“Come to Indy and drive this purpose-built, street-legal drag-racing car,” they say.
The lawn isn’t getting mowed. Floors aren’t getting mopped. Dishes remained piled up. We are zeroed in on tackling the most powerful production car America has ever produced.
We’re talking about the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. Most of its steamy details were divulged over a 12-week roll-out leading up to last April’s New York auto show. But, to recap: Demons come off the assembly line sporting a wide-body kit, a drag-strip-tuned adaptive suspension, and an 808-hp engine. This supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 is an evolution of the Hellcat’s 707-pony Hemi but with beefed-up internals and a larger, 2.7-liter Lysholm blower (up from 2.4 liters) from supplier IHI tuned to make 14.5 pounds of boost. The car comes on four drag radials, but the eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic turns only the rear wheels. Speaking of transmissions, this one features the first transmission brake on a production car—more on that in a bit—as well as a few other drag-racing tricks.
Out of the Crate
After plunking down $86,090, buyers can fit a bunch of extra bits on their Demons to get the power figure up to 840 when burning 100-octane gasoline. All the add-ons, including skinny front wheels, can be had for just one dollar in what Dodge calls the Demon Crate.
“It’s not a GT350R or a 1LE,” declares Tim Kuniskis, FCA’s head of passenger-car brands Dodge, Chrysler, and Fiat. No kidding. This is a car built to run 1320 feet at a time. But you can legally drive it to the strip and back, too. Unfortunately, we would not be driving a single inch on public roads. We drove the Demon exactly 19,641 feet, or 3.7 miles, in the course of making three passes at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Such a precise distance is known because we brought along a VBOX data logger in hopes of getting a better idea of just how quick the Demon is. But with such little exposure we couldn’t clock a time we feel comfortable publicizing.
It isn’t that we don’t believe SRT’s claim that a Demon ran a 9.65-second quarter-mile. It’s just that we believe those circumstances were outside the typical conditions a weekend warrior might find. You know, like a perfectly prepared launch box at sea level, a warm track but cool and dry ambient air, as well as a little bit of luck. We test on street conditions, so when we do get around to formally testing a Demon, it will not be quite as quick as that. We expect the car to run a quarter-mile in the low 10-second range. Knock off a few tenths if it’s fitted with skinny front wheels and tires and 100-octane fuel. The zero-to-60-mph time will be darn close to pipping the Porsche 918 Spyder’s 2.2-second record.
Get Ready, Get Set, . . .
Before they cut us loose on the strip, SRT engineers walked us through the arduous process of getting the Demon ready for a pass. First, there’s a graph in the car that tells you when the engine is cool enough for an optimal pass. The After-Run Chiller circulates coolant after shutdown to continue cooling when parked. With thermal criteria satisfied, get the car into Drag mode by double-tapping the SRT mode button, then pressing the high-output button to get the full 840 horses if you’re running high-test fuel. Drag mode disables the cabin A/C, routing its cooling power to the SRT Power Chiller, a device that can drop the intake temperature by as much as 18 degrees by cooling the liquid in the air-liquid intercooler circuit.
What happens next is the vehicular equivalent of a Mortal Kombat finishing move. Hit all the right buttons in the right sequence and you will destroy all other production cars. Get it wrong and the car just kind of shakes a little and barely moves.
Creep up to the burnout box and activate line lock to do a four-to-five-second burnout. This involves holding the OK button on the left side of the steering wheel. Roll up to the staging lights and ready the TransBrake. It is always active in Drag mode. Its engagement requires both feet and both hands. Mash the brake pedal with your left foot, and pull and hold both shifter paddles. To remove any lash in the driveline and to preload the driveshaft and trans with torque, inch up to the line a bit while still holding the brakes. Then release one of the paddles and the brake pedal. At this point the transmission is essentially in first and second gear simultaneously and the car will not move unless you rev past 2300 rpm, the system limit. Easier said than done with a light-switch throttle.
At this point the TransBrake is still engaged and the only thing holding the car in place is one of your hands—an odd feeling. The exhaust note is odd here, too. SRT calls it torque reserve, but it is essentially a two-step ignition. Think of it as an antilag system, only it is happening on the intake side and not downstream in the exhaust.
With the Demon set and the equivalent of “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A” entered, torque reserve injects fuel into some cylinders but keeps all the valves moving—it’s essentially cylinder deactivation to allow the supercharger to build maximum boost without the engine making maximum power.
. . . Go!
Hold the revs at about 1700 rpm and simultaneously let go of the paddle and bury the accelerator. The first launch is downright shocking. If you want to simulate the sensation of a 1.80-g launch, the peak acceleration that Dodge claims, have a friend punch you square in the sternum moments before you jump off a building. This car hits that hard out of the hole, and although gravity gets you only a little more than halfway to 1.80 g, the sensation will be close enough.
It is easy to either bog the engine or light up the rear tires. Both scenarios are suboptimal. Get it right, which we didn’t achieve in our three turns behind the wheel, and the Demon will lift its front tires off the ground for a few feet.
For the past six months, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to drive this car. We’re going to have to wait a little while longer to get the full experience. We can say this for sure, though: Even if you trailer this car to a dragstrip, it won’t disappoint.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine; rear-wheel-drive; 1-, 2-, 4-, or 5-passenger; 2-door coupe
BASE PRICES: Demon, $86,090;
Demon with Demon Crate, $86,091
ENGINE TYPE: supercharged and intercooled pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 276 cu in, 6166 cc
Power: 808 or 840 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 717 or 770 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 116.2 in
Length: 197.5 in
Width: 78.8 in Height: 57.4 in
Passenger volume: 94 cu ft
Trunk volume: 16 cu ft
Curb weight (C/D est): 4300 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 2.3–2.6 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 5.7–5.9 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 9.9–10.2 sec
Top speed: 168 mph
FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
EPA combined/city/highway: 13/10/18 mpg