Given all the drag-racing focused hype surrounding the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and the frankly ridiculous numbers it’s capable of when the planets align, it’s fitting that our first date with the 800-some-odd horsepower coupe was set for Lucas Oil Raceway’s famous quarter mile track.
Wait, a dragstrip? Isn’t the Demon supposed to be banned by the NHRA? Well, as delicious a bit of marketing noise as that was, it’s not true. You can show up at your area Friday Night Drags and run to your heart’s content as long as you don’t break the 10-second barrier, at which point you’ll get sent to the parking lot if you don’t have a roll cage and net equipped.
Breaking that mark requires more than just a good launch. Step one is to check the $1 “Demon Crate” option when ordering your Demon. Among a number of items of varying usefulness, the Demon Crate includes the controller module necessary to unleash the car’s 100-plus octane tune of 840 hp and 770 lb-ft of torque. On pump gas, the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 makes “only” 808 hp and 717 lb-ft of torque. The mill is largely a beefed up version of the Hellcat’s, the main difference being a larger supercharger (2.7L vs. 2.4L) working pushing more boost (14.5 psi vs. 11.6 psi). The changes combine to make it the highest horsepower V-8 for a production car in history, according to Dodge.
What happens when you scorch the strip with the Demon in high-octane mode is simply awe-inspiring. The festivities start with the obligatory tire-cleaning burnout, which is easily accomplished thanks to the car’s line lock function. Operation is simple: enable it from the drag screen on the 8.1-inch touchscreen, apply the brake pedal, hold the OK button, release the brake, apply throttle, and roast tires. The system will hold the front brakes until the button is released or the rear wheels complete 200 revolutions.
Next comes the actual run. The Demon can be launched in one of three ways: manually, via the launch control function, or by using the TransBrake, which locks the output shaft. The last is unique to the Demon, and unless your name is John Force it’s the best way to launch the big coupe, though it does take a few runs to get the hang of the process.
To engage the TransBrake, first you have to switch into drag mode. Then, you start the process by standing firmly on the brakes using your left foot. Once enough pressure is applied, pull both shift paddles, apply throttle, release the right paddle, release the brake, bring the engine to around 1,700 rpm, and release the left paddle. As it’s released, apply throttle — for optimal performance, the Demon’s engineers recommend using a two-step process, first by going to around 40 percent then to full throttle, rather than simply going all in. (As anyone who has played Forza can tell you, mashing the go pedal in an 800-hp rear-drive car rarely ends well.)
The result is a consistent and repeatable launch that can be executed by almost anyone, as long as they can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time. Most of the journalists in attendance, yours truly included, had little to no prior drag racing experience and were still able to easily run in the 10s. Dodge claims the Demon has scorched the quarter mile in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph.
More impressive than the Demon’s easy launching was its apparent durability. Despite an air temperature firmly in the 80s and roughly 50 percent humidity, none of the handful of Demons present needed so much as a cool-off period despite continuously making run after run for several hours — and this after being subject to this form of abuse for several days over the course of a week.
The best part about the Demon is that if you don’t care about drag-racing and simply want the bragging rights of having an 800-horsepower car, you can easily pass on the Demon Crate (though at a cost of $1, it’d be silly to do so) and its drag-racing goodies and instead check the boxes for the passenger and rear seats (you can get them optioned back for $1 each) to get the usual Dodge Challenger muscular cruising experience, just turned up to 808. You don’t even sacrifice any trunk space, and for extra creature comfort, you can get it optioned up with leather seats, a moonroof, and a 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system with 18 speakers. With all that, you’ll be ready to make a run at the title of King of the Local Cruise-In (I strongly suggest opting for the Plum Crazy paint if you’re going to do so).
Is the Dodge Demon the ultimate Challenger? Yes, at least for now — people said the same thing about the Hellcat and we all know how well that worked out. But because it’s still a Challenger at heart, you can easily crush the competition on Friday and then comfortably cruise in to work on Monday, with the Demon no worse for the wear besides some degradation to the (barely) street legal Nitto NT05R drag-race tires (you won’t void your warranty, either, or even anger your insurance company since you’ll have the special Demon policy from Hagerty). That’s a hell of a thing to be able to say about an 800-horsepower muscle car.
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