SRT Viper Follows Its Own Road, Skips Automatic Transmission

Just the Facts:
  • There are no plans to expand the offerings in the SRT Viper to include an automatic transmission or a more affordable, entry-level model, Edmunds has learned.
  • "The people who buy (the Viper) relish the manual (transmission)," said Ralph Gilles, Chrysler Group's performance guru, in an interview.
  • Gilles said there are no plans for a lower-priced Viper with a smaller, V8 engine.

DETROIT Enthusiasts wanting a high-performance American sports car with an automatic transmission will continue to have only one choice in the coming years — the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

There are no plans to expand the transmission offerings for the 640-horsepower V10-powered Viper, Chrysler Group's performance guru Ralph Gilles told Edmunds. Nor does Chrysler want to follow Chevrolet's formula by offering a range of engines, such as a Hemi V8, to boost sales.

"We have no interest in becoming a Corvette," Gilles told Edmunds during a recent interview.

On the subject of transmissions, Gilles said: "Everyone is going to paddle shifts. We see that a lot. We recognize a trend, but that is not what the Viper is about. It really isn't.

"The people who buy (the Viper) relish the manual, they relish the driver's car, the raw connections to the vehicle. That is what it is about. So we are not chasing rainbows here."

A six-speed manual is standard in the SRT Viper.

Gilles is president and CEO of Chrysler's SRT brand and Motorsports operations, and he is also senior vice president of product design.

Many European automakers offer a dual-clutch transmission in addition to a manual. The 2014 Corvette Stingray is available with a six-speed automatic in addition to the standard seven-speed manual.

Asked if there is an automatic transmission that can handle the Viper's torque, Gilles said "not yet."

"It is not so much the torque, it is the packaging," he said. "We have a unique packaging scenario in the Viper. There is nothing that we have or out there that fits."

Gilles said a dual-clutch or conventional automatic transmission "would definitely open up volume, (but) it is not really our priority at this minute. The vehicle is about being a purist's car. It is a driver's car. In a way we are defining ourselves" by that car.

Viper sales have struggled since the redesigned car went on sale last spring. Through early January, about 600 2014 Vipers have been sold.

As for offering a second engine such as the automaker's 470-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V8 to create a lower-priced Viper, Gilles said: "It sounds like you are describing a Corvette."

"We have no interest in becoming a Corvette because what is unique about the Viper is that engine is in nothing else," he said. "It is only in the Viper. We don't use an engine out of a truck or a passenger car and stick it in our sports car. It is unique to itself."

Edmunds says: If you are a car shopper yearning for an SRT Viper, better learn to handle a stick shift first.

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