Nobody quite knew what to expect when Dodge’s Hellcats were first introduced for 2015. Magazine covers and YouTube videos were all but assured, but actual sales? The crystal ball wasn’t exactly clear. As it turns out, there’s a ready and robust appetite forand brandishing 707 horsepower, and apparently enough of a buying audience for the same powertrain to slot (or two!), as well.
Flushed with that kind of success, it’s perhaps unsurprising that parent Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles has let SRT’s engineers completely off the chain, freeing them to create the certifiably insane Challenger SRT Demon that’s just debuted at a star-studded event ahead of the New York Auto Show.
It’s hard to put in perspective just how nuts this beast is, but I’ll try: Designed explicitly for drag racing, the Demon is the first street-legal production car that can lift its front wheels off the ground under hard acceleration. It has 840 horsepower and 770 pound-feet of torque. It’ll hit 60 mph in 2.3 seconds, 100 mph in 5.1 seconds and blitz the quarter-mile lights in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph.
It’s so fast that it’s actually banned from drag-racing competition, but more on that in a moment.
With a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 and bodywork about as aerodynamic as the factory this car came out of, you could be forgiven for thinking SRT simply resorted to a blunt-force-trauma approach to more speed — more power.
In truth, you’d be half right, but despite resurrecting a storied Seventies nameplate, the Demon is no knuckle-dragger — there’s a truly surprising amount of technology and production-firsts at work here. Dodge has found ways to make just about every old-school drag-racer performance trick reliable enough to slip into a production car and still slap a warranty on it.
What kind of firsts am I talking about? Well, the SRT Demon is the first factory-production car with an available specially calibrated engine control computer to take advantage of 100+ octane race gas.
It’s the first production car equipped with a transbrake, which locks the transmission so that drag racers don’t have to worry about standing on the brakes to prevent creeping through the timing lights when dialing up the RPMs at the starting line — you just tug a steering wheel paddle to launch.
The Demon is also the first production car with a novel liquid-to-air intercooler chiller system that diverts cold air from the air-conditioner loop, as well as an After-Run Chiller that cools the supercharger after the engine is turned off.
It’s the first car with a Drag Mode suspension setup for optimal weight transfer, a key component in straight-line performance.
Hell, it’s even the first production car available with a set of super-skinny front-runner wheels just for drag racing, part of an.
This isn’t just SRT following the muscle-car blueprint of shoving an ever-bigger engine into a smaller car, it’s gone over the Demon inch by inch to look for competitive advantages. It didn’t just crank up the boost on the 6.2 (although it is up to 14.5 psi), it replaced over 50 percent of the Hellcat’s standard internals and comprehensively reworked its fuel system and breathing, including adding dual fuel pumps and what Dodge says is the “largest functional hood scoop of any production car.”
Need more innovation? In an effort to eliminate teeth-shattering wheel hop under hard launches, the SRT Demon even uses the car’s existing wheel-spin sensors to detect slip and momentarily curb engine torque to reestablish traction quickly and protect the driveline. Yes, there’s software magic to go with this car’s hardware trickery.
With “more speed” as its ever-guiding principle, SRT also jettisoned whatever weight it could, to the point that the Challenger SRT Demon actually comes as a single-seat car. (Rear and front passenger seats can be added back for the grand sum of $1, however, so this monoposto arrangement is arguably largely symbolic.). The SRT team cut around 200 pounds from the standard Challenger Hellcat Demon, mostly by removing creature comforts (much of which can be added back in at extra cost), but a lot of the model’s new equipment in turn adds weight back in. The Demon tips the scales at 4,280 pounds.
All of these changes add up to the fastest production quarter-mile drag car ever — more rapid than any Ferrari or Lamborghini that you can muster. Hopefully Dodge will let Roadshow have a go in this thing — it apparently registers 1.8 gs at launch, a figure that sounds about as subtle as a Louisville Slugger to the gut.
In fact, the SRT Demon is so fast at the strip that it’s actually been banned by the National Hot Rod Association, the very sanctioning body that certified its record-setting performances. That’s because the car is so quick as to require additional safety equipment to legally race at NHRA-governed facilities, including items like a roll cage and racing harness. That’s equipment that owners will doubtlessly fit to squeeze this Demon into the sanctioning body’s legal framework, but right off the showroom floor, this car is just “too damn fast” for the NHRA to sign off on, says Tim Kuniskis, head of Fiat Chrysler’s NAFTA passenger cars. [UPDATE: I spoke with Kuniskis about why Dodge doesn’t offer a roll cage, and why the NHRA ban is overblown. Read my story.]
Rather wisely, each Demon comes with a full day’s tuition at the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving in Chandler, Arizona. Buyers will be on their own for travel and lodging expenses, but given this car’s performance potential, it should be worth the trouble.
Given that this is a streetable machine that also needs to run on pump gas, it shouldn’t surprise you that this car comes with different power modes. In full-tilt drag-race mode running on racing fuel, the SRT Demon delivers the aforementioned peak 840 horsepower, but there is an Eco setting and a password-protected Valet mode for those moments when you have to turn over the keys to someone you don’t entirely trust. Like the 707-hp Hellcat, the Demon also comes with two keys that trigger different power levels. The black key is limited to 500 horses and the red key unlocks the car’s full potential.
The SRT Demon may look just like another Challenger Hellcat widebody conversion, but it’s something infinitely more focused and primal. This is a street-legal muscle car, but despite those various drive modes, it’s not clear how livable it will be to drive public roads. Its softer drag-racing suspension setup suggests it should be comfortable enough, but it could still be too loud or have a drivetrain that’s just not happy at normal speeds. In any case, the Demon is not really meant to be merely driven, it exists to race, and that disposition should suit its lucky owners just fine.
Perhaps as a result, spotting a Demon on the street is likely to be a rare treat. Most of the 3,000 models planned for the US (and 300 examples earmarked for Canada) will likely live their days either being trailered to and from drag strips or secreted away in a collection, only to be rubbed with a diaper and tethered to a battery tender until their value increases enough to contemplate selling at auction. Dodge says the Demon will only be available for one year, so expect opportunistic dealers to be tempted by the possibility of charging big markups once pricing is finally released. Deliveries start this fall.
Automakers — including Dodge — have sold purpose-built drag racers before, but never has a street-legal model been so extreme. The proof will be in the driving, but the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon appears to be both a towering and unique achievement, one likely to outright offend as many people as it will attract. Regardless of where you fall on that continuum, one thing is for sure: The automotive kingdom is a far more vivid place today than it was before the Demon came to town.