The SRT Viper is a curious mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. This iconic performance car has existed for 20 years, but most of us don't even know what to call it it's had various different names including Chrysler Viper, Dodge Viper and Dodge SRT-10.
SRT, which stands for Street and Racing Technology, has now gone from being Chrysler's performance wing to a brand in its own right. Under this banner, the insane V10-powered muscle car makes its return.
Not in the UK, though. It goes on sale in the US in January, but at the moment there are no plans to sell it in Europe. However, if you're gripped by the Viper's fearsome looks and manic performance, there's always the option of importing one.
What the SRT Viper like to drive?
The Viper has always been fast, but it's never been able to compete with Europe's finest supercars for precision.
The new version, though, features a whole host of enhancements to make it both sharper and more civilised. Among the changes are a significantly stiffer chassis, re-engineered rear suspension and weight reduction of 45kg.
If our racetrack-based drive in pre-production development cars is anything to go by, the changes have been pretty successful.
The car feels well balanced, and because it has bags of grip and traction, it feels more secure and controllable than previous Vipers. The best bit is the revised hydraulic steering, which is full of feel.
The range-topping GTS version has two-stage adjustable dampers that make it even more focused on the track, while also offering a softer setting for road use.
However, the ride quality of both versions remains something of an unknown; we haven't driven the car on a public road, let alone a bumpy British one.
Despite all the changes, though, this is still a Viper through and through. This car has always been about adrenaline-rush performance, and it's now more powerful than ever.
The enormous 8.4-litre V10 engine serves up an estimated 640bhp, and there's also 600lb ft of torque on offer. According to the preliminary figures, the 0-62mph dash is over in a devastating 3.4 seconds.
What's more, the epic acceleration is aided by a vastly improved six-speed manual gearbox (no other transmission is offered). You'll now find rifling through the ratios a pleasure rather than a chore.
The only thing that really dilutes the Viper is the way it slows and stops. The brakes could do with more initial bite as well as increased fade resistance. That said, the brakes are one of the areas still being worked on by the engineers.
What's the SRT Viper like inside?
Overall, the interior is one of the biggest improvements to the new Viper. The parts you come into contact with most often look and feel plusher, while GTS cars are even better these get a sumptuous leather covering for pretty much everything.
Enhanced equipment also helps the more luxurious feel. Cruise control, sat-nav and climate control all appear for the first time, while Harman Kardon supplies the stereo speakers.
The new seats are the most impressive upgrade, though. Those in the old Viper were typically American; huge and unsupportive. The new seats come from Sabelt (supplier to Ferrari), and they're much more comfortable and cosseting. They also offer more adjustability.
The gear selector and center console are mounted lower than before, which increases space in the two-seat cabin. A configurable TFT screen serves as the main instrument cluster, while a large touch-screen handles the audio and navigation functions.
Bear in mind, though, that because the Viper is being sold only in foreign markets, there'll be no UK-friendly right-hand drive version.
Should I buy one?
In terms of horsepower for your money, the Viper looks very impressive. The entry-level version costs $99,390 in the US (equivalent to around 62,000) while the GTS costs $122,390 (around 76,000). That's Ferrari 458 Italia performance for at least 100,000 less.
Don't forget that you'll also have to add the cost of importing the car to your initial outlay, not to mention the time and hassle.
Running costs will undoubtedly be terrifying, too, although the actual figures for fuel consumption and CO2 output are yet to be released. Insurance and tyre bills will also be astronomical.
There's more. While the Viper is undoubtedly a vast improvement over what went before, we can't help thinking that there are lots of other supercars out there that'll be better suited to UK buyers.
Granted, the Audi R8, Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 all have less power, but they've all proven themselves to be realistic and useable propositions in the UK, and they're all available with the steering wheel on the correct side.
Still, there's no doubt that the Viper's rip-snorting performance and brash looks give it unique appeal.
What Car? says