By Patrick Rall
Last week’s updated 5-year plan from the Chrysler Group included the news that the SRT brand will be consolidated into the Dodge brand and with that, the SRT Viper will once again become the Dodge Viper. This news included the fact that the “new” Dodge Viper will be refreshed from the SRT Viper on sale right now but there was no indication from the Chrysler Group as to what will change with the rebirth of the Viper within the Dodge brand.
The current SRT Viper – available in base, GTS and Time Attack forms – is a remarkable piece of automotive machinery so what might the company change for the 2015 (or 2016 model year) Dodge Viper? Technically, the company could add some Dodge badges here and there with some slight sculpting changes around the outside and call it the “new” Dodge Viper as those few changes are enough in the modern auto industry to justify the “refreshed” label…but that isnt very interesting and that hardly seems like enough to help sell more cars. Viper sales have been much slower than the company expected ahead of the relaunch of the model for the 2013 model year and simply changing the badges inside and out isnt likely to bring sales to where the company is happy with Viper numbers.
The next areas in which the new Dodge Viper could be refreshed for the 2015 or 2016 model are the interior and exterior styling. The 2013 and 2014 SRT Viper look incredible, with exterior styling lines that clearly pay tribute to the first of the Dodge Viper coupes back in the late 1990s so it would seem that a car that looks very much like the early Dodge Viper would want to maintain that appearance in recreating the modern Dodge Viper. Honestly, the car is freakin’ gorgeous and I couldn’t imagine the company changing the exterior design after just two or three model years.
As for the interior, the SRT Viper cabin was nicer and more luxurious than any of the predecessors with all of the cutting edge goodies that you would expect from the world’s best known – and most expensive – supercars. The Viper has long beaten many of Europe’s pricier supercars, but the Viper has always fallen short in the way of interior comforts when pitted against the likes of the various Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars. With the 2013 SRT Viper, that became a thing of the past as the newest Viper features everything that you would see in those slower European supercars so it is hard to imagine a true refresh inside of the upcoming Dodge Viper. The cockpit layout is beautiful and when fully optioned, there is really nothing to ask for in the SRT Viper so it is tough to think of things that the company could add for 2015/2016. However, the Chrysler Group could introduce a new base model Dodge Viper that focuses more closely on performance by removing the luxury items that aren’t needed for a true high performance driving experience…which also reducing the base price of the new Dodge Viper.
Finally, the most significant area in which the Chrysler Group engineers could refresh the 2015/2016 Dodge Viper would be the drivetrain. The current SRT Viper is powered by an 8.4L V10 with 640 horsepower and 600lb-ft of torque being sent to the rear wheels by means of a proper manual transmission. With speculation that the next generation Dodge Challenger SRT will pack over 600 horsepower, the company could up the power of the Viper’s V10 a bit to distance itself from the new Hellcat Hemi Challenger. There is also the possibility that the next Dodge Viper could get a high performance automatic transmission which, while once considered blasphemous, is much more likely in the modern supercar market. The new 2015 Corvette Z06 comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission that actually offers better performance than many manual transmissions and that model is accessible to far more buyers (who cannot drive a manual) so with that in mind, the “refreshed” 2015 Dodge Viper might come with a quick shifting dual clutch or conventional automatic transmission that will surely draw new buyers.
If I was a betting man, I would guess that the 2015 Dodge Viper will be powered by the same 8.4L V10 that powers the current SRT Viper, but output will be increased to somewhere in the area of 650-660 horsepower and around 625lb-ft of torque. I expect to see a new stripped out interior package for those who only care about going fast, new Dodge badges inside and out and some very minor aesthetic changes around the outside of the car. In the long run, I expect that the new Dodge Viper will offer better performance and a lower base price than the SRT Viper – while looking pretty much the same when it is all loaded up with the exception of the Dodge logos. Finally, I fully expect that the return of the Dodge Viper will include a convertible option…just like the other generations of the Dodge Viper.