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Dodge Viper bites back with 500kW

2010-09-17 07:36

Environmentalists and Eurocentric car-types thought they had killed it off with their posh supercar attitudes and CO2 regulations. Wrong.

When the last Viper left Dodge’s snakepit in July, many predicted the fabled American supercar nameplate was dead and buried.

Since its launch in the early 1990s, the Viper's parent company Chrysler has been transformed by a succession of near bankruptcies.

The Viper, for all its boyish supercar charms, was seen by many as having no place in a restructured Chrysler product portfolio.

Fortunately, Chrysler’s new bosses are not a bunch of investment bankers.

Fiat now runs the show, and the Italians (having both Maserati and Ferrari in the stable) know the value of a supercar.

Chrysler’s most important dealer meeting for years transpired this week in Florida. Here Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne showed-off a concept version of the next-generation Viper.

Allegedly pretty

The Wall Street Journal reports that dealer "gasped and applauded" as the new Viper was unveiled. Amazingly, no images of the new car have leaked yet.

A source who attended the dealer event and saw the concept car likened it to "the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione with a Viper face," according to USA Today.

Many industry insiders doubt how a new Viper factors into Fiat’s plans of repositioning Chrysler as a Trojan brand to launch a range of Fiat and Alfa Romeo products onto the North American market.

Although Ferrari engineers scoff at the notion of sharing a quarterly report page space with the outrageous Viper nameplate, it is something they will have to become accustom too – especially as the new Viper is set to benefit substantially from Ferrari’s dynamic research and development resources.

And pretty advanced too

Despite little being known of the new Viper’s engineering specifications, it is expected to be a far more contemporary design – eschewing its low-tech roots.

Although the monstrous 8.4l engine is expected to be carried over, Fiat’s revolutionary multi-air induction system could be transposed to the Viper’s single-camshaft V10, ensuring it meets emission targets.

An increase in induction efficiency and better valve-lift control should benefit output numbers too, with a figure in excess of 500kW expected, bettering the last production version of the 8.4l V10’s power peak of 447kW. There is a possibility of an entry-level V8 engine bolstering the Viper line-up and broadening its appeal.

Ferrari's impeccably calibrated traction control systems are set to be employed by the new Viper too, greatly finessing its dynamics.

Whether Marchionne is simply building the new Viper as a potential loss-leader to carry favour with American auto industry sentiment is unclear. Many will question the wisdom of him signing-off a competitor to his home-grown supercars from Ferrari...

Petrolheads the world over are just happy that the snake has come in from the cold and now has a second lease on life.

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