Chrysler's V8 Firepower concept is moving closer to production, thanks to a plan to push the Dodge Viper upmarket, creating a Firepower-shaped gap in Chrysler Group's portfolio.
Sources suggest that the 2008 Viper will have a new chassis and an engine co-developed by McLaren, DaimlerChrysler's F1 partner. A precedent for this has already been set. At the 2006 Detroit show, ASC (American Speciality Cars) showed the Diamondback Viper, which had a 615bhp engine tuned by McLaren. The carbon bodied Diamondback is thought to be a precursor to the 2008 model year Viper.
Dodge is planning a big upgrade for its supercar, spurred on by the success of GM's 505bhp Z06 Corvette, which trumps the Viper in terms of price, performance and dynamic ability. By taking the Viper upmarket, DCX opens up a gap for the front-engined V8-powered Firepower.
CAR Online drove the Firepower concept in Detroit. It's based on the Viper chassis, albeit with by a 6.1-litre V8 HEMI engine as opposed to the Viper's V10. It's likely that the production Firepower will be twinned with the upgraded Viper, to share components and strengthen the business case for both cars.
The biggest problem with the Viper (although part of its charm) is the 8.3-litre, V10 engine's sheer size and bulk. The Firepower is a far more agile beast with the smaller V8 tucked up nicely against the firewall. Chrysler claims 0-60mph in less than 4.5sec and 175mph flat out.
The Firepower is a charismatic and beguiling proposition. It feels similar to an Aston Martin V8 – stiff, vocal and very fast – and if DCX can sell the Firepower for £45,000-£60,000 in the UK, the Firepower could become a cut-price alternative to the Mercedes SL, Maserati Coupe or Jaguar XKR.