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2013 SRT Viper First Drive Page 3

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Of course, the GTS isn't the Viper we'd pick for ourselves. Our tastes lead us to the standard $97,395 SRT Viper with the optional SRT Track Pack, which adds the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires in place of standard P Zeros, two-piece StopTech brake rotors with Brembo calipers, ultra-lightweight Sidewinder II wheels (the 19x13-inch rears weigh just 23 pounds), and subtracts 57 pounds of weight in the process. The standard Sabelt sport seats don't need any upgrading, though you can spruce up the materials with Nappa leather and Alcantara (standard equipment on the GTS) and red seat belts if you like.

Put that combination on track for a handful of hard laps as we did at Sonoma and you'll come back to pit lane with a perma-grin and some stories to tell.

Balanced, incredibly fast, and surprisingly nimble, the 2013 SRT Viper is, without question, bred first for the track, then homologated for the road. Details like the carbon fiber hood, roof, and trunk, the magnesium bulkhead, the roof bubbles that allow helmet clearance for taller drivers, even the fender wells cut away for easy access to the dampers--these might all tip you off that the SRT team had track time in mind when they designed the Viper. But it's the experience itself that removes all doubt.

Push the car hard into a corner, braking late, slowly releasing the pedal as the car rotates into the corner (again, with traction control still fully on), and you'll notice the front end's newly awakened feel and feedback. That big X-brace in the engine bay isn't just for show--it adds stiffness that translates directly into more precise steering and more informative feedback. No longer are you following the nose into the corner, you're rotating the whole Viper through it.

Transition to mid-corner and the car's innate balance becomes obvious. On a fast left-hand sweeper like the 120-plus-mph uphill entry to Turn 1 at Sonoma, you're just maintaining throttle, holding the car at maximum lateral grip as it tells you what each corner of the car is doing.

Settle the weight side-to-side and nail the brakes. It requires more substantial leg force than some cars, but again, the feel is remarkable for a street car; the pedal stroke is relatively short, but there's a progressive ramp-up in pressure right to the point of ABS, enabling repeatable, predictable threshold braking. In fact, even when trying, we only managed to get the SRT Viper into ABS at the end of our three-hour session on track in a non-track-package car with the less-grippy non-Corsa P Zero tires equipped--and that was likely down to the hot tires losing grip as much as anything. With the P Zero Corsa tires on a mildly warm, dry day, engaging ABS is nearly impossible without hanging a tire in the air.

Back to power at corner exit, the huge rear tires communicate well when they're ready to start moving forward instead of turning, and a rapid but smooth application of full throttle, even in second gear, won't break them free--or require intervention from the traction control algorithms. Shift up the gears, and the forward thrust is immediately comparable to a Sovereign-class starship entering warp speed.

2013 SRT Viper

2013 SRT Viper

Enlarge Photo
Mix all of these pieces together and you have a 3,297-pound, 640-plus-horsepower supercar that shrinks around you to enable lap times and driver control in a way few other cars can, or even would if they were truly unleashed.

And that's with a stock car, as delivered from the factory, with traction control fully on. For right around $100,000.

The previous Dodge Viper already has production car lap records at a number of the world's great circuits. The new one will beat it handily--and likely anything else the world throws at it. It's that good.

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