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Dodge reveals SRT Viper in New York

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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