TopGear.com04 April 2012

Dodge reveals SRT Viper in New York

Is this America’s most important performance car of the decade?

After months of teasing and speculation, Dodge has just whipped the covers off its most important performance car of the decade - the Viper. And it's all grown up.

Well, sort of. There's still a pleasingly juvenile aircraft carrier-length bonnet on top of a massive V10 engine, cab-back driving position and a side-exit exhaust. But the latest iteration's lighter, stiffer, more advanced, easier to drive and slightly more pleasant inside.

See more pics of the Dodge SRT Viper

There's a carbon fibre bonnet, roof and boot lid, which has whittled weight down to 1455kg, some 55 kilos lighter than the old car, and a huge 50 per cent stiffer. And there's an upgraded version of Dodge's 8.4-litre V10 producing - in basic form - 640bhp and 600lb ft of torque. That makes it the torqueiest naturally aspirated engine to be fitted to a sports car... ever.

The engine's all-aluminium block's been strengthened, and it gets a lighter intake manifold and a re-jigged version of the Tremec six-speed manual. Not cutting-edge tech, but a huge lunge forward for the Viper.

The characteristically playful handling from decades of Vipers has also been scrutinized. The regular car gets uprated Bilstein dampers, while the more race-focused GTS model gets a two-stage adjustable ‘Damptronic' system that you can switch from ‘Street' to ‘Track' setting.

But inside is where there's the biggest surprise - it's actually luxurious. And not just ‘luxurious for a Viper' either. The cow peelings are soft and sumptuous, the stereo is by Harman Kardon, the abundance of screens are TFT, there's not a solitary centimeter of wibbly stitching. There's also 40mm more headroom and 90mm more legroom. This is a car you could feasibly use every day, not just when you fancy peering over the edge of existence.

This car represented a tough balancing act for SRT: keeping its essential... Viperishness while attracting a new breed of buyers who loved what the old car stood for but found the reality a little intimidating. Judging by our first meeting, Dodge might just have nailed it. And we can't wait to have a go.

And for full and exclusive access to America's most important performance car of the decade, you need next month's Top Gear magazine: on sale 25 April

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