I recently had the opportunity to drive the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, better known as simply the Dodge Demon, which is a factory-built drag racer. There is simply no other way to describe the purpose of this car, since they offer it with only one single seat, if you want, and since it’s quicker in the quarter mile than a Porsche 918 Spyder.
Let’s repeat that, for effect: It’s quicker in the quarter mile than a Porsche 918 Spyder. In fact, it’s quicker in the quarter mile than basically anything, except maybe a Bugatti Chiron, though I’d love to see the race to find out. It has a quicker 0-to-60 time than a Bugatti Veyron; it lays down a faster quarter mile than a LaFerrari; it has more V8 power than a McLaren P1. In fact, the Demon has more V8 power than anything, on account of the fact that it has the most-powerful production-car V8 ever.
There are a lot of "mosts" and "firsts" for this car, but let’s start there: The most-powerful production V8 ever. It offers up to 840 horsepower — when you pump in 100-octane race fuel and reflash the ECU to optimize the engine for the fuel — or a mere 808 when you don’t. It comes with street-legal drag-racing slick tires. It uses the air-conditioning refrigerant to cool down the engine between drag-racing runs. And, yes, you can get it with only the driver’s seat.
But if you’ve been following the car business lately, you probably know all that, because the Demon has been endlessly discussed in the media. What hasn’t been discussed is how I, Doug DeMuro, feel about the Demon, as I have not yet driven it until this moment. But now, I have, and so I’m going to tell you how I feel. Scared, mostly.
I’ll start with where I got the Demon. I borrowed it from Karl Brauer, who supervises my colleagues at Autotrader and runs the editorial teams for Kelley Blue Book and a few others; in fact, the Demon will be going into Kelley Blue Book’s long-term test fleet with frequent updates planned throughout Karl’s ownership period. Having always enjoyed drag racing, Karl ordered the Demon after he saw it debut at last year’s New York Auto Show; it arrived less than two weeks ago. And then I arrived to drive it, after he had covered the requisite break-in miles.
So here’s what I think: First off, it’s fast. Very, very fast. Tremendously fast. So fast you feel incredibly nervous about flooring the accelerator — especially if, for instance, you had a situation where you nearly crashed a Hellcat — but you do it anyway because you have to know what it’s like to drive a giant, 4,000-pound, brick-shaped Dodge that can theoretically out-accelerate a 918 Spyder. When you drop the accelerator, you go, and you go, and you go, and you violate every legal speed limit basically before you even think to lift off. Half throttle will scare your passengers. Three-quarters throttle brings up your anxiety. Full throttle is best done by a professional, which I am not. I did it four times. I regret nothing.
With this said, I have to admit something: I personally think the Jeep Trackhawk felt just as fast. Yes, the Trackhawk is down 100 horsepower, but I think there’s something about sitting up so high — and not thinking you’re going to really go all that fast — that makes the Jeep feel even faster. If you’ve driven a Hellcat, the Demon is not some massively different experience, where you feel like you’re going to die the moment you press the throttle. And plus, with the giant flared fenders, and the street-legal drag tires, and the engine note that burbles every time you even just tap the throttle, you kind of know, at all times, something fast is coming.
I guess what I’m saying is: When I floored it in the Demon, my expectations were pretty much met, rather than exceeded like they were in the Jeep. After all, the Demon is a car that has been advertised by the automaker as lifting up its front wheels when you perform the proper start on a drag strip. You know going in that it’s going to blow your hair back.
Here’s what I didn’t expect: The Demon is actually pretty civilized. Yes, it’s monstrously fast — but when you don’t want it to be fast, when you just want to drive a car that you can use to commute home, when you just want to hang out in the ventilated driver’s seat and listen to some Jimmy Eat World … you can. The Demon is just a Dodge Challenger at heart, and it includes everything that goes along with that — comfy, oversized seats, the good Uconnect infotainment system, steering-wheel audio controls, cupholders and even a relatively nice interior with some high-quality stitching and materials. As it turns out, the drag-strip-tuned, ultra-powerful, insanely-fast, quicker-than-a-LaFerrari, ridiculous Dodge Challenger is actually … drivable.
And that means, unlike basically every other car that exists at this acceleration level, you don’t really have to rearrange your lifestyle to drive it — taking speed bumps at severe angles, constantly worrying about fellow road users wielding camera phones, always fearful of where it’s parked and who might be touching it. This is a car that does zero to 60 in 2.3 seconds … that you can actually use. And that may just be the coolest thing about the Demon.
Nah, just kidding, it’s the fact that it lifts the front wheels up off the ground in a drag-racing start. Find a Dodge Challenger for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.