‘murica'

The 840hp De­mon has been built for the drag strip. So it’d be rude not to...

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Dodge Demon - WORDS by OL­LIE MARRIAGE PHO­TOG­RA­PHy by ROWAN HORNCASTLE

In­ter­sec­tion traf­fic lights, small country roads, near city hall, ex­it­ing a fast-food joint, past a row of elec­tric cars, stag­ing a quick get­away from a traf­fic war­den. You name it, I found the op­por­tu­nity to do it. Line lock, then trans­mis­sion brake, then van­ish­ing point.

The Dodge De­mon is the world’s fastest pro­duc­tion car from zero to 100kph. It’s the world’s fastest pro­duc­tion car over the quar­ter-mile. It’s the most pow­er­ful pro­duc­tion V8 ever. And it pulls wheel­ies. It’s the first pro­duc­tion car ever to do that, too. Clearly Bu­gatti has missed a few tricks.

By the end of the day, I have a spray of molten rub­ber up the rear quar­ter pan­els, there’s a pun­gent smell and oily at­mos­phere in the cabin that won’t go away, and thick, dense, hot, black, acrid, oily par­al­lel lines have popped up across In­di­ana.

This is the drag belt, where rac­ing is a re­li­gion and the church is the quar­ter-mile strip at Lu­cas Oil Race­way. And we have a car named the De­mon, spawn of Hell­cat. How do God-fear­ing Chris­tian Amer­i­cans square this cir­cle? Be­cause, my God, do they love this car—around here, the De­mon is the sec­ond com­ing.

This is where the De­mon came from. No other country could have cre­ated it. Name me a Euro­pean mar­que that would boast about its car hav­ing the “high­est fuel-flow rate of any pro­duc­tion car”. None would. Yet Dodge proudly claims it can inject fuel into the cylin­ders at a rate not far off your bath­room tap.

Given how much this country loves drag rac­ing, it’s al­most a sur­prise it’s taken this long to cre­ate a pro­duc­tion car that’s designed specif­i­cally to do just that. Be­cause that’s what the De­mon is: a Chal­lenger Hell­cat prepped for the strip, with no greater am­bi­tion than to race in a straight line. Be­cause there can be no greater am­bi­tion than that. I talk to Tim Ku­niskis, whose job ti­tle (head of pas­sen­ger car brands, FCA North Amer­ica) does nothing to con­vey his pas­sion for his most ex­treme prod­uct. “Our goal from day one was, in street trim with pump gas, to do 9s and pull the wheels”. You get that right? The De­mon’s key de­vel­op­ment tar­gets were to pull a wheelie and smash the quar­ter-mile in un­der 10sec. How bril­liantly sim­ple and hon­est. To pro­vide per­spec­tive, when I tested the McLaren 720S re­cently, it did the quar­ter-mile in 10.2sec. The De­mon does it in 9.65sec. That’s how fast it is.

Of course, it’s a blunt in­stru­ment. It weighs al­most two tons, but sledge­ham­mers it with 840bhp and 1,000Nm, all sent to a set of be­spoke Nitto drag ra­di­als. And that’s it: the ap­pli­ca­tion of power and grip against weight. But there’s more, there’s tit­il­la­tion, which isn’t some­thing I imag­ined you’d get from a mo­tor as thrust­ing as the De­mon. Buy the car for $ 84,995 (P4.3 mil­lion) and for a fur­ther one dol­lar you can buy a pack­ing crate con­tain­ing skinny, front cast­er­wheels, a new en­gine con­troller to make it run on race fuel, a spe­cial VIN plate for the dash and all the tools you need. With­out it you’ve still got 808hp, 972Nm and the abil­ity, given a per­fect start, to pull the gi­ant 315/40 R18 front tires off the deck, but only with the pack can you use 100-oc­tane gas and hope to match the nearme­ter-long wheelie Guin­ness World Records ver­i­fied.

This af­ter­noon, I’m booked in at Lu­cas to try my hand at drag rac­ing, so I’m us­ing the morn­ing to prac­tice. Most times I drive in Amer­ica, I be­moan the lack of round­abouts. This time I’m lovin’ the lights. Ev­ery block through down­town: foot on brake, pull both pad­dles to en­gage the trans­mis­sion

Prac­tice makes per­fect. So prac­tice hap­pens ev­ery­where.

brake, dial up some­where be­tween 950 and 2,350rpm, hold throt­tle steady, re­lease brake, re­lease one pad­dle, brace and re­lease the other…. You might as­sume this is bad for the car, that it stresses the trans­mis­sion. No, says Dodge, this is what the De­mon is designed for. In test­ing, one car did 5,500 drag starts with­out a sin­gle com­po­nent be­ing changed (apart from, one would as­sume, the tires). A Nis­san GT-R man­ages about three be­fore the diffs call it quits and de­mand a rest.

So I rum­ble around In­di­anapo­lis where ev­ery­one drives a V8 and early-morn­ing de­liv­ery vans sound like NASCAR rac­ers, and fit right in. Trans­mis­sion in D, one hand on the wheel, mo­tor bur­bling, with oc­ca­sional sud­den sneezes of su­per­charged shove and squeal. Oh yes, the su­per­charger; it has a 2.7- liter ca­pac­ity, mak­ing it—you guessed it— the big­gest ever fit­ted to a mod­ern gaso­line-en­gined pro­duc­tion car.

And do you know what? If you didn’t go look­ing for it, you’d never guess it was pack­ing 840hp. The throt­tle is eas­ily managed: leave the set­tings in Com­fort and the gears slide by eas­ily, and be­ing 18s with rel­a­tively tall 40- pro­file side­walls, those tires help make the ride pretty friendly. The seats are big, squishy and don’t so much lock you in as pro­vide you with sev­eral seat­ing po­si­tions at the same time. The rear seats have been deleted and re­placed by ex­tra brac­ing and mounts for the har­nesses that I have no in­ten­tion of us­ing un­til I re­mem­ber that Amer­i­cans can do ev­ery­thing with­out leav­ing the com­fort of their car.

It also rained last night, and I’m think­ing ex­tra safety might not be a bad idea when, if you buy a De­mon, Dodge makes you sign a dis­claimer ac­knowl­edg­ing the risks if you drive in the cold or wet. Hap­pily, spun-heated rear Nitto NT05R drag tires grip damn well on moist tar­mac. Stand­ing water doesn’t bear think­ing about.

We turn in to Lu­cas Oil Race­way, drive down past the well-kept lawns that put me more in mind of a horse rac­ing course and… in­stantly feel mas­sively out-horse­pow­ered. The pad­dock is full of ridicu­lous ma­chin­ery. The Pro­fes­sional Drag Rac­ers As­so­ci­a­tion is test­ing to­day, and we’re sur­rounded by fat rub­ber and gleam­ing head­ers. The De­mon makes ’em laugh. “840, huh? My car makes that be­fore I turn the ’charger on.” “Re­ally? And how much does it make then?” “’Bout two an a half. I’m not sure—it broke the dyno last time out.” An­other bloke tells me there’s a kids’ drag se­ries, based around quar­ter-scale open-wheel­ers pow­ered by a nat-asp Briggs and Strat­ton lawn­mower en­gine, “and they do the eighth-mile in about the same you do.”

“Come on, re­ally?” I re­ply. “The De­mon does the eighth in 6.2 at 112mph ( 180kph).”

“Yep, that’s about it. The slow­est cars you’ll see out there to­day will be do­ing 4.1s at 175mph ( 281kph).” I’m not back­ing out now, I just want the ex­pe­ri­ence, no mat­ter how much the pros might laugh.

The De­mon has a 58:42 weight dis­tri­bu­tion, mean­ing there’s 1,125kg push­ing the fronts down, yet it’s got enough power and trac­tion to lift them into the air. In my time, I’ve launched hun­dreds and hun­dreds of cars off the line trying to ex­tract the fastest pos­si­ble times from them, but this feels alien. The tires peel them­selves off the sticky sur­face, I have to pay at­ten­tion to the lights, do a burnout to heat the tires. I’m fa­mil­iar with the se­quence of but­ton presses and screen stabs thanks to this morn­ing’s prac­tice, but what I’m not ready for is the grip. Be­cause when I re­lease the pad­dle at 1,800rpm, the De­mon ex­plodes off the line with in­stan­ta­neous vi­o­lence. I gasp be­cause that’s my nat­u­ral re­sponse to be­ing punched.

What’s the difference? My chest has com­pressed, the or­gans have shifted and my head is reel­ing. It’s nothing less than a blow to the guts. What hap­pened to this morn­ing’s wheel­spin? Where’s it gone? Surely what I’ve just felt isn’t a re­sult of wheels turn­ing, but a cat­a­pult re­leas­ing?

That’s all I want. And Dodge has cre­ated a car that al­lows you to do this with­out a sin­gle mod or in­val­i­dat­ing your war­ranty. It felt bul­let­proof over the quar­ter-mile, but I guar­an­tee a large pro­por­tion of the 3,300 Dodge is pro­duc­ing will be tuned. This is ad­dic­tive in the same way as any track rac­ing—more speed, less elapsed time. Be­cause that’s what I’d do. Be­cause now I’m a drag head and I want a faster fix of De­mon.

‘Line lock, then tranny brake, then van­ish­ing point’

Strap in, hold on and en­gage the trans brake. Now you’re ready...

The Dodge De­mon. Still not do­ing a wheelie. Best not to in town...

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