General Motors has the Corvette and Ford has the Mustang, so where has Chrysler been in the high-performance vehicle race? After discontinuing the Dodge Viper during tough financial times, Chrysler hasn’t offered a monster performance machine as a halo car for over two years. But by the end of this year, the company’s new Fiat owners will have set that right. Now part of the new SRT brand, the 2013 Viper pays clear homage to the two generations that have adorned magazine covers for more than 20 years, while upping the comfort, quality and convenience levels that many high-end shoppers demand.
Dodge Viper: 640 Horsepower With A Lighter Weight
The 2013 Viper has a familiar look and a familiar V10 engine, but owners of past Vipers wouldn’t recognized the carefully finished interior and bright touch-screen controls. Chrysler also says the car now has more interior space, and that its lighter weight will improve acceleration and fuel economy. That’s not to say that the Viper has anything to do with gas savings. Either the car still demands that drivers use as many of its 640 horsepower as possible, or the loyal buyers who bought old Vipers will howl that its uniqueness has been lost. Based on Chrysler officials’ comments during the Viper’s unveiling Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, it’s more likely to be the former. Chrysler, too, likes the Viper’s character the way it was.
BMW M6: 62 MPH In 4.3 Seconds
For someone seeking more sophisticated speed, BMW and Mercedes-Benz introduced new performance versions of their large convertibles at the auto show. These two cars don’t offer the manual transmission or the racetrack-ready handling of the Viper, but they do offer more opulent interior trim and promise smoother everyday driveability. The 2012 BMW M6 will have a 560-horsepower V8 and a zero-to-62-mph time of 4.3 seconds when it goes on sale this summer. This slots above the existing 640i and 650i in the BMW 6-Series line, which have a comparatively piddling 315 and 400 horsepower, respectively.
Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG: A Turbocharged V12 Engine & 621 Horsepower
If that BMW’s performance isn’t sufficient, consider instead the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, which wins the overkill award for its turbocharged V12 engine and 621 horsepower. Mercedes says it will reach 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds – that is, if you’re lucky enough to buy one of the 45 the company plans to build. (Proles are offered a V8-powered SL63 with just 557 horsepower, but company officials noted that you just don’t get the same exclusivity with one of those.)
Price Tag Favorites: Lexus’s $375,000 LFA & Terrafugia’s $279,000 Flying Car
The New York Auto Show’s displays are also a who’s who of existing exotic performance cars. McLaren, Lamborghini and Bugatti are among those with a presence, and Lexus is showing its $375,000 LFA. And if you find driving on the street too dull, Terrafugia will sell you an airplane that also meets requirements to be driven on the road. The company claims this car-plane can even fit into a normal sized garage. The ever-increasing price estimate now stands at $279,000.
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Brady Holt, a Washington D.C. newspaper reporter, has had a lifelong interest in cars in the automotive world, and he’ll share his thoughts at every available opportunity. Brady has written for Examiner.com since 2008, and covered the ’08 New York International Auto Show with Edmunds.com’s Inside Line team as a student journalist. His work can be found on Examiner.com.