MARTIN, Mich. — As the lights switch from red to yellow to green, a weird kind of silence wraps around my brain and time feels like it stops.
Release the paddle. Release the brake. Release the second paddle. Hold the gas pedal steady at 1,700 RPMs for half a heartbeat. Then floor it.
The air whooshes out of my lungs from a breath I didn’t realize I was holding as 1.8 Gs press me back into my seat. In seconds, my speed tops 100 mph.
Release the gas. Slow it down. Breathe.
Who needs coffee when you have an empty drag strip and a Dodge Challenger SRT Demon at the ready?
During a recent trip to US131 MotorSports Park, the folks at Dodge showcased the limited-production Demon, fully equipped with production drag radials and TransBrake. For the strip, the SRT folks also added skinny “front runner” wheels to cut front end-weight.
Jim Wilder, the vehicle development manager for the Challenger and Charger SRTs, is quick to point out the engine in the Demon isn’t just a tuned-up version of the Hellcat Hemi. The 6.2-liter Hemi Demon V-8 has 62 percent new content, including larger 2.7-liter per rev supercharger, an SRT Power Chiller liquid-to-air intercooler chiller system and a factory-first After-Run Cooler that keeps cooling the supercharger after the engine is shut off.
The Demon is the fastest production vehicle ever built with a 0-to-60-mph time of 2.3 seconds. It can do a quarter mile in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph. When properly fueled with high-octane gasoline, the Demon engine unleashes a whopping 840 horsepower, which makes it the highest-horsepower production V-8.
This car is so fast that the NHRA has officially banned it from competition without the addition of aftermarket safety equipment.
It’s difficult to wrap your mind around those stats until you get behind the wheel and feel the sheer force of acceleration, which is – quite literally – breathtaking.
It took me a few tries to get the rhythm of the TransBrake mechanism down – that system where you release paddle, brake, paddle before accelerating. The TransBrake allows the driver to increase engine rpm for higher torque and a quicker response – aka warp speed launches.
The base Demon is sparingly built, cutting more than 200 pounds by removing or replacing equipment including:
If you want to make this more of a street car than a drag car, you can add back in the front passenger seat, rear seats and trunk carpeting kit for $1 each.
While I only got eight turns on the strip, I could have spent all day learning the ins and outs of burnouts and launch control. The real surprise, however, is that the Demon is a comfortable cruiser on the road.
We had the chance to do a quick street loop in the Demon with the $3 in options that make it a car you can drive with passengers. While the road noise was a bit more noticeable than a regular Challenger, the actual ride and handling was more luxurious. I expected a stiff ride and iffy steering feedback, but I got neither.
Aside from the road noise that crept into the cabin – which could be obliterated with some radio noise – I found the Demon to be a car you could use for a daily commute or road trip.
Base price for the Demon is $84,995, but only 3,000 of the vehicles are being produced for the U.S. And every single one of them has already been spoken for. In fact, because Dodge wants to keep the Demon special and rare, they’re even crushing the media cars we drove at MotorSports Park when the vehicles are done making the media rounds.
Orders for the Demon began in June and deliveries are expected to be made beginning in the fall of 2017.
Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Dodge covered our accommodations and meals.