2014 SRT Viper TA Charmed but not Tamed

 

2014 SRT Viper TA

2014 SRT Viper TA

The snake charmers at SRT (Street, Racing and Technology) have taken their job quite serious and brought the 2014 Viper TA to a higher level of abilities. The job has challenged designers and engineers to retain the beast-like power and performance while giving the Viper a more refined personality. Well, as refined as you would want your Viper.

Early Vipers are known to be all beast with little creature comfort. Today, the Viper must not only impress with incredible performance it must not sacrifice maintaining a level of comfort demanded by current performance car buyers.

I had the pleasure of putting a new Viper TA to the task of handling the demands placed on race cars at the famous Road America raceway in Elkhart Lake, WI. Road America is well known for its demands on both driver and equipment because it is 4.05 miles of serpentine asphalt that consists of long high speed straights contributing to 160-plus miles per hour speeds, leading into sharp 90 degree turns that necessitate hard braking and perfect control to stay on track. Because an off track excursion can ruin your whole day not to mention be quite expensive in the repair the car department.

To say the Viper impresses on a racetrack would unequivocally be a huge understatement.

To say the Viper impresses on a racetrack would unequivocally be a huge understatement.

The 2014 Viper TA has more than adequate equipment to make on-track performance quite fun and exhilarating. With 640 horsepower and just as important 600 lb-ft. of torque, the Viper can easily retain its “beast” of the sports cars title. I can attest the Viper can get right to the task at hand and take you up to speed quickly and get you around Road America’s corners faster than you might think you are able.

The TA package brings a great deal more to the Viper in the way of suspension tweaks and race proven add-ons that take the car’s abilities that much higher, particularly at tracks like Road America. Understandably, the Viper engineer riding right seat with me that day assured that I did not over indulge in the Viper’s capability.  The brute force placed on the driver is proof of the power of the Viper. As I accelerated out of each corner the force is only greater than the G-force felt going through those corners at speed. Although just listening to the rap of the throaty rumble of the big V-10’s exhaust you get a sense of the power available from that big V-10 under the hood.

The Viper TA has a number of additions that are not just for beauty, they are functional and contribute to the extraordinary performance. Seemingly minor features such as the two small carbon-fiber splitters and rear spoiler improve aerodynamics, carbon-fiber engine-bay brace increases stiffness of the body, while unique 2-mode, driver selectable Bilstein DampTronic shock absorbers and 20-percent-stiffer springs, stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars as well as  Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires increase cornering agility. As expected The SRT Viper TA is equipped with phenomenal brakes from Brembo that bring the car to a quick and stable stop.

The Viper cockpit leaves little doubt that this car means business. The completion style seats and snug cabin keep driver and passenger in their seats particularly important when flying around a race circuit such as Road America.

The Viper cockpit leaves little doubt that this car means business. The completion style seats and snug cabin keep driver and passenger in their seats particularly important when flying around a race circuit such as Road America.

The power is absolute and the snug cabin lends a certain spaceship quality to the experience. Climbing into the driver’s seat there is not a great deal of room to expand beyond the competition designed seats. They are here for a purpose and they address that purpose admirably. You will not slip around because these seats keep a firm hold on your body.

The large center console may intimidate some, but it attests to the horsepower available and the fact, that the big engine and six-speed manual transmission is positioned rearward for optimum balance. The six speed transmission retains its notchy shifter feel, yet allows for speedy gear selection with no resistance. When you shift through the gears you know you have found the gear you want.

Though nothing can contradict physics, the Viper now is equipped with traction control and five-mode (Full-on, Sport, Track, Rain and Full-off) stability control with launch control to at least keep the odds in your favor. A fact that attests to the level these enthusiasts who work on the SRT Viper team take their job. They have worked diligently to assure these electronic controls do not impede on the fun of on-track driving. Unless, of course, you exceed certain limits, which may, in fact, be far above your own abilities.

Hours and hours are spent in a wind ton to perfect the perfect aerodynamics of the Viper. And yes, the rear spoiler provides much needed down force to help keep the viper stable at high speeds.

Hours and hours are spent in a wind tunnel to perfect the perfect aerodynamics of the Viper. And yes, the rear spoiler provides much needed down force to help keep the viper stable at high speeds.

Yes, the Viper is intimidating to many, which is good, as you really must keep your respect for this automobile, one that places 600 horses under the hood with rocket ship performance at the touch of the accelerator. However, today’s Viper is very different from those ground breaking early versions. This Viper is less of a beast and more of a powerhouse with manners. Albeit, when this snake uncoils from its basket you must be at your top performance level. For if you falter it can bite you so quickly you may not know it until the dust settles.