Dodge’s 840-horsepower modern muscle car is a slice of heaven, delivered unto our drag strips because a higher power — the executives on the 15th floor of Fiat Chrysler’s headquarters tower — want us to be happy. And fast. Really, really fast.
The Dodge Demon’s technology lets novices master the finer points of drag racing — a much more nuanced form of motor sport than non-believers accept – and leads them to a paradise of sub 10-second quarter miles, 2.3-second zero-to-60 mile per hour sprints and 1.8G acceleration, highest of any production car.
Yeah, you can drive the Demon home from the track. Well, as long as you don’t have more than one passenger. No rear seat, doncha know? It’s optional. So’s a front passenger seat. Got to save weight if you want to fly.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon will be in showrooms this fall, shortly thereafter to be seen doing burnouts and wheelies on drag strips around the country.
As I recall tire smoke wafting into the passenger compartment, the pre-race checklist and using the paddle shifters for “trans lock,” Chrysler’s feature to hold the car motionless as its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine screams before electronics deliver a smooth launch and acceleration down the drag strip.
Driving a Demon – still in 840-horsepower mode, still shod in super sticky Nitto tires – that behaved impeccably on a short drive through the country and neighborhoods around the race track. It even passes regulations for drive-by noise, though you might have to say that loudly for people in a couple of Indy neighborhoods to hear you.
The Demon’s touch screen offers street mode and drag settings and a host of tricks. Activate line lock, and the front brakes clamp down while the rear wheels spin, burning off rubber to reach racing temperature and scrub off rocks and other trash collected from the track.
No detail was too small, no idea too obscure for the SRT engineering group to pursue in their search for speed. In drag mode, the Demon redirects air conditioning from the passenger compartment to a chiller that cools intake air so the engine can reach peak power.
In addition to creating the Power Chiller, Chrysler had to invent a drip pan with a sponge to keep condensation from dripping off the AC onto the racing surface, a major no-no. The drag run’s heat and rushing air dry the sponge so it’s ready for the next heat.
SRT engineering and design developed the Demon in utter secrecy, like a cult of speed worshippers. A few wild-eyed engineers began development without notifying their superiors. As those acolytes progressed, the project got a double-secret codename: Bennie, after a secondary character from “Top Cat,” a kid’s cartoon series that ran a mere 30 episodes in the early 1960s.
“We built fake readouts for our test equipment to fool people who walked by” while the secret engine ran in Chrysler’s already secret test facilities, director of advanced and SRT powertrain engineering Chris Cowland said. Only two test cells in the whole company were even capable of evaluating the engines output, and they were left over from the days when Fiat Chrysler-built engines for NASCAR racing.
There were secrets even among the initiates. The official goal was to add 75 horsepower to the Dodge Hellcat V-8’s 707 horsepower. Even engineers invited into the close-knit team did not know 800-horsepower-plus was in sight. After the final engine-certification test, the raw results were handed to the project director, so he alone would know what they meant when translated into the all-important Society of Automotive Engineers-validated horsepower and torque figures.
The design program was equally covert. “We hid the Demon work, even from other designers,” said Mark Trostle, head of the company’s North America passenger, utility and performance vehicle exterior design. “The hood scoop is intentionally outrageous. It’s a big middle finger to everybody else on the road.”
What Stands Out
Seats: Backseat optional
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
What? Two-door coupe.
When? Coming to showrooms later this fall
Where? Made in Brampton, Ontario, Canada
How much? $84,995 plus $1,0destination charge
What makes it go? A supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 with an eight-speed automatic transmission
How big? 16.5 feet long
Overall: Awesome power, awesome beast