough. But how is all that power managed?
Think about this — when you lift up the hood and that monster of an engine is staring right back at you, caged behind a massive extruded-aluminum X-brace, it gets the blood pumping. That much power, in a car only slightly bigger than an FR-S, sent to the rear wheels, and handled via a short-throw six-speed gearbox — It's intoxicating, but it's no walk in the park.
Steering is natural but not soft, gas is heavy, and on day three my left leg started to tighten a pinch. Never skip leg day. But it’s a bonafied supercar — it handles well enough, and transforms into a slithering beast at 5,000 rpm. Yes it has navigation and satellite radio and all you would expect in something costing more than your house. But all that comes second to the g-forces you experience behind the wheel.
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Track Toy, or Road Warrior?
The Viper may put down the power, but for the first few days it was really hard to understand exactly what it was. It sure as hell wasn't a Corvette counterpart — but at the same time, it wasn't really in the performance realm of Ferrari or Lamborghini either.
Yes, at 640 horsepower that 8.4-liter V10 does put out more than the Ferrari 458 and close to the same as the Lamborghini Aventador. But it wasn’t nearly as refined. It needed to be shaped and handled by the person behind the wheel, not the computer systems inside of it.
It didn’t have the same visceral experience of Vipers of past either, but it did still feel very “American.” Rough around the edges, but in the right hands, one of the most potent and rewarding supercars on the market. Hell, it laid down the fastest lap time at Laguna Seca last year (by someone who really knows how to handle it).
So what is the Viper? Does it have an identity? Yes and no.
The one thing that has always drawn me to the SRT brand is its drive to be different. I met Ralph Gilles last year, and he was one of the most sincere, whole-hearted gearheads working in the industry. He’s not afraid to tell you what’s on his mind.
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If there’s one thing the new Viper emanates then, it’s the SRT brand and CEO Ralph Gilles. It’s unfiltered, unwilling to conform (at least for now), and ready to be the best damn American supercar you’ve ever seen. And it succeeds exponentially.
The Viper wasn’t built for 50-year-old men amidst a mid-life crisis, It was built for the enthusiast. It was built for someone who likes to hear the clanking of gears between their fingers and the rumble of a V10 at their feet. It was built for someone who wants to lift up that carbon fiber hood and watch grown men squeal like little children at the sight of it. It’s not a car, it’s an emotion, and it was built with a passion and a drive to be different.
It’s a Viper, and that’s all it ever should be.
Engine: 8.4L V10
Price (as tested): $129,630
Fun as hell
Refined driving dynamics
Pricey with options
Not made for tall people
PHOTOS: See More of the 2014 SRT Viper GTS
Photo Credit: Jeff Perez for BoldRide