The Viper ACR occupies a pretty unique place within the automotive universe. Yes, it is the ultimate street-legal car you can buy to race around a road course, but that only alludes to what makes it so rare. The fact that it’s so fast around the track while also being legal for the road is what makes designing a car like the ACR so difficult. Yes, it is track focused, but it’s also a hand-built, American-made exotic, and owners expect the features that come along with such a label.
While this balance between track-ready and road-going is easily seen outside the car — with removable brake ducts, hood louvers, and a front splitter allowing the car to be adjusted to whatever purpose it’s going to serve that day — nowhere was this balance felt in the design phase more than when developing the interior. Premium features like touchscreen navigation systems, powered seats, multi-speaker sound systems and high-quality materials all add substantial weight to the car, a metric which is the antithesis of faster track times. So, when designing the Viper ACR, the interior design team had to come up with some pretty creative solutions to keep weight down while also keeping many of the luxury touches for an enjoyable experience off and on the circuit.
“We really wanted to make sure we left no stone unturned in developing the interior, ” said Ryan Nagode, Chief Interior Designer at SRT. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave any weight on the table that wasn’t completely necessary. But we also wanted to give the visual touches that reinforce that you are in a more track-focused car.”
One of the more creative solutions the team found is probably something you don’t think about much when it comes to your car: the carpet. The team felt that in order to reinforce the premium feel of the hand-built Viper, the car should at least have some carpet in it, normally the source of a surprising amount of weight. I say normally, because the team didn’t just settle on laying down the normal carpet found in the regular road-going car. It sourced special lighter-weight carpet that still gives you something cushy to step onto, without as much of the weight penalty as normal.
Another weight-saving solution might be hard to find, because it requires you to take some of your attention away from the 645-horsepower 10-cylinder symphony under the hood — helped by the fact that some sound deadening has been removed from the interior for the purpose of, you guessed it, saving weight — and actually turn on the radio. You may notice that the stereo doesn’t sound as full as in the normal car, and that’s due to weight saving. The Harman Kardon® 12-Speaker High Performance Audio found in the base models — and certainly the optional 18-speaker system — sound fantastic, but also add an immense amount of weight to the overall package. So Nagode and the team decided to strip out most of the speakers, all in the name of lower track times. But Nagode will remind you that it isn’t completely bare bones in there. As opposed to other, slower track-focused street cars, which only have one speaker or no radio at all, the Viper ACR has three, still offering full stereo sound rather than a flat monotone. And if you really want to put more speakers back in, you can have the dealer just pop some in the original brackets. The wiring harness for all 12 is still in the car, making the install a breeze.
One of the toughest decisions, according to Nagode, had to do with the Uconnect® touchscreen entertainment system. To repeat the theme, such luxuries add weight, but it was determined that the system provides vital information to the driver, and could even be expanded upon for track duties. So the team left the 8.4-inch display in, and even added an ACR-specific gauge readout screen that includes such vitals as oil pressure, air temp, battery voltage and other mission-critical numbers while out on the track. In the end, Nagode thinks it was the right choice.
If you’re worried about the car turning into a noisy place with all of this material being removed, the team made sure it stopped short of that. “If you’re not at the track, you’re probably taking the car to a Sunday fun day car show, and we wanted to leave the car in a spot to be able to do that, ” Nagode said. And in terms of safety, Nagode and the team said that even though taking safety measures out would reduce weight, the safety and security of the car’s occupants were of upmost priority, so the team left mostly all of the safety tech untouched.
But what touches were given to the car that weren’t purely for faster track times, but more visual cues? Nagode is really proud of the laser-etched, checkered flag design in the door cards and seat bolsters, something that had never been done before anywhere in the company. “I think that graphic is pretty cool, it adds a nice little touch, ” he said. But even some of those visual details help with the driving experience, like the suede materials on the seats and steering wheel — they add extra grip so the driver doesn’t slide all over slick leather seats and maintains a firm grip on the wheel.
Probably the best part of the program, according to Nagode, is that even if you don’t agree with the decisions he and his team made on what to trim, a lot of it can be put back in because the ACR is part of the exclusive 1 of 1 program, which allows Viper owners to start with an ACR and order exactly what they want, like the 12-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system. “It really allows an owner to build the car to the purpose they are going to use it for, ” Nagode said.