What more can you ask for from a modern muscle car? Dodge has finally released all the info about its much-teased 2018 Dodge Demon, a street-legal drag car with a ton of race tech built right in from the factory. Dodge says it will make 3,000 vehicles for the United States and 300 vehicles for Canada with deliveries to Dodge//SRT dealers beginning this fall. Hellcat and Tesla owners have one last summer left to rule their local dragstrips.
You’re probably seeing this everywhere today, so we’ll try to be brief. Hopefully we’ll get some more time with this car soon, and then we’ll get you the Roadkill story. For now though, horsepower numbers! Torque! ET! 0-60! Yowsa! 840 horses! 770 pound-feet! 9.65-second ET (a quarter-mile time so quick it’s already illegal on NHRA tracks without a rollbar) at 140 miles per hour! 2.3 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour! That’s pretty cool production car bragging stuff.
Gotta brag ourselves, ’cause we’ve been solidly on the “Tim Kuniskis doesn’t do subtle, so this is going to be a 9-second street car,” trip since the first teaser, and we were pretty sure the Demon wasn’t going to just be a little bit better than the Hellcat.
“To quote Spinal Tap, Dodge is a brand that ‘goes to 11,’ said Kuniskis, Dodge FCA’s Head of Passenger Cars, “but for us, when we got to 11 with the Hellcat, we wanted to go even further. After all, Dodge is a brand that wants to impress the NHRA more than the PTA. Some people are going to think we went too far and will ask why we built the Demon. The answer is really easy: The quest to build a car that goes faster than the last one has fueled every gearhead for over a century.”
Let’s take a look at this quest for fire. First of all, remember that you’ve got a street set-up and an optional high-octane, small front-runner set-up. In street trim, the Demon ticks off the boxes in 9.96 seconds at 136 mph, thanks to 808 horsepower on 91 octane fuel.
In what we’ll call race-trim, you cover the same distance in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph and put down 840 hp. Either way, you get kicked off any NHRA dragstrip unless you’ve added a rollbar. Back in 2012 NHRA changed some of the rules for modern street cars regarding safety, but only down to 9.99 and 135mph. The Demon will come with mounting points for a four-point harness bar, available through Speedlogix, but this won’t meet the ‘cage rules for a 9.99 or faster car. What does this mean? Well, if you buy one, you can run a race-gas burning 9-second pass on any track…once. But in street mode on a warm test-n-tune evening, you can run super low 10s with the Demon all night long without being hassled by the tech man. So it’s not “banned,” exactly, it’s just too fast to be legal in all-out trim.
So how about that wheelie? Sure, it’s not going to win the wheelstander contest at Byron Dragway, but it did set a world record for a production car, all official with Guinness and everything. That would be Longest Wheelie from a standing start by a production car at 2.92 feet. The Challenger SRT Demon also claims the highest acceleration g-force ever recorded in a production car at 1.8G.
Oh here, Dodge says all these are firsts for a street-legal production car. We’ll obviously have to spend the next two weeks fact-checking this. Wanna help?
- Factory-installed wider, Nitto street-legal drag radials for improved grip, 40 percent more launch force compared with SRT Hellcat tires
- Available Direct Connection engine controller calibrated for 100+ unleaded high-octane fuel
- SRT Power Chiller™ redirects air conditioning refrigerant to chill the charger air cooler
- After-Run Chiller runs the cooling fan and the low-temperature circuit coolant pump after engine shutdown
- TransBrake locks the output shaft of the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission—No manual transmission, sorry—to hold the car before launch, allowing the driver to increase engine rpm for higher torque and quicker response
- Torque Reserve boosts engine air flow and supercharger rpm before launch, delivering wickedly fast acceleration
- Drag Mode suspension tuning maximizes weight transfer to the rear wheels for better traction
- Drag Mode Launch Assist uses wheel speed sensors to watch for driveline-damaging wheel hop at launch and in milliseconds modifies the engine torque to regain full grip and then continues accelerating the car down the track
- Available narrow “front runner” wheels for use at drag strips cuts front-end weight
- Wide-body exterior styling, with concealed wheel well attachments house Challenger SRT Demon’s massively wide 315/40R18 tires
- Front passenger seat and rear seat deleted to reduce weight (can be optioned back for $1 each)
Engine: Supercharged V-8
The Demon engine is a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi, sharing architecture with the Hellcat, but more than half its components like the crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods, camshaft, and valvetrain are Demon-only. The Hemi’s exterior is red, rather than Hemi Orange. Horsepower and torque obviously changed, shall we repeat them? Why not? 840 horsepower and 770 pound-feet of torque. That’s all certified to the SAE J1349 industry standard and meets all applicable legal emissions regulations. The supercharger atop the Hemi is a bigger IHI unit: 2.7 liters versus the Hellcat’s 2.4 liters. Boost is turned up to 14.5 psi from the Hellcat’s 11.6 psi.
Redline scooted up by 300 rpm to 6,500 rpm, and fuel comes in a tsunami thanks to two dual-stage fuel pumps. Air intake is increased too, with a larger induction air box pulling from the wide-mouth 45.2 square-inch Air-Grabber hood scoop, a driver side headlamp, and an inlet in the wheelwell. End result for breathing? 1,150 cubic feet per minute, 18 percent greater than the Hellcat. All that air also improves cooling, reducing intake air temp by more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit compared with the Hellcat. Inside the engine itself is a beefed-up valvetrain, strengthened connecting rods and pistons, and a better oiling set-up.
Even with beefy internals, horsepower benefits from keeping everything cool on track, so the Demon diverts the the air-conditioning refrigerant from cabin to a chiller unit mounted by the low-temperature circuit coolant pump. Charge air coolant, leaving the radiator at the front of the vehicle, flows through the chiller, then to the heat exchangers in the supercharger, where any BTUs that escaped the previous refrigeration have one more chance to cool off. The cooling continues even when the engine is off, as the fan and water pump stay running to stave off heat soak and improve turnaround time.
Every run down the drag strip generates plenty of heat. The After-Run Chiller, a factory-production car first, helps the SRT Demon get ready for the next run as quickly as possible. All those temp changes are trackable on the touchscreen inside the car, so you don’t have to step outside and judge temp by how hot the radiator hose is.
Fuel: Don’t Call It Race Gas
The last official teaser made it clear that the Demon comes with a tune to run on 100+ octane fuel. Owners get access to a Mopar Performance crate with a new PCM and a switch that goes in the center stack with a cool “high-octane” button. What does this do for horsepower? 840 horsepower and 770 pounds-feet of torque, says Dodge. If you’re worried about handing over the key to a car with a high-octane button, the Demon continues the Hellcat’s black key/red key power division, and includes a Valet option. We really want to be the first folks to drive a 9-second drag car into a valet parking restaurant.
The black fob limits engine output to 500 horsepower, just like the Hellcat. The red key gets the engine’s full output of 840 horsepower and 770 pounds-feet torque. With either key fob, the driver can activate Eco and Valet Modes. Eco Mode limits engine output and revises the transmission shift schedule to include second-gear starts. Valet Mode limits the engine to 4,000 rpm and reduces torque output.
Don’t Mess Up The Launch
Every YouTube video of a Hellcat getting spanked due to driver error must have kept Kuniskis up at night, because the Demon comes with a ton of helpers to turn the power into ET, rather than smoke. We’ve already discussed the trans brake, which locks the output shaft on the TorqueFlite 8HP90 eight-speed automatic—again, no manual—letting you rev up to 2,350 rpm without pushing through the brakes, netting a 15 percent torque increase at launch. The car will walk you through the use process, so you don’t mess it up and disappoint Tim.
That trans is similar to the automatic Hellcat, but boasts an upgraded torque converter that delivers an 18 percent increase in torque multiplication, increased stall speed by 11 percent faster lockup. Working in concert with the convertor and trans brake is what Dodge calls “Torque Reserve” and a two-step launch controller. When activated, Torque Reserve closes the bypass valve to give you a boost headstart, and modulates fuel and spark timing until the paddle is released. The end result is faster off-the-line acceleration, better 60-ft traction, and a possible gain of a tenth in the quarter.
The Demon also has technology to prevent the dreaded wheel-hop on launch. Another one of the vaunted Firsts for a production car, the Demon’s Launch Assist uses the wheel speed sensors to know if the tires are slipping or sticking. If slip is detected, engine torque is reduced to regain traction. All this happens so fast you won’t have to lift, or even notice. Launch Assist reduces loads in the driveline from wheel hop by more than 15-20 percent, which the weak point components appreciate.
If you’ve been following the Hellcat, you’ll know that its weak points were driveshaft and axles, so it’s to be expected that Dodge has upgraded those components. A high-strength, and thicker steel prop shaft can handle a 15 percent increase in torque, and has heat-treated shafts. The rear-end housing is heat-treated A383 aluminum alloy and can take 30 percent more torque. Inside is a gearset with hardened and shot-peened gears. Rear half-shafts are bigger around and up to 41 spline (from 38) for a 20 percent increase in torque capacity. Eight-ball joints also handle more torque.
Suspension too has been designed for best traction at launch, with Bilstein Adaptive Damping shocks tuned to shift as much weight as possible to the rear tires when you stomp the gas. In Drag Mode, the front shocks are set for firm compression and soft rebound damping, while the rears are set for firm compression and firm rebound damping. As long as you’re full throttle, the shocks remain in this rear-weighted configuration. When you let up, the balance changes to give you better handling up front. Weight transfer is also controlled by softer springs—35 percent lower rate in front and 28 percent lower rate in the rear compared to Hellcat—and light, hollow sway bars, 75 percent lower rate in front and 44 in rear. There’s no mistaking the Demon for a road race car. It’s mission is to go fast straight, although Dodge is hoping there’s enough compromise and electronic assistance that you won’t immediately throw it in a ditch, or the track wall.
Rumors of AWD came from the four-wheel flares and fat rubber on all corners, but really, the Demon comes with slicks and spares. Not slicks, exactly, but 12.6-inch wide Nitto NT05R street-legal, drag-race tires in 315/40R18 mounted on lightweight 11×18-inch wheels . The tires were designed just for the SRT Demon, and are a different compound and sidewall construction from off-the-shelf DOT radials. The Nittos make for more than twice the grip of the Hellcat. Once you pick up your extra-goodies crate, you can replace the front radials with skinnies, and save them for when you wear out the first set of rears. We’d guess that would be about 15 minutes after you get the car home. There’s one last tire change for Demon: a different rear knuckle that reduces negative camber in the back by 0.5 degrees, straightening out the contact patch.
To keep you from flat-spotting the fronts as you push through your brakes, the Demon offers a line lock, which engages the front brakes to hold the Challenger SRT Demon stationary but leaves the rear wheels free for a burnout to heat up and clean the rear tires. The same system allow a rolling burnout for up to 400 rear wheel revolutions. Once again, you have no excuse for crashing this car or not running fast!
Diet and Exercise
We’ve spent a lot of time guessing at the curb weight of the Demon, and it looks to be 4,280 pounds in raciest trim. That’s about 200 pounds shed from the lightest Hellcat Challenger. Here’s what you lose to lose the weight:
- 58 pounds: Removed front passenger seat and belt
- 55 pounds: Removed rear seat, restraints and floor mats
- 24 pounds: Removed 16 audio speakers, amplifier and associated wiring
- 20 pounds: Removed trunk deck cover trim, carpeting, spare tire cover
- 19 pounds: Used smaller, hollow sway bars
- 18 pounds: Removed mastic, body deadeners, insulators and foam
- 16 pounds: Used lightweight all-aluminum four-piston brake caliper and smaller, 360-mm two-piece rotor
- 16 pounds: Switched to lightweight wheels and open-end lug nuts
- 4 pounds: Switched to manual tilt/telescope steering column
- 2 pounds: Removed park sensors and module
You can add most of that back in on the order form, so expect plenty of chubby Demons to leave the showroom floor. It’s the same for cars as it is for us, easy to pack the pounds back on after all the work to shed them. If you don’t want the single, cloth-covered seat and minimal sound system you can add passenger and rear back in, carpeting, 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, power sunroof (I will personally come to your house and punch you in the neck if you put a sunroof in this car), heated and cooled leather, heated steering wheel, and a satin black accent package. The passenger seat, carpet, and backseat will cost you a buck apiece. Imagine the other stuff is more.
It’s So Smart
A lot of modern performance cars use new technology to toggle between road and track use, but the Demon is the first to really commit to drag racing a street car. The drive modes and SRT Performance pages offer data recording and digital readouts of every fluid and temp sensor, as well as battery monitoring and boost pressure. Drive Modes include Drag Mode, which is Demon-only. If you aren’t tearing up the quarter, you can choose from Auto (Street) Mode, which sets the Bilstein Adaptive Damping Suspension (ADS) for comfortable ride with compliant handling, and Custom Mode, which lets you choose between Auto and Drag Mode for the trans, paddle shifters, traction, suspension and steering. All of this is similar to the Hellcat, just a little bit more of everything, including choices.
Auto mode is boring, so let’s talk Drag Mode. DM allows for high-octane usage. The trans is all about acceleration in its shift program, expect to feel it in your neck muscles. Stability control goes minimal on the forward movement to allow for burnouts, but keeps tabs on yaw, to hopefully prevent you spinning out. Suspension changes for better weight transfer, paddle shifters are on, steering is stiff, air conditioning is diverted to the chiller, torque convertor lockup point goes up and trans brake is available. In Custom Mode you can set up any combination of the above or the street set-up.
In the Performance Pages you can set your launch control RPM and shift light, or set up the data recorder to keep the run. You can also set the car in Eco or Valet mode. Unsurprisingly, launch control is not available in Valet mode.
How’s It Look?
Mostly it looks like a Challenger, but a wide Challenger, with fender flares adding 3.5 inches to the car’s width. Also wide is the hood scoop, 45.2 square inches, and taking up the entire front of the hood lip. The interior, even in race-stripped form is plush, with Demon-branded reminders ever 4.8 inches. Ok, we made up that number, but Dodge is definitely giving Shelby a run for the record in number of places it reminds you what kind of car it is. We count 23, including the Demon on the supercharger, on the intake lamp, on the windshield, on the dash, on the seat, in the back seat, on both fenders, under the hood, in the speedometer, on the seatbelts, on the optional harness bar, on the tires, on the crate, and on almost everything in the crate which includes a jack, torque wrench, cordless impact, tire gauge, fender cover, air filter, passenger mirror block-off plate, PCM, fuel switch, skinny front runners, and tool bag. We’ll forgive it though, because how cool is it to buy a car that comes with everything you need for a track day perfectly sized to fit in its own trunk?
It would have been funny if you could only get the Demon in red, but you’ll have 14 colors to choose from including most of the popular high-impact shades. Pick from F8 Green, Go Mango, Granite Crystal, B5 Blue, Billet Silver, Destroyer Grey, Indigo Blue, Octane Red, Pitch Black, Maximum Steel, Plum Crazy, Yellow Jacket, TorRed, or the appropriately named, White Knuckle. You can get any of the colors with the Satin black hood, roof, and decklid as an option.
As we said earlier, Dodge really wants owners to perform well with the Demon, so it comes with a proper, printed track tech manual and a log book, as well as a full day of instruction at the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving in Arizona.
What Do We Think?
You’d have to be a serious grouch (or a diehard other brand fan) to deny the appeal of the Demon. A production car with a factory warranty (three-year/36,000-mile limited vehicle warranty and five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain coverage) that runs 9.65 seconds at the strip? That’s a pretty gutsy move from FCA, and hopefully one that pushes other car manufacturers to up their straight line game. Aftter all, Nurburgring times are super impressive, but it’s hard to get to Germany for a Thursday night Test N Tune. Drag racing is something accessible to most car nuts. The price is still to be determined at this point.
Ok, that’s what we know. What do you know? How mad are you about the lack of a manual or Charger option? How much cheaper is the street-legal nine-second car that you built? How much better is the 2010 Shelby GT500 than absolutely everything else? Tell us. We want to know what you think.