WHAT Dodge's V-10 sports car gets an attitude adjustment.
WHEN Late 2012
TAMING THE SNAKE Expect the 2013 Dodge Viper to be an entirely different animal than the raw beast that scared the snot out of drivers for eighteen years.
Is a Viper without the venom still a Viper?
In both looks and mannerisms, the 2013 Viper will be more refined and much less brutal. "I want the new Viper to be a more forgiving car to drive and accessible to more people," Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles told the Detroit News. Dodge's two-seat supercar will be getting stability control for the first time -- although that's probably due more to a new federal mandate than marketing. A more civilized bent moves the Viper from a class of one into direct competition with the Corvette ZR1 and the Porsche 911 Turbo, and while the next Viper won't pull from the Ferrari parts bin, Gilles has said that Fiat (read: Ferrari) will have a hand in tuning the chassis. One defining Viper gene, however, will likely remain intact: the V-10 engine. A revised variant of the 2010 model's 8.4-liter should push the power output well over 600 hp, with a six-speed manual. The Viper's new found civility will be reflected in the styling as well, with more compact dimensions and a more elegant shape. Gilles says the styling is inspired by "a naked woman on the beach." Along with the Coke-bottle profile, you can expect shorter overhangs and less visual mass, as our illustrator has envisioned here.
Filling out the 500 lineup
Fiat returned to America a few months ago with much fanfare surrounding its stylish, affordable 500 hatchback. The Italian captain of the Chrysler Group will try to keep the buzz going with the 500 convertible, scheduled to reach showrooms by the time you read this. (With luck, Fiat's fledgling American dealer base will be running smoothly by then.) The 500C keeps its pillars intact, so its top is more of a full-width canvas sunroof instead of a traditional convertible top. The upside is that the Fiat's rigidity isn't compromised as much as that of most convertibles. The 500s that excite us most, however, are the racy, turbocharged Abarth editions. Expect about 160 hp to start, a whopping 60 percent increase over the standard 500, but it'll be about a year from now before you can buy one. An all-electric, lithium-ion-powered 500 is also slated for release in 2012. Beyond that, Fiat promises a "full pipeline" of products for American and Canadian customers -- a four-door Fiat is rumored for 2013 -- but we expect that lineup to focus on smaller vehicles that don't interfere too much with Dodge's mainstream models.