Riding the Snake: The 2014 SRT Viper Review

Satan’s hot rod returns to terrorise a new generation of unsuspecting drivers

By Imthishan Giado

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Crash! Boom! Pow! Wallop! Smash! Crash! This mixture of adjective and comic-book noises are the only words you really need to describe the 2014 SRT Viper.

Hyperbole? Another heap of exaggeration from a bored auto-jotter? In this instance, the hype is completely justified. The SRT Viper – yes, I have to call it SRT though it’ll always be the Dodge Viper to me – lives up to its billing of being the maddest, baddest car on the planet, a legendary demon that emerges once in a full moon from the depths of the darkness.

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Actually, demon might be the wrong creature choice: succubus is more fitting. Of all the Vipers released since 1992, this fifth generation car is easily the most alluring. I’m not one for this new Euro-craze of fecund slashes and scoops to liven up dull three box shapes; give me this mad, steroid-influenced body any day of the week, with its full hips, gaping maw and coiled profile. Where most supercars recede into the background after a few days, it’s impossible to ignore the Viper.

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Classic proportions, really. Long hood, short deck and a cabin that practically sits on the rear axle. This is how they designed cars to look in the ‘60s, back when ‘mid-engine’ was a phrase that would send Enzo Ferrari into a conniption fit. Where the new Corvette is a creation of science and math, the Viper is unashamedly old school: the biggest imaginable engine, the leathery aerodynamic profile of an Adidas Predator, a caveman-like six-speed manual and to put it all down, the widest rear tyres on sale today(355/30ZR19s for those curious).

Simple the formula may be, but the execution is anything but. Take that stunning, luscious Stryker red paintjob for instance. You’ll think twice about parking it next to another car in the mall after you learn that the paint takes nearly 120 hours to apply – by hand naturally.

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Creature comforts

I’ve had the privilege of sitting in a few Vipers over the years, all of which are linked by one common trait: truly crap interiors. All change for this VX generation which boasts Italian levels of luxury with full contrast stitching, a fibreglass-and-kevlar ultra-lightweight Sabelt racing seat and more computing power in one instrument panel than in the entirety of the 1992 car. For what is essentially a hand built car, everything seems put together well, there are no creaks or groans (unlike say, a certain Aston Martin).

As always, be mindful of the side-mounted exhausts which can easily burn an unwary ankle when clambering inside. For such a big car, once you’re inside the Viper is a cramped, claustrophobic space, the roof arcing severely into your field of vision, the fat transmission tunnel dominating the centre of the cabin. Despite this, there’s a fair amount of headroom for taller driver and though the steering wheel doesn’t telescope, power-actuated pedals mean most can find a comfortable seat position. And despite the aggressive bolstering, the Sabelt seat can accommodate most love handles.

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Like all modern Chrysler products, the Viper is well loaded up with toys. There’s the usual power everything, dual auto climate control and superb 8.4” touch screen with Garmin-based navigation with USB and SD ports galore, in addition to an 18-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system. New to Viper is a digital instrument panel; like the Corvette the speedometer remains analogue but the tach is a screen capable of displaying an bewildering amount of information, from tyre temperatures to quarter mile times and more fuel economy information than you can shake a stick at.

The main touchscreen also has a set of special SRT apps for timing your hot laps, but the best one is a screen that allows you to see how much power the Viper’s monster motor is developing at any moment. On the highway, it just takes 25bhp to keep this snake cruising at 120kph – cool eh?

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Since rear visibility is non-existent, there’s thankfully a rear view camera to maintain your sanity. Long distance comfort is reasonably OK if you’re the driver, less so if you’re a passenger; the transmission tunnel cuts sharply into right hand leg room. Hope you like an Italian seating position of lounging to the right! But if you’re planning to use the Viper as a long distance car you must be barkers, as I’m about to explain.

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Taming the Snake

Right, that’s enough waffling about plastics and leather.  What’s the Viper like to drive? M-A-D. Even the startup is an experience. Hold the button (no one touch starts bucko, this ain’t a Prado) and the whole car shakes as the gigantic 640bhp 8.4.-litre V10 wakes into life like a bear stirred unwanted from winter slumber. The noise is rough, guttural, like Bob Dylan clearing his throat. Not a sexy, tuned noise but one that reminds you that demons always lurk at the edge of the darkness.

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Push in on the heavy clutch, slot the notchy Tremec gearbox in first and you’re away. The Viper actually flatters the lesser manual driver because with this much inertia, it’s almost impossible to stall. The gearbox is super notchy but precise in the lower gears; once you pass fourth it can be hard to find fifth and sixth gears, so closely are they stacked together.

Your first moments with the Viper will be dominated by the torque of that V10. At 1500rpm, it’s already putting out 450lb ft of twisting force, more than enough to keep up with traffic on the autobahn. What’s impressive is the response: for such a big lump, the slightest prod rewards you with instant forward motion. Big it may be but the Viper feels ready to go, all day, every day.

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Such is the torque that you can drive the Viper like an auto – leave it in the sixth, lazily blast past drifts of slow-moving 100kph traffic with practiced insouciance. But you won’t be relaxed at all because the exhausts are loud – incredibly loud. Most cars have a cruising mode which tamps down boom, but at 120kph the Viper has a boom reverberating through your spine, made strangely worse if you’re a passenger. Couple that with a stiff ride even in its softest suspension setting and well, it’s not a grand tourer, though fuel consumption at 18.7L/100km was surprisingly acceptable.

Here’s the glorious thing about the Viper, though. While other pseudo-supercars do the cruising thing so well that driving around town feels pointless, the Viper is enormous fun even when you’re going from place to place. The exhaust booms and echoes, the car squats on its fat haunches and then takes off, the steering feels meaty and heavy: it’s a full 360-degree experience and the best part is, you won’t even be breaking 100kph the entire time.

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God help you if you do, though because the Viper does not forgive fools. Again, unlike most new supercars there is no hand holding, no ‘comfort’ mode. Once you start winding that V10 towards its 6200 rpm redline, it’s like the Dept of Homeland Security has raised the terror from yellow to red as the Viper gathers speed with all the grace of a charging rhino that’s been stung by a bee. 640bhp? You’d better believe it.

At 4000rpm, the noise was enough to break the 100-decibel limit of my iPhone sound level app (crash it, actually) the sound pressure actually starting to cause physical pain. At 4500rpm, just when the Viper’s speedo scrolls through triple-digital speeds, everything goes suddenly quiet, there’s a momentary pause. Then, some unholy bastard child of VTEC kicks in as the big SRT lunges forward even faster rushing towards the redline like the oncoming End of Days. They say there’s a 6200rpm redline…but even at 7k on the tach, it just kept going!

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This is performance resolutely of the old school: killer straight line, trying to kill you in the corners. Oh yes it does, the Viper is not a friendly handler at all. I guarantee that you will not have the testicular fortitude (or oestrogen-fuel insanity, ladies) to chuck this thing through the bends because it is a very, very scary car indeed. The sheer length of it means that you have to plan your entry point, there’s a fair amount of understeer and there isn’t a whole amount of feedback either, so it’s all a bit of an adventure! Thankfully, the back end is planted so securely on those enormous 355s that you never worry about the tail stepping out at triple digit corner speeds.

Let me tell you the secret to driving the Viper fast and banishing that pesky understeer: you have to gulp down a heady cocktail of bravery and world-class precision. Take this thing by the scruff of the neck and turn in as hard as you dare. Believe – believe! – that the front end will bite and you’ll sail through at the desired velocity. Forget about mid corner adjustability or mobility of the rear end – you want to achieve maximum downforce, clean apexes and a complete lack of drama.

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Contrary to what you might think, you can apply more throttle through a bend though I wouldn’t recommend going flat out unless you have some sort of deathwish. The traction control largely stays out of your way, regardless of the mode you have active and when it does intervene, it’s a bit sudden and harsh. Much like the Viper in general, really. Race mode for the suspension? Well it’s there as an option but not one you can use anywhere besides the billiard-table blacktop of a proper racetrack, on road it’s too harsh, bouncing you off minor undulations and losing traction.

Brakes? Plenty of stopping power, plenty of feel as well. Steering? Not the last word in feel but it responds quickly to your inputs. Handling-wise, it’s not built to compete with Germany’s finest though I have no doubt that in the hands of an racing ace, it’ll do just fine. No, it’s meant to scare you silly, every time, all the time.

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Verdict

‘Response’ is really the best way to sum up the Viper; in a world where cars are increasingly becoming remote, the Viper remains a blood-raw experience, an unrepentant savage in a land of sophisticates.

Undoubtedly, it’s an expensive thrill. At a starting price of AED600k, the Viper borders on 911 Turbo prices and honestly, it’s not as fast or dynamically capable as that blown monster. The cynical might also suggest that this is merely a muscle car, dressed up in a finely-tailored Italian suit.

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But that would be missing the point. This is not just any muscle car – this is the goddamn king of the muscle cars, the kind of automobile that you tell your grandkids about in tones of awe. This isn’t the latest in a long line of German coupes with interchangeable names and letters, built to satisfy a market niche. This is the Viper. It exists as it is, wild and untamed and only you can decide whether you have what it takes to own such an unforgettable, legendary creature.

I’m betting you know the answer already.

2014 SRT Viper GTS

Price:
AED600,000
Engine: 8.4-litre ten-cylinder. 640bhp @ 6200rpm, 600lb ft @ 5000rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 3.3 secs, 331kph, 15.2L/100km (est)
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 1495kg

Post by Motoring Middle East.

It scared Shahzad so much, that he ran away from it!

Let us know what you think of the Viper below. 

Check out Shahzad’s MASSIVE gallery of Viper images below!

11 responses to “Riding the Snake: The 2014 SRT Viper Review”

  1. Utk says:

    Great review, Imthishan!
    Straight to the point: The Viper, or… the Maser GT Sport(The car you guys absolutely… loved?)?

  2. admin says:

    [Shahzad] It’s the only car ever to inspire me to write poetry!!
    What do you think of my efforts:

    You hear it before you see it.
    A guttural roar preceding its gleeful emergence from the deepest depths of your darkest dormant desires – the ones you’ll never admit to.
    Ferocious, unfettered, unforgiving, this demon agent of the devil itself, lunges forth with the force of an unhinged locomotive, thrusting mercilessly, unrelentingly at a horizon already quivering in fear of the oncoming dread.
    Madness in a motorcar, possessed of a soul so overpowering that blurred surrounds collapse in heaps of helpless submission, succumbing to the overwhelming thunder of an unstoppable force of fear.
    That hissing you hear is smug satanic satisfaction.
    In passing the staccato of its voodoo heart beats out of a rhythmic chant: be afraid… be very afraid.
    And only men of sturdy resolve dare pick up the disdainfully thrown gauntlet.
    The beast is real. The beast lives. The beast is amongst us.
    Praise the Lord.

    • Utk says:

      You, sir, are just great (No pun intended). That, is the most charming piece of contemporary (automotive) poetry I’ve ever read.
      Actually, that would be one hell good of a commercial (advertisement) piece. No seriously, not just the manufacturers if you show it to them, but anyone will be uber impressed. And that face they put on when they get to know you’re not a poet by profession, AH! I just can’t stop grinning. ^_^ Why don’t you publish it, or seriously consider selling it to the manufacturers? Just a suggestion you must consider.

      Oh, and for getting that poetry out of you, I must get something too. How about a ride in the beast itself? 😉 Or something close to that???

      • admin says:

        [Shahzad] LOL – thanks, you’re soooo kind!
        A ride in the beast? Only if you’re willing to sell your soul to the devil 😉

        • Utk says:

          Oh and I totally forgot to add that while I was reading your poetry, I could imagine it being said by Vin Diesel (I know poetry doesn’t suit him, but its his voice :O) and it was just, mesmerizing.

          In Reply: Kind? Whatever I said was just too less. I was searching for words then, and still am!
          Oh and I’m serious about the ride part though, seriously. I’m seriously serious! (LOL)
          And if you do mean it, don’t worry, I can convince the devil, you can leave that to me!
          😉

  3. Utk says:

    Well the above reply of yours left me quite confused, admin.
    If its Shahzad, then you mean talk to The Devil? Or who?

    If its Imthishan, do you mean you’ll talk to Shahzad about it? If so, tell him I’m waiting for an invite!
    And I’d also asked my first question to you. (First question of the article).

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