INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana—The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is the fastest-accelerating production car from zero to sixty that’s ever been produced. It’ll do it in 2.3 seconds. That is reframe-your-world fast.
It also does wheelies – yes, wheelies – and it’s so fast the NHRA has explicitly banned it from competition. It’s been engineered with enough automotive engineering geekery to satisfy any car nerd. Plus, it meets Dodge’s durability standards for its regular production cars and carries the same warranty as every other Challenger.
If anybody is waxing poetic about the good old days of muscle cars, it’s time to wake up and smell what Dodge is cooking with this Demon.
With its wider bodywork, prominent hood intake, discrete Scat Pack-spec spoiler, and unique 18-inch wheels wrapped in Nitto DOT drag radials, it’s also got the street presence of the baddest muscle car on the road today. Perhaps it’s simply the baddest muscle car ever—and it’s proudly built in Canada.
Let loose the drag nuts
The SRT division has a reputation for producing quick and balanced versions of Dodge and Jeep vehicles (we lament the loss of the Chrysler 300 SRT) that are a blast to drive on the road as well as road courses.
SRTs are tremendously fast in a straight line, particularly the Hellcats, but they’re not terribly well optimized for the quarter mile. Until now.
Unlike with previous projects, this Demon is the first time SRT’s in-house drag racing specialists were really let loose. And let loose they did. Based on the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat we all know and love, the Demon was designed to do one thing exceptionally well: to launch hard and accelerate like no other production car.
Getting from Hellcat to Demon is not a trivial undertaking. The entire powertrain has been heavily revised, weight was removed, and the suspension has been reworked for maximum acceleration.
The Demon’s 6.2-litre, supercharged HEMI V8 is similar to a Hellcat powerplant, but uses Demon specific components, including the deck plate-honed engine block, forged crankshaft, forged pistons, forged connecting rods, and a larger displacement supercharger offering 14.5 pounds of boost rather than the Hellcat’s 11.6.
The pistons receive double the oil cooling of a Hellcat engine and inside the heads, there are new valves and valve springs with increased oiling for more cooling and lubrication. Of course, fuel flow is increased to meet the Demon’s massive power numbers.
840 hp. 770 lb-ft. 315 mm.
And they are massive. On 91 octane fuel, the Demon makes 808 horsepower and 717 pounds of torque, but when you run the Direct Connection Controller that’s calibrated to run this supercharge HEMI at 100+ octane fuel, you get the full fury of this hellion: 840 horsepower and a massive 770 pounds of torque.
In the Demon’s Drag Mode, air conditioning is disabled because – get this – instead of chilling the cabin air, the air conditioning is diverted to an intake air chiller, which nets about a 10C reduction in intake temperature.
Those earth-moving power numbers are just part of the story, because you’ve got to get that power to the ground. The Demon is available exclusively with the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, which has been updated with a new torque converter that increases stall speed and, in Drag Mode, cuts shift time to just 400 milliseconds.
The driveshaft and half-shafts are more robust to help put the Demon’s power to the ground and retain durability. The 3.09 final drive and limited-slip differential live inside a Demon-specific housing with cooling fins and discreet Demon badging.
SRT chose Nitto’s 315/40R18 NT05R drag radials and put them on lightweight 18- x 11-inch wheels, and with your Demon, you actually get four of them, which means you’ve already got a spare pair of rear drag tires.
Where the Hellcat had just 275mm-wide tires, the Nitto 315s necessitated the fender flares that widen this charger 3.5 inches. (The new Challenger SRT Widebody uses the same Demon bodywork, save for Demon’s short rear spoiler.)
The muscular fender flares give the Demon additional attitude, but it probably doesn’t need any more than it already has. The increased steering loads of the Demon and its Widebody brother necessitated a switch from the Hellcat’s hydraulically-assisted to electrically-assisted steering.
You’re going to want the Crate
The Demon features two key, drag racing-specific tricks. A line lock function is necessary for pre-race, tire-cleaning burnouts; and the Trans Brake optimizes the entire powertrain for hard launches.
The system pre-builds boost, locks the first gear clutches as well as one of the second gear clutches, preloading the entire driveline, allowing the driver to release the Demon’s complete fury with a flick of one of the shift paddles.
The best way to spec the Demon is with the Demon Crate, which includes everything you need to have fun at the drag strip. The crate includes the aforementioned engine controller that enables all 840 horses, as well as the trick, narrow front wheels and tires, along with a complete set of tools to perform wheel and tire swaps trackside.
The Crate is personalized to each Demon owner, and includes a foam case for the front wheels along with a case filled with a set of tools so they can securely ride in the trunk. Owners also receive a leather-bound book with Demon set-up information. SRT clearly isn’t holding anything back.
The Demon’s suspension takes the Hellcat’s set-up and tweaks it specifically for drag strip performance. Hollow, lightweight sway bars; recalibrated adaptive dampers; and softer springs – 35% front and 28% rear – contribute to the Demon’s straight-line-optimized performance.
Throwing the hood above the horizon
Despite that drag-strip-focused set up, the Demon drives remarkably well on the road. The ride is civilized and comfortable, though this Challenger’s road manners are best when the adaptive dampers are set to Sport.
But of course the real thrill comes when launching the Demon on the drag strip. A quick tap of the line lock button on the touch screen locks the front brakes so you can produce some massive smoke with the rear tires—or, ahem, clean your tires before approaching the tree. The Trans Brake is very clever and sets up the Demon to launch hard.
This Challenger launches so hard that at first it’s difficult to gather your bearings. Immediately after releasing the Trans Brake, the instant acceleration forcibly throws you into your seat and the hood rises up, seemingly above the horizon, and the Demon carries that thrust all the way down the strip, still pulling with the thrust of a rocket by the end of the quarter mile.
The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association, the U.S.‘s largest drag racing body) certified the Demon to a quarter-mile elapsed time of 9.65 seconds at a trap speed of 140 miles per hour (225 km/h). On a hot day with your novice drag racer at the wheel, we saw elapsed times in the tens and trap speeds in the 130s.
This record-setting Demon comes at a price: $109,995 in Canada to start. The good thing is the important options like the passenger seat, back seat, trunk carpeting, and the necessary Demon Crate are priced at $1 each. Yes, you read that correctly.
But perhaps the best way to order a Demon is with the Crate and as few of those options as you’re willing to tolerate. Adding features like leather upholstery and a sunroof only serve to dilute the brilliant engineering behind the Demon.
Dodge has promised 300 Demons for the Canada, and most build slots have been taken at the time of this writing. If you’re considering one, don’t hesitate. Order the world’s fastest, Canadian-built muscle car straight away.
Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.