Pat Devereux 18 November 2013

First drive: the SRT Viper Time Attack

Not-exactly-tardy 8.4 litre Viper gets a Time Attack upgrade. Pat Devereux reports

The SRT Viper again – haven’t we already heard all about that?

Yes, but not this one. This one is called the TA, which stands for Time Attack. The name is derived from the fact that a good chunk of Viper owners buy their cars to use almost exclusively on the growing number of private and public racetracks – over 150 at the last count – across the US. Twenty five per cent of all Viper owners admit to taking their cars to a circuit. 100 per cent, we suspect, said they enjoyed every minute of it.

So what have they done to the car to make it a TA?

Lots of swapping of key componentry. The standard SRT and GTS are already pretty handy around a track, but the TA is designed to take everything to the next level.  Most areas, other than the fifth-gen 8.4-litre engine, which remains untouched because it really doesn’t need any more power, have been reworked in some subtle way.

Such as?

Such as the engine cross brace is now carbon fibre instead of aluminium, the front and rear sway bars are now solid instead of hollow, making them over 30 per cent stiffer than standard, and the negative camber of the front and rear has been increased to improve track tyre wear. The brakes have been upgraded to lighter two-piece Brembo rotors and calipers that have a bigger bite.

The TA uses the same two-mode Bilstein suspension system fitted to the GTS, but there is less of a difference between the road and track settings as befits the mission of this model. Wheels on the TA are Sidewinder IIs, which are 31lb lighter than the standard wheels, shod with Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres. These have the biggest contact patch of any production car made today. 

The final touch, which is pretty much the only one you could guess from looking at the models side to side, is the aero. By adding a relatively modest – for a Viper – carbon fibre front splitter and rear bootlid spoiler, downforce at 150mph has increased by almost 700 per cent to 278lb. Downforce at the TA’s max speed, which at 193mph is 13mph lower than the SRT and GTS thanks to all that extra drag, is 460lb compared with the standard car’s 75lb.

But what about the weight, it’s got to be lighter, right?

Wrong. Other than the aero, the other area where the TA exerts more pressure is the weighing scales. Largely because of those solid sway bars, it weighs 12lb more than the SRT model.

How can I spot if a Viper is a TA?

To make sure no one is in any doubt which Viper you are driving, it is available in only one of three colours: 93 will be painted in TA Orange, 33 in Venom Black and 33 in Bright White.

I think I can guess what it’s like, but I’ve got to ask…

It’s better than you could imagine. We drove it around a tight autocross course and then the wide-open curves of Willow Springs Raceway. On the first track, despite its size, it immediately felt tighter, crisper and more precise than the last Viper we drove. There has been a raft of general quality improvements and detail refinements to all Vipers for the ’14 model year that shine through. But it was the turn in and neutrality of the thing that impressed there.

On the big track, it felt instantly less threatening, more manageable and just more fun than ever before. You have a greater sense what all four tyres are up to at all times, so you can add and subtract mountains of speed much more easily. I want to say it felt more benign, but that sounds ridiculous in a 640bhp child-eating monster like this, so I won’t. It’s still not an easy car to drive fast, but if you want that you are looking in the wrong place. Some people make you want to be a better person. The Viper makes you want to be a better driver.

Should I buy one?

For us, this is the quintessential Viper. The full-fat, no excuses, hair-on-fire car that the Viper is, was and always should be. You could buy one of the other versions and would probably be very happy with it. But it’s the TA that’s the bullseye for us.

The numbers:

8,400cc, 10cyl, RWD, 640bhp, 814Nm, 15 mpg, N/a g/km, 0-60mph 3.4secs, 193mph, 1,541kg

Price:

From $118,485

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.