2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is the world's first
production car to lift the front wheels at launch.
stories about driverless cars? Then how about a story of the 2018
Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, one of the world’s quickest cars ever
made? It’s so tuned to driving it comes standard with only a
addition to the Challenger lineup is specifically engineered for
drag racing. The Demon is one of the new "widebody"
Challengers, distinguished by voluminous fender flares encompassing
some larger tires chasing more grip, starting with the
707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat and now the 840-horsepower Demon.
horsepower. And 770 pound-feet of torque. Sixty miles per hour in
2.3 seconds. Quarter mile in 9.65 seconds.
But what is it
like in its natural habitat, the endangered drag strip?
Our test took
place at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich., on a fully
prepped professional drag strip. Were the Demon’s electronic aids
going to do all the work so you can just point-and-shoot? Not
exactly. Even on a super-sticky surface, the Demon will spin the
rear tires with an overzealous application of throttle. Of course
you do want to smoke ‘em in a puddle of water for the obligatory
pre-run burnout in order to clean and warm up the tires for maximum
traction. An electronic line lock feature holds the front brakes to
facilitate this, but it still takes some finesse with the throttle
to do it right.
way to clock a good time is using Launch Assist in Drag Mode, though
it still requires a bit of fancy footwork. Similar to
Hellcat-powered products, it allows you to select a higher engine
speed on the screen, hold the brake, mash the throttle to the floor,
and when you let go of the brake the Demon launches at your preset
engine speed. Traction and stability control let you go as fast as
the surface allows.
Drag Mode traction control is off. Therein lies the challenge. You
can two-foot it the old-fashioned way, left foot brake and throttle
up. Or else there is TransBrake, a software feature using the
transmission to rev it up higher than the brakes would be able to
hold. It’s even more of a dance to hold the gas pedal at the
desired engine speed while using the steering wheel shift paddles
and brake pedal in sequence to actuate the electronic component.
Roll into the throttle too fast and the rear tires will break loose;
with this kind of power on tap, breaking loose can mean breaking
things. What sounds like chirping tires from the sidelines, feels
from behind the wheel like crossing railroad tracks — where there
is no crossing.
The key in
either method is to ease into the throttle until the hood comes up,
indicating weight is on the rear wheels for traction — it happens
really fast — then floor it. The seat hits you in the back and off
you go. Stability control stays on in Drag Mode, surely a good thing
to maintain a straight line, especially since the Demon will lift
the front wheels off the ground. The one standout difference from a
Hellcat — other than you just reached 60 mph around a second
faster — is a more pronounced sound from the supercharger, like
the shrieking of tortured souls in the underworld. Rather fitting
for the Demon.
TransBrake I ran back-to-back 10.8- and 10.9-second quarter-mile
runs toward the conclusion of the day’s festivities. Jim Wilder,
vehicle development manager for Charger and Challenger, took me for
a run in a Demon optioned out with a full interior and sunroof,
resulting in a 10.5-second run.
A few things
have to happen to get maximum acceleration out of the Demon. First
of all, ideal track conditions. These were found at Gainesville,
where a 9.65-second quarter mile at 140 mph was certified by the
National Hot Rod Association as the fastest quarter-mile time ever
recorded by a production car.
buyer is going to have pop for another $1 (yes, one dollar) for the
Demon Crate, which includes some skinny wheels for the front, a
different powertrain controller and tools. The rear tires are
street-legal drag racing tires adapted specifically for the Demon.
Achieving highest horsepower requires 100-octane gas.
shaved weight wherever they could, so the dollar gimmick extends to
the deleted passenger seat, rear seat, or trunk carpeting, optional
for a dollar each. A list of more traditionally priced options is
offered with the limited production of 3,000 Demons (plus 300 for
same on-road loop with a Demon and a Hellcat showed the Demon has a
softer ride and less engine noise when cruising. The fat sticky
tires were noisier on grooved pavement and made on-center steering
criticize the Challenger as an aging platform, but Dodge has kept
things interesting with an array of variants. Drag racing is the
last vestige of parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’
dwindling involvement in motor sports, and the Demon proves there’s
some real engineering talent in the ranks of SRT.
CHALLENGER SRT DEMON AT A GLANCE
RWD two-door coupe
$84,995 (including $1,700 gas guzzler tax)
$84,997 (exluding $1,095 destination)
Mpg: 13 city,
6.2-liter supercharged V-8
The most decadent vehicle you can buy for under $100,000.