Welcome to Pop The Hood, a weekly autoMedia.com feature that examines the industry’s latest innovations and what makes them tick. Recently, we’ve poked around inside the Shelby GT500, Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Cadillac ATS and many others (full list below). Today, let’s crack open that greatest of automotive enigmas: The 2013 SRT Viper.
When the 2013 SRT Viper goes on sale later this year, it's sure to be the biggest muscle car launch in recent memory. It wasn’t long ago that it looked like we may never see another new Viper, and the anticipation has been palpable; the first production Viper sold at auction for a whopping $300,000 just a few weeks ago.
Thrusted by an 8.4L V-10 engine, the SRT Viper produces a whopping 640 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque – the most in any naturally aspirated car available today. There are all kinds of goodies for car nerds to geek out on, from forged aluminum pistons and an aluminum flywheel to sodium-filled exhaust valves (like we discussed previously in the Buick Regal GS, here). The Viper is a modern automotive marvel. Let’s see what makes it special.
Engine Technology: SRT fitted the 2013 Viper with both a single-cam variable-valve timing system, and a cam-in-cam design that enables independent exhaust phasing. Both features were available in the V-10 engine in the previous generation Viper, so they aren’t fully new, but their benefits are fully realized in the 2013 Viper because of the reduced weight. New tech like this is fantastic for improving power, efficiency, and generally bringing the Viper into the 21 st century. It’s also great because it leaves wiggle room for SRT engineers to have fun with less practical things, such as…
Pushrods: The Mustang has its rear live axle, the Corvette has its torque-converter automatic transmission. When it comes to outdated technology, muscle cars are truly king, and the Viper is no exception. Rather than replace the prehistoric design, SRT doubled down on the pushrods used to help the massive V-10 engine breathe, thickening them from 0.6” to 0.8” and stiffening them by 10-percent. It’s one of those stubborn traditions that make little practical sense – as explained in this New York Times article – but you have to smile and say, “Good ‘ol Viper, same as ever.”
Aero Focus: One of our favorite new trends in auto design is the shift away from producing downforce and toward reducing drag. Say goodbye to gigantic rear spoilers, and say hello to graceful, flowing bodies that slice through the air rather than beat it into submission. The 2013 Viper follows suit, with a carbon-fiber and aluminum body that directs air along its curves and releases it with the rear ducktail lid – all in all, creating a miniscule 0.364 drag coefficient. That will make the Viper’s movements more effortless, making the most of its power and improving efficiency. The Viper also brings in air through underbody ports, and releases it through vents just below the taillights. Now that’s creativity, and it bodes well for the future of auto design.
Multistage Stability Control: Ok, so the Viper may be old-fashioned in a lot of ways, but it’s caught up to a few current trends. The 2013 SRT Viper will be the first Viper ever equipped with standard stability control. “Blasphemy!” you say, and you’re not wrong – one of the Viper’s best attributes is its penchant for testing (read: trying to kill) its driver, and stability control will take away from that challenge (read: danger). But these days, we’re getting up into ridiculous power numbers and its only right to implement some safety buffers. There’s still plenty of smoky fun to be had in the Viper, computer-intervention or not.
Less Weight, More Stiffness: The frame of the SRT Viper is a whopping 50-percent stiffer than its predecessor, thanks to new age materials, the X-brace holding the engine in place and lots of other unique details. Just as we discussed with the Cadillac ATS, here, the SRT Viper uses lightweight but strong materials like high-strength steel (HSS), magnesium, carbon fiber and aluminum. The strategy is to use materials like these that are stronger than regular steel, so that you can use less of them and decrease mass, thereby decreasing weight. It cut more than 100 pounds of mass from the Viper, and is one of those under-the-skin innovations that make all the difference in a high-performance sports car.
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What do you think is the coolest part about the 2013 SRT Viper? Let us know in the comments below.