by Jim Kerr
Usually, it is the aftermarket that offers special equipment and tuning packages for production vehicles. There are exceptions: Mercedes’ AMG and Ford’s SVT vehicles come quickly to mind. At this year’s North American International Auto Show, Chrysler added to this list with a new entity called Performance Vehicle Operations.
PVO was created to develop speciality high performance vehicles with the same attraction we had for their tire-smoking muscle cars of the past. PVO brings together the expertise of Chrysler Group’s specialty vehicles team, Mopar parts, and the motorsports operations, using engineers dedicated to high performance and racing vehicles. In the future PVO will offer extreme performance Jeep and Chrysler models, but they are starting with three extreme Dodge SRT’s.
SRT is a high performance progression of Dodge’s R/T labelled vehicles. For the younger set, or just those of us young at heart, the Neon SRT-4 will be introduced as a 2003 model. The Neon R/T with its 2.0 litre engine was always quick compared to the competition, but the SRT-4 uses the larger 2.4 litre four cylinder engine and adds an intercooled supercharger to boot! With 205 horsepower, and 220 ft lbs torque all the way from 2000 rpm to 4800 rpm, the Neon SRT-4 should go like a rocket ship. Dodge lists 0-60 mph in just 5.9 seconds and an estimated top speed of 148 mph.
Power is just one part of the SRT package. The interior features performance seats, custom gauges and a three spoke steering wheel. The exterior uses unique panels all the way around to suggest a racing heritage, and large 17 inch wheels. Mechanical enhancements include a heavy-duty five-speed manual transaxle, performance-tuned strut and spring assemblies, heavy-duty sway bars, updated knuckles, and high capacity four-wheel disc with ABS. This car is designed to motor, but if you really want a dose of attitude, you have to look bigger; much bigger.
No truck on the market looks more intimidating than the Dodge Ram SRT-10, and for good reason. Twenty-four inch wheels, 305/35 R24 high-performance tires, a one-inch lower ride height, ground-effect mouldings, and hood with integrated air intake provides plenty of attitude. The new Dodge Ram styling never looked better. But it is what’s beneath the skin than is really intimidating.
Add 8.3 litres of Viper V10 engine and Viper 6 speed manual gearbox to the Dodge Ram, and you have a truck ready to take on anything. With 500 horsepower and 500 ft. lbs. of torque, estimated 0-60 mph times are in the 5.0 second range. That is quick, but this 5000 lb truck will also go from 0 to 100 mph and back to 0 in 18 seconds. Big brakes too! Imagine quarter mile times in 12.9 seconds and the capability to pull 0.92 g on the skid pad. All this is within the Ram SRT-10’s capability.
Tons of power, huge brakes, and a performance designed suspension put this Dodge Ram as leader of the pack. Available in Red or Black, make mine Black.
The third, and perhaps most sinister vehicle to enter the SRT line-up is the Viper SRT. There are not a lot of specs out for the Viper SRT yet, but expect raw performance in spades. Emerson Fittipaldi, two-time Formula One champion, Indy 500 winner and former Viper test-driving consultant said of the original Viper: “Driving the Viper is as close as you can get to driving a race car on the street”. If so, then it is hard to imagine the performance available in the Viper SRT. A powerful aluminum alloy V10, six-speed gearbox, and short 98.8 inch wheelbase make the Viper the ultimate muscle car. PVO and the Dodge SRT series of vehicles are staged to lead the horsepower race. I predict customers will be rushing to the sales floor as well.