Driving a 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

One pass at western Michigan’s US131 drag strip with a pro at the wheel left us a quivering pool of protoplasm. The combination of horizontal-g and body rotation during launch is your first tongue kiss, plunge off a diving board, and tequila shot rolled into one. You’re instantly hooked on this g-potion and will do anything to score more. That’s what the new Demon, an ultrafocused special edition of the Dodge Challenger from Fiat Chrysler’s in-house tuning arm, SRT, does to a passenger. Imagine the sensations when you’re behind the wheel.

The driver’s hands, feet, and eyes must be in sync to orchestrate the paddle pulls and pedal work needed to leave the starting line with the front tires pawing air and the rear drag radials munching the strip. Team SRT could have made this a one-button drag cannon; that they didn’t adds to the challenge in keeping with this Dodge’s name. On our ninth run, we clocked a 10.3-second, 130-mph quarter-mile, not bad for a sports coupe also capable of 20 mpg commuting to work.

The Demon starts as a street-legal, semi-polite Challenger but can be converted to a strip weapon with a $1 crate of parts consisting of RaceMaster 4.50/28.0-18 front tires on skinny aluminum wheels, a jack, air compressor, tools, and a powertrain control computer that hikes output from 808 to 840 horsepower. Fill the tank with 100-octane race gasoline and you’re good to go.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon at sunset
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon headlight detail

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon drag package
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon hood

To upgrade the Challenger Hellcat into a Demon, SRT stripped 200 pounds and fortified the driveline for race duty, added fender flares, and fitted a cold-air hood. Deletions include the front passenger seat, the rear seats, trunk trim, and the audio speakers. Smaller-diameter anti-roll bars and lighter brake calipers save a combined 35 pounds. The supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi engine’s pistons, connecting rods, and crankshaft are forged and heat-treated to a fare-thee-well. Fuel and boost pressures are jacked and the a/c chills the intercooler instead of the interior. The ZF eight-speed automatic locks up to maximize launch torque.

When the Christmas tree flashes green, softer spring rates and revised dampers aid load transfer from the front tires to the 315/40R-18 Nitto drag radials at the rear. The net gain in acceleration over the Hellcat is 30 percent. Boasting 1.8 g’s of launch acceleration, this is the second-quickest rush to 140 mph (after the Porsche 918 Spyder) ever to leave an assembly line.

The SRT Demon’s most compelling attribute may be its instant collectibility. Only 3,300 will be manufactured. While the $86,090 price tops a base Dodge Challenger by a factor of three, that’s only a quarter the cost of Ferrari’s new 812 Superfast. Its NHRA-certified performance of 9.65 seconds and 140 mph in the quarter-mile exceeds that organization’s street-class limits (necessitating additional safety gear such as a certified roll cage to compete). And the Demon is steeped in Chrysler history, with roots extending to Ramcharger and Golden Commando factory teams of the 1960s.

Thanks to Hagerty’s faith in this project, Dodge’s SRT Demon is also readily insurable.

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