New Viper has enhanced interior and added feature content

  • 11-Oct-2013 03:48 EDT
aei-viper=2014TA.jpg

Orange body color with black logos tell the world it's a Viper TA.

The new SRT Viper line, the first since 2010, still is a "primitive beast," but with its price point now as high as $129,000, the beast needed to introduce new feature content that would enhance the car without offending the purists. Viper integration engineer Jeff Reece of SRT (Street and Racing Technology Group) told AEI how it was done.

Viper will offer a 2014 TA (Time Attack) street-legal, track-ready package for the SRT, which includes Bilstein DampTronic two-mode dampers, one mode of which is a track setting.  There are specific TA spring rates and ultralight Sidewinder II wheels by Motegi Racing with Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. The one-piece brake rotor is replaced by a StopTech two-piece—steel disc and aluminum hat—to go with the Brembo calipers.

The TA package also comes with an aero package and a carbon-fiber X-brace over the engine, replacing the standard aluminum brace. It joins hood, roof, and decklid on the carbon-fiber list. That's one big technology boost for the beast.

The Gen 5 car, introduced for 2013, already had improved performance. The 8.0-L V10 output was raised from 600 hp (447 kW) to 640 hp (477 kW), among a host of changes for the car (see http://articles.sae.org/10892), which has a rated top speed of 206 mph (332 km/h). There is still no automatic transmission, although "we talk about it," Reece said. But clutch-pedal effort was markedly reduced by use of a new master cylinder (the slave cylinder is unchanged).

The "base" Viper, priced from $100,000, has a single (stiff) suspension calibration. There is also the second new model trim, the GTS, which might go into a category called "well-appointed, less-primitive beast" that comes with another set of Bilstein DampTronic shock absorbers with a choice of two settings: one stiffer than the fixed setting of the base SRT or a touring mode that is much softer. However, there is no active damping; that's "just not Viper," Reece said.

GTS 'luxury' power seats

The GTS is equipped with power seats. In the nearly form-fit Viper interior, the value-need equation might be subject to question, and the SRT model retains the manual adjusters. The seats themselves, however, are made with Kevlar/fiberglass shells.

Does the Viper really need power seats and, once again, does it fit the image? Although the GTS gets them, the SRT retains the manual adjusters. Dodge has been really cautious about power accessories and their possible effect on the primitive beast image. The early models (the vehicle was introduced in 1992) had manually adjustable outside mirrors that actually were power mirrors that had been modified to eliminate the power feature, Reece disclosed. The mirrors had been chosen because they "fit" the car, and Dodge spent money to change them to manual operation. Power mirrors finally were deemed acceptable and introduced in 2003.

What is clearly different vs. previous Vipers are the interiors. The Viper team did decide that an industrial strength interior look may have been OK for the Vipers of years ago.  But at the current price points, even the basic SRT needed something of higher quality, certainly for the GTS. So interior materials were upgraded.

The SRT has durable cloth seating surfaces and leather trim, with an all-leather seat available. The GTS has a relatively lush interior: premium leather almost everywhere with embossed leather panels and contrasting stitching.

PowerNet architecture

The Viper team also had decided that the latest electronics don't hurt the beast image. The car has had an electronic throttle since 2008, but the 2013-14 model is the first to come with cruise control, which of course, required basically just the addition of a few buttons and some new software.

The button panel also includes one for a launch mode, which fits the vehicle's performance image. Bring the car to a stop and, with the engine running, turn the steering wheel to the straight ahead position. Throw in the clutch and shift into first gear. Press and release the LAUNCH button, floor the accelerator, and within 0.5 s the system will set engine rpm to optimum rpm for launch. When the driver releases the clutch, the electronic system uses the throttle to provide control of wheelspin for maximum acceleration in first gear. The transmission is geared to be able to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in first gear. Shifting into second disengages the system.

The Viper also gets the PowerNet electronic architecture (http://articles.sae.org/9495) introduced on other Chrysler products but with software tailored for the vehicle's performance. PowerNet incorporates a pair of 125 kb/s CAN data buses, one just for telematics and one for interior functions, plus the 500 kb/s bus for powertrain, safety, and other high-speed demand functions. The architecture has two gateways, one in the body computer and a second in the radio module, which also is the command center for the Chrysler-branded Uconnect telematics.

Like a number of other Chrysler products, the Viper has the 8.4-in touch screen in the center stack, and a module with a navigation system is available on the GTS. The SRT-specific telematics provide custom displays for the 8.4-in screen. As could be expected, one display has the gauge readings, including engine torque, which is a value calculated from engine sensor readings (primarily throttle, rpm, road speed, transmission gear). Other displays permit the driver to record acceleration times, including 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h), one-eighth and quarter-mile speeds, plus braking times—and save them for comparison with later runs.

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