Ignition

DODGE CHALLENGER SRTDEMON

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f all the many numbers associated with the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon (“the Demon,” for short), the most revealing of all are the simplest to understand. When ordering your copy of this strictly limited-edition production drag car, you can “buy back” the front passenger seat for $1. You can also order the 60/40-split rear seat for $1. The carpet for the trunk? Also, just $1.

What do these numbers indicate? Two things. First, the engineers at the Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division are very sensitive about their weight. Second: the Dodge Demon is not without its comfort features. So, while this vehicle lives its life a quarter-mile at a time, it's also possible to drive it around corners without spearing off the tarmac.

Yours truly experience­d both sides of the Demon during a borderline insane afternoon in and around Lucas Oil Raceway on the outskirts of Indianapol­is. (Side note: The temperate during the summer event was appropriat­ely blistering, in excess of 30 degrees Celsius—so, a few degrees off hell, but not a lot.)

In the long history of batsh*t crazy automotive ideas, the Demon may well go down as the craziest of them all. Let's do a brake stand and pause to consider where this thing

comes from (no, not hell), what it is and what it means in the bigger, badder scheme of things.

The performanc­e offshoot of the Dodge brand already has a highly powered muscle car on its hands— that that's s the Hellcat. You might think that a 707-horsepower car more suited to straight-line speed than high g-force corners would be enough for SRT. But no—it's not enough. They decide to engineer a new version of the Challenger so powerful and so quick, it makes the Hellcat feel bolted to the ground.

How did SRT arrive at this hellacious place? They went directly to Sir Isaac Newton's second law of motion, setting out to reduce mass, increase force and, thus, generate greater accelerati­on.

The Demon is about 90 kg lighter than the Hellcat. The weightredu­ction effort includes removing the aforementi­oned passenger seat, back seat and carpet. It also involves discarding the sounddeade­ning material, trunk deck cover trim, floor mats, spare tire cover and audio system, with its 16 speakers. Taking out the parking sensors and module saves close to 1 kg. Switching to smaller, hollow sway bars accounts for some 8 kg. The lightweigh­t wheels and open lug nuts translate into just over 7 kg. And t the manual tilt/telescopin­g wheel contribute­s co a further 1.8 kg to the eff effort.

Next: the force part of the equation equation.

The e engine in the Demon is the supe supercharg­ed 6.2L HEMI V8 shared w with the Hellcat and the Jeep Grand Gra Cherokee Trackhawk. But it's… different—different in 25 critical critic ways, to be exact. The differen difference­s include the addition of a larger, 2.7L supercharg­er, higher boost pr pressure (to 14.5 psi), a

higher redline (6,500 rpm), a larger air induction box, and two dualstage fuel pumps (as opposed to one) with the second pump shuttling high-octane fuel directly into the eye of the storm.

But the list of changes doesn't end there. The Air Grabber hood boasts the largest functional hood scoop of any current production car. Air is forced into the Hemi in huge gulps by this feature, through the Air Catcher headlamp and through another air inlet near the wheel liner. The engine also incorporat­es a high-speed valvetrain, stronger connecting rods, stronger pistons and an improved lubricatio­n system.

The net effect of all this lab work: The Demon has five per cent less mass than the Hellcat and significan­tly more force. So, whereas the Hellcat has 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft. of torque, the Demon counters with a minimum of 808 horsepower and 770 lb-ft. of torque, 840 horsepower when operating on 100+ unleaded highoctane fuel. The resident lunatics at SRT claim this HEMI is the most powerful factory-production V8 in history. But wait—there's more. In the interests of creating an authentic production drag car (which, spoiler alert, the Demon is), the engineers at SRT have thrown everything and the proverbial kitchen sink into the mix.

To help the HEMI perform at optimum levels even under duress, the Demon also features the SRT Power Chiller (which redirects air conditioni­ng refrigeran­t to cool the charger air cooler), the After-run Cooler (which keeps the cooling fan running after engine shutdown) and Torque Reserve (which boosts engine air flow and supercharg­er revs immediatel­y before launch).

Then, to make sure that engine performanc­e translates into unfettered straight-line speed, the Demon boasts other innovation­s. In “drag mode,” the car's adaptive dampers soften the rebound at the front axle while keeping the back firm; this maximizes torque transfer to the rear wheels to help the rear-wheel drive Demon hook up better. There's also a Drag Mode Launch Assist to help prevent wheel hop and the resultant drive-

line damage during aggressive starts. Finally, there are systems engineered to help the driver hurtle down the nearest drag strip at neck-wrenching speeds.

As with all other SRT models, the Demon has a launch control system and it's simple to operate. Tap the Uconnect centre console screen, select the appropriat­e functions through the Performanc­e Pages app, keep your left foot on the brake, raise the revs with your right foot on the gas and let `er rip. But this is the easy way off the line—and it's not the way to generate NHRA record-breaking accelerati­on figures.

No, if you want to get close to the true potential of the Demon, you need to employ Transbrake. This feature locks the output shaft of the reinforced 8-speed automatic transmissi­on to hold the car on the line before launch. It allows the driver to raise the engine speed to 2,350 rpm without overpoweri­ng the brakes. This, in turn, sends about 15 per cent more torque through the transmissi­on. And, the theory goes, also generates quicker reaction times when the Christmas Tree turns green because the system is operated through the paddle shifters and not the pedals.

The Demon is the first factory production car in history to come equipped with anything like TransBrake. It's the feature that helps give the car the title of world's fastest quarter-mile production car, as certified by the NHRA. For the record: the Demon has run the quarter-mile in a verified elapsed time of 9.65 seconds at 140 mph (225 km/h). (The spring from 0 to o 100 km/h takes just 2.3 seconds.) onds.)

With yours truly behind d the wheel, this elapsed time ime record remains well out of f reach. Although I have an engineer gineer from SRT riding shotgun n and providing expert guidance, dance, I struggle to perfect the process ocess involved with Transbrake. It's not ot a matter of just releasing the paddle dle shifter and gunning it, there's finesse esse required—you need to use partial l throttle at first to lift the nose and then hen really bury it.

No doubt, my personal ersonal struggles derive from m being so accustomed to two types pes of drag racing: the old-school, informal, formal, not-so-legal experience­s from om the dim past that involved smoky oky clutches, and the more recent, probably more legal times with launch control systems and automatic transmissi­ons.

Even the burnout process, using the car's line lock feature, feels foreign and potentiall­y harmful. Sure, I've seen drag racers light up the rear tires to get ready for a proper launch. But taking the helm for ten seconds of Nitto-stripping action on a blistering hot drag strip still seems like playing with fire. I've seen far too many brand-new pieces of machinery fail under far less stress.

But credit where credit is due: For a full afternoon, rank drag racing amateurs like me send the Demon down the strip and not one of the collection of cars is given significan­t rest. While

waiting for another personal crack at Transbrake and watching other drivers give it their best shot, I fully expect to hear catastroph­ic noises and see great clouds of engine smoke. It doesn't happen. The only noises are the wailing of the HEMI as it reaches full song and the tires as they vaporize in protest. And the only sight is the back end of the Demon as it fires off the line and hurtles towards the vanishing point.

The scene is surreal, to be sure. At one o epo point, I decide it's a good idea to t step away from the strip to gain perspectiv­e. I comm commandeer another Demon, this th one fitted with the standard standa Nitto NT05R 315/40R18 street-legal drag-race tires (another (anot first for a production car) and not no the optional skinny front wheels whee we're running at Lucas Oil Raceway. Racewa

The goa goal here is to sample the 15-minute drive route in the surroundin­g area, a to see how feasible it might be for someone to drive the Dodge Dem Demon to the local corner store. But i in this environmen­t, the car is an in intimidati­ng piece of work. The suspension is set softer than the Hellcat, so it's actually more comfortabl­e out on the open road.

But it's best not to mistake the Demon for an everyday commuter— there's just too much untapped potential here. The sight of any loose gravel on the pavement or the hint of moisture in the road is enough to give pause. Ninety-degree turns from a four-way stop are reason enough to be light on the throttle. To be clear, the Demon never steps out of line—it's like the schoolyard bully who's decided to take a break from bullying on this particular day.

When all is said and done, the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is a thrilling piece of work. The level of engineerin­g is fantastic. Its focused nature is admirable. For Canadians, it's a source of pride to realize that the Demon is built in our backyard at FCA Canada's Toronto-area Brampton Assembly plant.

And, yes, the car's performanc­e borders on the terrifying.

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