The Dodge Viper is a pure American outlaw designed with nothing but naughty behavior in mind. Since it first came out in the early Nineties, it has established itself as some stiff competition for the Corvette, but with a more exotic and hardcore appeal. Chrysler recently brought production of the previous generation Viper to an end and now the world is eagerly awaiting the release of the next generation. So what do I want to see from the new Viper?
Well, Chrysler for one has already mentioned that they want to make the new Viper a bit tamer than previous generations in order to broaden the car’s appeal. They want to do this largely by adding driver assists and making the car a bit less harsh to drive. I am in agreement with this move, but I think it needs to be done in the proper way so that they do not ruin the car and lose existing customers. It must stay a true Viper at heart and in purpose.
Adding some electronic assists to the picture to make the car less dangerous is a good thing, but it is imperative that these safeguards can be turned off completely and that, with the nannies off, the Viper be just as pure and brutal as previous generations. I also think that there is something to be gained if the new Viper were to have some influence from Ferrari (now that Fiat is so heavily involved with Chrysler) in engineering the electronic assists because they have proven to be masters of such technology. Many Ferrari models are actually faster around a track with the aids on (and in the proper settings) in the hands of anyone but a professional racing driver, and I think it would be only a benefit if the new Viper had a similar situation. It would make the car more approachable to the average enthusiast and allow them to get a lot more out of the car on the track without the very real risk of killing themselves with just the tiniest mistake.
Regarding suspension, I think they should offer adjustable settings like many other cars do these days. The settings should be simple: sporty but livable, and hardcore as hell. It’s a Viper; we need not complicate things too much, but these days having adjustable settings is just so easy and practical that it would be silly not to have if they are indeed trying make the car more livable.
If Chrysler is to broaden the appeal of the Viper then I think it would be a good idea to offer more than one model in the range. I am talking about having both a Viper SRT10 and Viper SRT8. The SRT8 should put out more power for the Viper than for other models though, something between 500-530bhp would be perfect. Given the 6.4 liters of the SRT8 Hemi motor I think achieving north of 500hp should not be a problem at all because the current 470hp is still fairly low given such a large displacement. The addition of the Multi-Air system may even help get most of that power bump. Also, I think this will work because it isn’t really softening the Viper from where it has been in the last generation. Note that the first SRT10 had 500bhp, so the lower level of the new generation would be even a bit better than the last generation when it came out. As for the SRT10 model, I say keep the progress coming. The old one had 600hp, so the new one should have 650-750 (itd be nice to see a 7 in the hundreds place). In the same fashion as what I proposed for the V8, I think they should focus on boosting engine efficiency in order to get the power increase instead of just making the motor bigger as before, 8.4 liters should be plenty of motor to get 700hp without forced induction.
Marketing wise I think it is important that the Vipers be priced to target the Corvette and Nissan GTR. The V10 is a supercar so a price from $90-110k would still yield incredible value for money and solid market competition. Its really the Viper SRT8 that would need to be in the right range. Ideally it should be priced a bit lower than the Corvette Z06, a base price in the high $60ks would be ideal with options topping the price out in the lower $80k range. At this level it will be similar to, if not a smidgen below, its competition but will offer the unique Viper driving experience and a bit more of an exotic image. If Chrysler really intends to widen the snake’s appeal I believe this is how they should do it.