In the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon, Dodge sought not just to build a car, but a reputation. A "Don't eff with me," argument-settling, ultimate performance machine that would give Dodge maximum street credibility.
Other companies might try to boost their image through alternative brand-building measures, but Dodge decided the best solution to to deliver the goods. "This is our Super Bowl commercial that doesn't live on YouTube," stated Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger car brands for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles North America.
The day may yet come when consumers time-share autonomous electric vehicles, he acknowledged, but to the relief of car-lovers (and frustration of car-haters) it hasn't yet arrived. "We're not at soulless, driverless pods yet," he said. "This is an emotional business."
That is why Dodge built the 840-horsepower Demon, which delivers the world's fastest production car acceleration, with a 0-60 mph time of 2.3 seconds and a 9.65-second quarter-mile.
If you're all-in on the $86,090 Demon, there are some aspects of the car that you might want to be aware of before taking delivery.
1. You'll want to buy more wheels and tires.
The Demon rolls on the world's first-ever factory-delivered drag racing radials. They are Nitto NT05R tires with Dodge's own custom construction and rubber compound. They are also summer-only tires, and buyers have to sign a pledge to never drive in the rain with these tires on the car. Their expected lifespan is about 5,000 miles in normal driving, but no one buys the Demon to drive it normally, so they won't last that long.
That being the case, many Demon buyers are also buying a set of the 20-inch wheels and Pirelli tires developed for the Hellcat Widebody, so they will have better everyday tires for when they aren't at the drag strip. A smart move to make the Demon more useable on a daily basis, though Dodge can't yet say what the price will be for those replacement wheels and tires.
2. You don't have to suffer driving a Demon.
Yeah, the Demon is pretty infamous for only having a driver's seat. They also stripped out the carpet, sound deadening, air condition and stereo for the lightest possible weight. And if you're building a drag racer, you'll want to buy you car that way. But Dodge will happily put the seats and carpeting back in for $1 apiece.
There's an optional 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a power sunroof, heated and cooled leather seats, heated steering wheel and satin-painted hood, roof and trunk lid package.
3. All the racing gear packs snugly in the trunk.
Racers have long hauled track-only wheels with them, along with a jack and tool box, but they've had to drive extra gently on the way to the track for fear of heavy objects sliding around in the trunk and denting the fenders.
Dodge provides everything you need to go racing in a $1 trunk kit, and then goes the extra distance by providing a foam rubber packing kit that holds the spares, tools and jack in place for safe driving to and from the strip.
4. Dodge was secretly thrilled that the Demon got banned from drag racing by the NHRA.
The National Hot Rod Association has a rule that car fast enough to rip off sub-10-second quarter miles need to have a roll cage installed, in case of a crash. So after Dodge had NHRA officials certify the car's 9.65-second elapsed time, those officials were left in the position of having to tell Dodge officially that this meant the car can not race in its events.
The NHRA called Kuniskis for a meeting, in which they nervously handed him a letter officially banning the Demon from its events, Kuniskis recalled. Those officials couldn't believe it when his response was joyous. What better way to underscore the Demon's otherworldly speed than for it to be banished by a racing organization for being too fast?
Dodge is so happy that they are selling poster versions of the letter for buyers to hang in their garages.
5. One of the fake lights is a fake air intake.
The Demon turns the Challenger's inner headlights into cold air intakes to feed the beast under the hood, with only the two outer lights serving as headlights. Or so it appears. But actually, only the driver's side headlight-turned air intake serves the engine.
Testing showed that air flowing from the passenger's side connecting to the driver's side got hot from the torrid underhood environment, so Dodge engineers eventually decided not to use it. Now the passenger's side fake headlight is also a fake air intake that is blocked off. Maybe you can turn it into a rocket launcher or something.
6. You should be able to actually get one.
The Demon is a limited-production model that will be hard to come by. But Dodge has capped 2018 production at 3,000, so it isn't like it will be the 250-cars-a-year Ford GT. This is a car that non-celebrities will be able to actually buy.
Dodge is trying to discourage price scalping by dealers by shipping cars first to dealers who have sold them at MSRP, without markups. There is also the possibility of another batch of Demon for 2019, though Dodge has made no official announcement of that.
7. You can buy a 707-horsepower lookalike Hellcat Widebody $72,590.
You can appear to have the baddest-ass car on the planet while hiding the dirty little secret that there's a paltry 707 supercharged Hemi horsepower under your Challenger's hood if you buy the Hellcat Widebody, which includes the fender flares, power bulge aluminum hood, front splitter and rear spoiler used on the Demon.
Although it is not a Demon, the Hellcat Widebody is a performance beast in its own right, as the new wheels, tires and power steering contribute to a two-second faster lap time than a regular Hellcat at Dodge's 1.7-mile road course test track.
Lateral acceleration is up 0.04 g, to 0.97 g thanks to the fatter tires, and acceleration times drop by 0.1 seconds to 3.4 seconds 0-60 mph and by 0.3 seconds to 11.2 seconds in the quarter mile.
These upgrades have caused Hellcat orders to swing to 85 percent Widebodys, Kuniskis said.
Power to the people!