2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon: Driven Down the Quarter Mile - Track Review By Larry Nutson +VIDEO
Dodge Challenger SRT Demon: Driven Down the Quarter Mile
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Yes indeed, I drove the SRT Demon on a drag strip. On the invite of Dodge, I made my way to US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin Michigan along with about ten other Chicago-area auto writers. We were about to have an adrenaline-pumping early-fall day at the drags.
To refresh your memory, the new 840-horsepower 2018 SRT Demon is the world’s fastest quarter-mile production car and the most powerful muscle car ever.
The SRT Demon has been certified by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) with a quarter-mile elapsed time (ET) of 9.65 seconds at 140 mph.
0-30 mph is in one second flat; 0-60 mph is in 2.3 seconds; G-force acceleration is 1.8g. And, it’s the first-ever production car to lift the front wheels at start---certified by Guinness World Records at 2.92 feet.
Yes, a production car that does a wheelie and, the SRT Demon is street-legal.
Frankly, I was really pumped about my upcoming day at the drag strip. A lot of years ago I was a drag racer. I spent about nine years at one drag strip or another just about every warm-weather Sunday. For six of those years I was part of a team racing Dodge Super Stocks. It was going to be déjà vu all over again.
Jim Wilder is the vehicle development manger for Challenger SRT and Charger SRT. Before we headed to the starting line Jim took us through various development and engineering details of the Demon. The SRT Demon uses the 707-horsepower Hellcat 6.2-liter Hemi that’s been modified with a larger supercharger, a high-flow fuel system, and a chilling system to cool the intake air that comes in through a large “1965-era” hood scoop. Add some100-octane gasoline and the engine now pumps out 840-horsepower.
A key element to put the 840-horsepower to the track surface was the need for more grip. The new widebody design on the SRT Demon is one outcome that has also now trickled-down to the 2018 Challenger SRT Hellcat. Suspension changes to shocks, springs and sway bars make the SRT Demon transfer weight to the rear-mounted Nitto drag radials.
Another key element was to reduce vehicle mass to improve acceleration. A standard “no options” SRT Demon has only a driver’s seat---no right front seat saves 58 pounds and no rear seat saves 55 pounds. All-in-all SRT engineering took over 200 pounds out of a Hellcat to make it a Demon.
There are three ways to launch the SRT Demon: the old-school left foot brake method and rolling in to the throttle; using Launch Assist which leaves throttle control to the engine control module; and, using TransBrake which locks the transmission output shaft to hold the car in place. Dodge says the TransBrake is good for a tenth second lower ET….and that’s a lot in drag racing.
We had three SRT Demons to rotate among our group of ten journalists. Dodge just doesn’t just set you free drive to drive. Each Demon has a professional driving instructor. For my first pass down the strip I was a passenger. I was paired up with Jim Wilder, who by the way happens to be a long-time drag racer outside of his fun job in SRT Engineering. Jim spent about ten minutes explaining the various settings in the Demon’s Performance Pages and Drive Modes displayed in the Uconnect touchscreen. The most important one for today was Drag Mode!
The Demon has a line-lock that holds the front brakes to do a burnout to clean and heat up the rear tires. Jim rolled into the wetted burnout box and lit up the rears.
On my first pass down the track with Jim driving and shutting off at the eight-mile I felt a bit overwhelmed. At launch the massive hood scoop rises up as weight is transferred. The g-force is quite noticeable and there’s an immediate realization that this is one powerful beast—a true Demon.
Run #2 is with me at the wheel and Jim next to me. I did my burnout and eased the Demon into the pre-stage and stage lights. For ease of acclimation I chose the old-school left foot on the brake launch while holding the engine idle up around 1700 RPM. The Christmas tree lights dropped down to green, I was off the brake and rolled into the throttle. Shutting down at the 1/8 mile, I hit a 6.8 second ET.
I had one more run in this first sequence. I decided I was going all the way down the quarter. I used left foot braking again. Rolled into the throttle. The Demon hooked up, launched straight and beautifully. At the big-end there is absolutely no high-speed float, the car runs straight and the SRT Demon and I were in sync. 10.5 seconds for my first full-quarter pass. Wow! I was pleased. I even got some reassurance from the Dodge team with a few thumbs-up.
I made six more passes down the US 131 quarter. Another 10.5; my first TransBrake attempt with a little screw up of mine at launch got me a 10.9 and then a slightly better 10.8; three more passes later in the day got me runs between 10.6 and 10.9 as I got better at the seven-step “ballet” using the TransBrake. By the way, at the big-end we were hitting 135 mph.
The three SRT Demons we drove were a bit heavy since they all had two front seats and some had rear seats (each a $1 option…really). Additionally, the bolt-in rear harness bar adds 33 pounds and one had a sunroof adding about 32 pounds. I was hoping to be closer to a ten-flat, but track surface and ambient conditions have a big influence on ETs. The best run at US 131 during our time there was Jim Wilder himself knocking down a 10.1 second ET. By the way, it was Jim who clocked the 9.65 second ET at 140 mph for the record books. That was at Gainesville Raceway, home of the NHRA Gatornatonals, early last spring.
The SRT Demon is equipped with four Nitto NT05R 315/40ZR18 street-legal drag radials. We had the skinny front-runner wheels and tires on our track cars. The Nittos on the rear were set at 24 psi-hot for best grip.
Dodge execs told me that all 3000 SRT Demons have been allocated in production either with a specific customer order or ordered by a dealer. I found it somewhat surprising that ninety-percent of them are heavily optioned and there is no particular strong leader in color choice. So it appears that many customers are trying to hit the one-off build combination that has the potential for future high value.
And as for the other ten-percent that have few or no options, I wonder if we’ll see any being campaigned on the drag strip. All you need is to install a roll-cage and have a NHRA under-10 second license and your good to go. Oh, you could put on open-exhaust headers for yet even more power and change the rear tires to true drag slicks.
Sounds like a plan!
The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is priced at $84,999, including the $1,700 gas guzzler tax. Visit www.dodge.com to see lots more in the world of SRTs.
I also drove the SRT Demon on the street while at US 131. The Nitto tires, softer springs and softer, lighter sway bars compared to the SRT Hellcat don’t really detract at all. The SRT Demon handles quite well and is very comfortable for you to drive to your favorite local drag strip for a weekend of fun. Or for that matter, you can drive it to the grocery store or wherever.
© 2017 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy
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