Up: Fast, loud, mean, stock
Down: Literally eats gas and rubber
Neutral: 10x the speed for 1/10th the price
How do I even start reviewing arguably America’s coolest dang car ever built? Do I tell you that the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is the first ever production car capable of popping a wheelie straight off the factory floor? How about that it goes from 0-60 miles per hour faster than a $3,000,000 Bugatti Chiron? Or maybe that it has the most powerful production V8 engine that’s ever been shoved into any car in history? Nah, I’m not stupid; you’ve read all of these headlines before. What I’d rather talk about is what the Demon is really like so it might be best to just start at the beginning.
It’s 7:00 a.m. on a sunny Sunday morning in June and I’m headed out to review a 2018 Dodge Demon in menacing F8 Green paint. I’m currently behind the wheel of my wife’s 2012 Fiat 500 Sport because my 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit is leaking a bit of oil, and I can’t help but laugh at the fact that the combined horsepower in my garage is 175 horsepower while the garage I’m visiting is nearing the 10,000 mark. Hell, the Demon alone could eat five Fiats and five Rabbits!
As I get closer, some nervousness left over from the night before starts to creep in. I had driven the owner’s 2013 McLaren 12C before but that was a mid-engined piece of engineering perfection that contained every ounce of innovative technology available to keep inexperienced drivers on the road; so that doesn’t count. I had also reviewed his 2006 Ford GT which was raw and supercharged, but also mid-engined and exquisitely balanced so that doesn’t count either. My fear is that the Demon has more power under the nose than both aforementioned supercars, and only sends power to the rear wheels of a lumbering Challenger chassis. Oh hey, did a Hellcat just drive by me? Cute.
When I pull into the driveway, I am greeted at the first garage and we head down to the second garage. It’s always hard to breeze by such a unique and fantastic collection of cars, but there’s work to be done. The lights flicker on in the basement which highlight the Dodge Demon sitting front and center. The owner apologizes for putting stickier, non-stock Hoosier drag tires on the rear, but I’m not picky—the white letters on the sidewall look better anyways. After some chatter, we hop in, fire up the 840 horsepower engine that spits out of an exhaust way louder than stock pipes should be, and we head out. I was also kindly handed a cold water bottle because it can get quite hot in hell. (The Demon literally re-routes the A/C in “drag” mode!)
Let’s get started with the specifics. No, the Dodge Demon is not just a widebody Hellcat with more horsepower. A completely unfair and abridged list of upgrades includes new pistons, conrods, crankshaft, valvetrain, and fuel injection. A modified 8-speed transmission has been beefed up to handle all of the torque and the upgraded suspension allows for more weight transfer. And, to top it all off, Dodge allows you to rip out the passenger and rear seats, 16 speakers, insulation, parking sensors, and choose lighter brakes and wheels to save a whopping 222 lbs! Exactly 1/3 of 666, mind you.
Owners also get a lot of aesthetic goodies to go with their not-a-Hellcat as well. Although this Challenger does not say “Demon” anywhere on the outside of the car it is made known by the signature badges, flaired wheel arches, fat tires, the optional matte-black hood/roof/trunk combo, and that huge scoop on the hood dubbed Air-Grabber. As for the little things, the Demon has a pot-load of those too. You’ll probably notice the kick-ass illuminated demons in the headlights first, but move on to the interior and you’ll find more livery. There’s a special “Demon” animation on the cluster screen when you start up the car, a personalized plaque with your car’s build number under the passenger vent, demons imprinted in the seats, and, under the hood, an actual demon attempting to crawl out of your supercharger.
But wait, there’s more! As you have probably guessed, the Dodge Demon is purpose built to go in a straight line really fast. Faster than any other factory car to 100 mph fast. But it won’t quite do that without a couple of upgrades. Dodge did something really cool here by offering all additional options for $1.00 each. Yes, you read that right. You want that front seat? $1.00. Trunk carpeting? $1.00. And you know what else is $1.00? The Demon Crate.
The Demon Crate is a big ol’ tool chest that gets dropped at your front door on a literal crate. The Crate includes a plethora of Demon logo’d tools, two skinny front wheels for drag racing (see pictures), a higher-flow air filter, a chip to allow the engine to run on race fuel, and a replacement interior panel with an extra button to tell the car you’re using said fuel. The best part? All of these parts can be swapped out in your own garage via the tools Dodge has given you for the same price as a super-sized Coke at McDonald’s.
After an hour of education, photo taking, and passenger-seat experiencing, it is now my turn to drive. We swap roles and I grip the Alcantara suede steering wheel; a first for me and now I hate all other steering wheels. But before I can put my foot on the gas, my concerns kick back in. What if I spin out? What if I run over a mailbox? Or worse, blast straight into a tree? I’ve never driven a car like this so, naturally, I ask for tips. “Hold the front tires straight and you’ll be fine,” is the answer I got. Well, alright then.
Although the Hoosier tires are stickier and brand new, they are still cold and on South Dakota roads. The owner and his son found that the best pulls are from 30 mph, right when the Demon shifts back down to first gear. I wait for the speedometer to drop and mash my foot into the floor. The car moves, but we’re not necessarily accelerating. Turns out another party trick of the Demon is that it will spin the tires all damn day. The owner cringes at the burnt rubber and kicked-up rocks and I realize the world’s fastest production car is going to require some finesse.
After a couple more tries, I get the power down to the road. When this thing goes, it goes. I feel the body lurch and the transmission clunk through gears as laws are broken faster than I can press the brake pedal. Even interstate overtakes are finished before they start. The speedometer doesn’t creep up to 100 mph, it wants to live there. And even with how intoxicating a 30 mph to 80 mph pull is, I can still tell the car is only getting warmed up. There is no lag and there is no sympathy from the Demon. You just have to point the tires straight, grip it, and rip it.
When we pull back up to the garage, I still can’t wrap my mind around how Dodge could create something so powerful, and so limited (3,300 units worldwide), and only charge $85,000 for it. That’s something a guy like me could afford in a few year’s time, which is insanity. And more, Dodge wants you to take this thing to the strip. So much so that their warranty follows you there. There is already a recorded claim where Dodge has replaced a differential from a racing-related failure!
During my drive home, the painful reality of “I just drove the fastest production car on Earth” sets in. My Fiat 500 happily boasts 30 miles to the gallon on its display, a gentle reminder on how incredible it is that a gas-guzzler like the 2018 Dodge Demon even got okayed in the first place. And I could say that it’s way too massive for a sports car, or that it can’t turn corners very quickly, or that it’s uncivilized, but let me ask you this: If you’re waiting for a red light to turn green, would you rather be in a snooty, $300,000 McLaren 720S…or a fat brick of muscle an American company drudged up from hell?