- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

The 2003 Viper SRT-10 is the most powerful, torque-laden car that Chrysler and Dodge have ever offered. It's the first vehicle to wear the new SRT designation (Street and Racing Technology), and the first product produced under the reorganized Performance Vehicle Operations group that now runs drag racing, sports car racing, NASCAR racing, street racing and Mopar performance parts.
For 2003, the all-new Viper sports a 505-cubic-inch engine, the largest passenger-car engine ever built by Chrysler, with 500 horsepower and 525 foot-pounds of torque.
It will do 190 mph, and will make the run from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds and do the magic sports car trick of 0 to 100 mph and back down to 0 again in about 13.2 seconds, the quickest car ever to do this maneuver.
The old Viper, good as it was, could only manage a 15.1-second time for the 0-100-0 maneuver.
What began as a simple plan to change the Viper's roof line quickly grew to a complete Viper redesign when Chrysler discovered that lengthening the wheelbase only 2.6 inches would change more than 50 percent of the car's body panels and most of the chassis.
So it went ahead, piece by piece at first, but then gradually decided to redo the entire car from stem to stern.
The new Viper has plastic front fenders containing HID low- and high-beam headlamps, and a new separate plastic hood with a single latch in place of the heavy flip-over one-piece front end, a new grille, new side and rear architecture on the plastic body shell with aluminum side sills, a new trunk and rear deck lid, new taillamps, an integrated spoiler in the deck lid, and a completely new manually operated true convertible top with power side windows.
It has come a long, long way from the first Viper RT/10 roadster with its roll bar and low-quality flap-in-the-breeze fabric half-top.
For 2003, the traditional side exhaust system with outlets just ahead of the rear tires has returned to stay, 5 pounds lighter than rear exhausts, and the GTS coupe has left the building.
Chrysler will build only 25 to 30 Viper Competition Coupe models later in the year, but they will be for sale to professional racers only, with no serial numbers, no DOT safety equipment, no emissions equipment, and no street equipment whatsoever.
So, if you want a coupe, you'll just have to buy an old one, because there won't be any new ones for the foreseeable future.
The new convertible comes standard with a pair of "sport hoops" behind the seats that aren't substantial enough to help out in a rollover, but they look cool.
The interior design and the twin bucket seats are also completely new, with a vertical instrument stack to the right and twin pods for the tachometer and speedometer at the center of the dash, with the tach more prominent than the speedometer.
There are standard cast aluminum power adjustable pedals, but there are no cup holders, no cruise control, and no digital instrumentation of any kind.
An in-dash six-CD changer is standard, as are a real glovebox and a real central storage console, both new to the Viper.
The seat belts have been converted back to the standard outboard mounting. Lock and mirror controls have been moved off the dash and onto the doors, where they belong.
The old air-conditioning system has been junked in favor of a new blended-air system from the corporate parts bin.
The new Viper has a separate Engine Start button set into the dashboard.
The new V-10 engine increases the Viper's displacement from 488 to 505 cubic inches and pushes its power output to 500 horsepower and 525 foot-pounds of torque, enough to make it one of the quickest and fastest cars in the world.
The rest of the drivetrain includes a heavy-duty clutch, the Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission, and the familiar Dana swing-axle rear end.
This time around, the Viper rides on new, wider alloy wheels with P345/30ZR-19 rear tires and P275/35ZR-18 fronts, Michelin Zero-Pressure or run-flat designs, so that the Viper carries no spare tire or jack in its trunk, which is now a full 24 percent larger than the trunk on the old roadster, even after the top is folded down into its well.
An extremely important element in that ever-lowering 0-100-0 maneuver is the braking system, which now consists of giant 14-inch rotors front and rear and Brembo four-piston calipers with high-performance friction materials.
These enormous brakes, combined with the lower weight and monster Michelins, help the car do the go-stop thing better than any previous Viper.
This time around, there's standard ABS, which most of the cars built before 2002 didn't have.
The chassis and body received an equal amount of updating and attention to details.
The new convertible frame is about equal in stiffness to the GTS coupe, and that means a smoother ride, fewer squeaks and rattles, and much more precise handling.
The new Viper is made about 100 pounds lighter than the outgoing model by using injection-molded bumper bars front and rear instead of steel ones, and a completely new dashboard assembly.
Where the old dash was an amalgamation of some 65 parts bolted and welded together, the new dash uses a gigantic magnesium casting inside the dashboard that is believed to be the largest magnesium piece used in the industry and saves a fast 30 pounds of weight and a great deal of manufacturing complexity.
The Dodge Viper SRT-10 will be available in red, black and silver metallic. Built at the Chrysler Group Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, it is being sold as a 2003 model.
The price is expected to be around $85,000, and Chrysler says the first year's production is, unfortunately, already sold out.

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