Last week, Dodge unveiled the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon after what felt like a 20-year tease campaign detailing every little modification made to the Challenger Hellcat. Finally, we got hard facts. The street-legal Challenger Demon has 840 horsepower, comes standard with drag radials, and will allegedly beat every production car in the quarter mile. It’s a middle finger to class, decency, and fuel economy standards. Dodge will build just 3,000 for 2018, all of which, we figure, will sell out almost immediately.
But before you get too excited over the Demon’s numbers and rush out to destroy your friends in their Mustangs and Camaros, be aware that you personally reaching its performance peak is far from a given. Rather, while the automaker made it clear this is still a street machine, attaining those numbers requires stripping the Demon of everything that makes it a normal car. According to Dodge, the supercharged Demon makes 840 hp and 770 lb-ft of torque*, will hit 60 mph in just 2.3 seconds*, run the quarter in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph*, and even pull wheelies*. Those asterisks, though, are what you need to take note of.
Here’s how the Demon actually breaks barriers. First, owners in search of the ultimate times have to pay for the optional Demon Crate (pricing is yet to be announced), which comes with a host of goodies to ensure track dominance. You’ll need to swap the front tires out for the lighter, skinny, drag-specific wheels that come in the crate. You’ll also need to remove the front passenger seat and the rear bench — unless you didn’t check that option box for those seats when you ordered your Demon (both cost $1). Finally, you’ll need to fill up on 100-plus octane race gas, as the Demon “only” makes 808 hp on premium octane pump gas.
You’ll also need the optional Performance Powertrain Control Module (again, pricing is yet to be announced) that allows the driver to switch between normal pump gas (91 or 93 octane) and race fuel. Then, after you use the car’s line lock to heat the tires, you’ll need to prep the surface with VHT, which doesn’t come in the Demon Crate. VHT, for those not versed in drag racing culture, is a special resin used on the drag strip and the car’s tires to ensure you hook up with maximum force. Think of it as tire superglue.
After that prep, you’ll need to spend time adjusting the Demon’s Launch Control settings and tire pressures, which involves more than a few passes on the track until you figure out the settings that get you the perfect launch. A perfect launch, of course, depends on a host of other variables including elevation, humidity, track temp, engine temp, tire temp, wind speed, etc.
Something else to be aware of: If you do manage to run the claimed 9.65-second quarter mile, you’ll probably have to leave that particular drag strip. That is because, according to the NHRA rules adhered to by almost every drag strip across the country, any car that blitzes the quarter mile in less than 9.99 seconds or passes the trap faster than 135 mph is required to have a roll cage and window net — both of which are not included with the Demon. So if you want to really take advantage of the Dodge on the strip, you’ll need to have those items installed.
It is understandable why Dodge didn’t install a roll cage, as without proper driver-safety equipment (i.e. helmet, HANS, multi-point harness) the company could be liable for injuries sustained in crashes or other incidents where drivers injure themselves on the hard surface of the roll bars, as evidenced by the multitude of online testimonials of consumers adding roll cages to their daily drivers and injuring themselves in accidents.
Even without the Demon Crate’s skinny tires, or fueling it up with race gas, Dodge says the standard 808-hp setting on the Challenger SRT Demon is good enough to allow the car to blow through the quarter-mile trap at 9.90 seconds — likewise without the front passenger and rear seats — still too quick under the NHRA’s rules for cages and nets.
Putting drag-racing technologies into a street car is an interesting engineering exercise and illustrates the freedom Dodge’s engineers enjoy, and the Demon is undeniably interesting, especially thanks to its air-conditioned engine cooling system. The performance Dodge achieved is remarkable — but just know that if you hope to do the same, it’s not quite simple as driving straight from your dealer’s lot to the local racetrack.