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ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I’m all for raw, no-frills cars. Things like the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S, Mazda MX-5, and Lotus Exige and Evora are cars that don’t pack much in terms of whiz-bang features and don’t have interiors lined with the finest Italian leathers and exotic woods. Instead they are minimalist vehicles that only have the necessary ingredients to be engaging drivers, and that’s something enthusiasts have to respect. And that’s what has always made me respect the previous Vipermodels. That and the pure ridiculousness of having a V10 engine screaming under the hood that the fine folks at Chrysler had owners trying to tame without traction and stability aids.

But I can understand the need to evolve and improve on things. Raw and unapologetic will only win you a certain niche of people and the need to broaden your reach is necessary. Enter the latest Viper generation that landed for the 2013 model year. In our particular GTS tester, we’ve got such luxury items like hand-stitched napa leather-covered interior with six-way power-adjustable seats. There are more sound-deadening materials for a quieter ride and a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system. That’s a far cry from the cheapo, brittle-feeling plastics and weak sound system of old.

A two-mode Bilstein Damptronic suspension system gives the option of street and track settings that can be changed at the push of a button on the center stack, and a four-mode stability control system that offers varying degrees of help depending on the information provided by the yaw, lateral-g and steering-wheel angle sensors. Viper purists who may not like the new electronic safety nets can relax because they can be fully turned off to let you attempt to control all 640 hp all by yourself.

On road, the Viper GTS is indeed more comfortable to romp around in. Put the suspension in the street setting and jolts from small- to medium-sized ruts you come across are softened. Steering is heavily weighted, but it’s manageable on a daily basis. Being a hydraulic system, it feels direct and communicative, and features right-now response to steering inputs. Points also go to the new short shifter that allows you to go through gears with a flick of your wrist instead of long throws.

And the interior is a nice place to be with the nice leathers covering the majority of the cabin, a good sound system, and insulation on the firewall. The heat radiating through the dash was bad in the old car.

However, some things remain the same: big blind spots, tight pedal box, ingress and egress into the cabin aren’t the easiest or most elegant-looking actions. Oh, and the side exhausts still make getting out of the car after a drive a warm affair for the back of your legs, which is fine because it’s a Viper, after all.

So the latest Viper is a little nicer on public streets, but how about on track? After a couple of days flying around GingerMan Raceway, I can say it’s better behaved, but it’s still one of the crudest and frightening experiences out there. The optional track package on our tester gave me lighter two-piece StopTech slotted brake rotors and lighter wheels wrapped with Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires to work with, which was a little comforting. My laps were done with the suspension and stability control set to track modes.

Launching proved difficult. Yes, there are meaty tires out back, but 640-hp still can turn those rubber donuts to dust in no time. Launch control didn’t help much with still way too much wheel spin to get going out of the box efficiently. Instead my best launches came without using launch control and modulating the throttle on my own and the appropriate steering corrections to keep the Viper’s trajectory straight.

Obviously, the brute power from the V10 continues to amaze with pretty good throttle response. Bursting out of corners is easy and quick, while stretching the car’s legs down the back straight has you questioning your sanity in keeping your right foot burying the gas pedal into the floor board. The Viper’s high-speed stability is rock solid, but under hard braking the back end still dances around.

Track driving the Viper remains physically punishing. GingerMan is smooth track, but if you look at the on board video footage you see me bouncing around all over the place through every corner. All track seams and patches get translated into the cabin.

I have done laps of GingerMan with a number of previous-generation Vipers, including an ACR, and the new car is noticeably better at handling side-to-side transitions and doesn’t feel sloppy. What remains the same are the high lateral grip levels that can be tapped into when you begin to trust the Viper will indeed hold on. Believe in the car, don’t make any sudden throttle inputs or do something real stupid, like lift mid-corner, and it’ll stick just fine.

Track mode for the stability control allows for a lot of slip angle, as I learned at turn 11 when I got too greedy on the gas too early. It was later in the day, and I had become more comfortable with the car, only to have it slap me on the wrist and demand my full attention again. Maybe it was some brain fade, but those “oh crap” moments have always been part of the Viper experience for me.

The Viper is still among the most intimidating cars you can buy today. It offers an experience unlike any other. From behind the wheel on the track you are overcome with so many different emotions: complete and utter terror (does this car want to kill me?), amazement, shame (wow, almost went right into that guardrail), relief (thank you for not going right into that guardrail), accomplishment (I didn’t ball this thing up!), respect, and of course fun.

It’s a special car that has gotten a bit nicer but it’s still raw, which is exactly how Viper Nation likes it.

2013 SRT Viper GTS

Base Price: $124,990

As-Tested Price: $129,490

Drivetrain: 8.4-liter V10; RWD, six-speed manual

Output: 640 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 600 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,374 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 12/19/15 mpg

AW Observed Fuel Economy: 15.7 mpg

Options: Track package including anti-lock brakes, performance tires ($3,500); 18-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system ($1,000)

By Autoweek editors