Update Number 8: Dodge Demon versus Nissan GT-R

by Karl Brauer on April 17, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,840 miles
Latest MPG: 15.03
Lifetime MPG: 12.05
Maintenance/Service Costs: $105
Days out of Service: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Our long-term Dodge Demon hit a new MPG highwater on its last tank, at 15.03. That’s not quite as good as the car’s trip computer was telling us (over 16 mpg), but we’re used to seeing, shall we say, “optimistic” numbers from vehicle computers. It’s almost like automakers have an incentive to make vehicle owners feel they’re getting better fuel efficiency than they really are…

Regardless, over 15 mpg from an 840 horsepower vehicle is still pretty impressive. The bulk of that tank involved driving 200 miles back from Famoso Dragstrip near Bakersfield, which meant mostly highway miles. However, because this trip included Los Angeles’ cluster-you-know-what of a road system there were plenty of stop-and-go instances over the last 100 miles. We’re convinced a Demon could pull around 20 mpg on a traffic-free highway run, assuming the owner stays out of boost and keeps the velocity somewhere close to legal.

The other interesting experience over the past 2 weeks was driving a 2018 Nissan GT-R Track Edition back-to-back with our 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. The Nissan passed through the Kelley Blue Book test fleet and it was impossible not to compare the two high-performance coupes. When you think about, these cars have more in common that one might assume. First, they’ve both been around for 10 years without a redesign. They both have a backseat (the Demon’s is far more functional), they are both designed more for track duty than road duty, and they both cost around $130,000. The GT-R’s actual MSRP is $131,605 while the Dodge Demon has been changing hands for between $110,000 and $150,000 on eBay and at various high-profile auctions.

Driving the two vehicles back-to-back unveils other similarities. Both offer an excellent touchscreen interface with plenty of vehicle data. Both have a distinctive look that doesn’t catch the average person’s eye while causing the subset who recognize these beasts to stop dead in their tracks, offer a thumbs up and/or immediately begin cell phone shooting. There’s also a punctuated exhaust tone coming from both, though the tones couldn’t be more distinct.

And that might be the most interesting aspect of each car – their radically different driving traits are captured nearly perfectly in their radically different exhaust notes. The GT-R’s pipes emit a highly mechanical, higher-pitched tone compared to the Dodge Demon’s baritone rumble that sounds raw, unrefined. You can sense the high-effort precision in the Nissan’s clicks and whirs while the Dodge sounds like it’s not trying at all – it just lets all 808 (or 840) horsepower spill out of those big, square outlets.

And that’s pretty much how they drive, too. The GT-R has a roughly 500-pound advantage on the Dodge Demon, and that lighter weight pairs with an advanced all-wheel-drive system and a dual-clutch 6-speed transmission. Clearly the GT-R should perform better. And yet, even without high-octane fuel the Demon has 243 more horsepower (808 versus 565) and an 8-speed transmission that, while using a torque converter instead of dual clutches, offers a closer ratio because of the extra gears. This combines with the Demon’s wider, flatter torque curve and massive peak torque advantage (717 pound-feet versus the GT-R’s 467).

As they say, “Horsepower is what you read about, torque is what you feel.” And just like that V8 exhaust note, the Demon feels like it’s giving the GT-R an obscene hand gesture everytime you roll into the Hemi’s V8 power. Like the Ddoge is saying, “Twin turbos? Dual overhead cams? Dual clutches? All-wheel drive? Impressive…also, BYE!” If you leave both vehicles in full auto mode the Demon just powers away from the GT-R at anything from light to full throttle. The GT-R’s all-wheel drive gives it a theoretical advantage for the first 50 feet in a drag race, but if the road surface is clear and the Nittos are hot even that advantage is minimized. And after that it’s all about the Demon’s power curve.

On the other hand, if you work the GT-R’s paddle shifters, keeping the tach above 4,000 rpm, things tighten up substantially. And if one those annoying road conditions comes along…what are they called…oh yeah – a curve... Well, then the  Demon’s power advantage gets clipped by the GT-R’s weight and technology advantage (big surprise, right?). The Nissan is really quite amazing around corners given it still weighs nearly two tons. The AWD will deliver more power to the rear wheels on hard throttle, allowing it to drift like a rear-wheel-drive car. Fun!

Fans of either car will justify their choice over the other, and there are plenty of arguments to be made in terms of price, horsepower, technology, styling etc. Here’s something everyone can probably agree on: both the Dodge Challenger Demon and the Nissan GT-R Track Edition are incredibly fun to drive, especially in their element.

A final note on the Demon regarding price and popularity. As mentioned earlier, several Demon’s have crossed the auction block in recent weeks, with prices coming in at $130,000 on the low end and $170,000 on the high end. Pretty amazing for a car with a starting MSRP under $85,000. We took our long-term Demon to the local Cars & Coffee last week in San Juan Capistrano, where it continued to pull a crowd and play the role of photo and video star (it was the only one in attendance). Nobody knows where Demon values are headed in the future, but the auction block and human reaction at present confirm it – the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon remains a hot commodity.

 

Update Number 7: Our First ¼-Mile Track Visit Confirms the Obvious -- the Demon is Really Fast!

by Karl Brauer on April 4, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,811 miles
Latest MPG: 10.79
Lifetime MPG: 11.72
Maintenance/Service Costs: $105
Days out of Service: 3 hours, 30 minutes

The Dodge Demon was meant for one thing – drag racing. We’ve already used it for that, twice, in our ownership test, but both times it was on an 1/8-mile track in Los Angeles (at Irwindale Speedway). Those two trips were great for learning how to launch the Demon, but they weren’t very good for testing its full potential. For that we needed to take our 2018 Challenger SRT Demon to a ¼-mile track, which we finally did last week.

The event was organized by The Red List Group, a drag racing organization that holds a series of drag race events across Southern California. The event we attended was held at Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield, a roughly 200-mile drive from the Kelley Blue Book offices in Irvine. We found out about this event only a few days before it happened, and we worried it might get rained out. But less than 24 hours before it started we committed to going, bought an online entry ticket, reserved a hotel in nearby Wasco and packed the Demon's trunk with all our race equipment, including a new fireproof jacket and Snell 2015-rated helmet. At that point rain looked unlikely and cool temperatures were a certainty. Not a bad thing when your Dodge Challenger is powered by a supercharged engine.

For this track visit we wanted all 840 horses from the Demon’s 6.2-liter V8, which meant buying race fuel ahead of time and running the tank nearly dry before putting it in. That sounds simple enough, but we miscalculated how much fuel we’d use on the 190-mile drive up. We figured a full tank when leaving Irvine would result in a near empty tank in Wasco. However, as we came off the Grapevine stretch of California’s northbound 5 freeway we still had half a tank of fuel and only about 40 miles to go. Our Demon had averaged 17.7 mpg on the drive up, far better fuel efficiency than we expected. The 5 gallons of race fuel we’d brought with us would be too diluted if we put it in the gas tank with that much 91 octane.

So, how does one use half of tank of fuel in a 40-mile stretch? We’ll let your imagination run wild and simply confirm we pulled into the hotel parking lot with the low-fuel light on (and an even greater appreciation for the Demon’s performance capabilities…). The next morning in the hotel parking lot we dumped all five gallons of race fuel in the tank, swapped the Demon’s standard front wheels for the skinny wheels and tires we received a few weeks ago, and drove the 12 miles to Famoso Raceway. After a painless check-in process and a short driver’s meeting we did our first ¼-mile run in our long-term Dodge Demon.

During our last drag strip visit we pulled a best elapsed time of 7.0 seconds in the 1/8-mile. That equates to approximately 11.0 seconds in the ¼-mile, though that was with our Demon making only 808 horsepower (we’d tried adding octane boost to a tank of 91 premium fuel, and it didn’t work). This time the race fuel did the trick and the Demon’s computer was giving us all 840 horsepower (and 770 pound-feet of torque). We weren’t sure what to expect, but our first-ever Demon run down the ¼-mile took 10.7 seconds, with the Demon pulling at 1.79 60-foot time and a trap speed of 132.56 mph.

That’s still over a second off Dodge’s certified time of 9.65 seconds in a Demon, yet we were thrilled. A 10.7 second ¼-mile time is flying! Especially in a car we’d just comfortably driven over 200 miles. It was also obvious the track prep at Famoso was much better than Irwindale. The Demon had zero traction issues on that first run so we got more aggressive with the throttle. We also wanted to try the transbrake, which we’d practiced using since our last drag strip visit and felt more confident using at the track. But when we tried the transbrake on our second run our reaction time was terrible (4.74 seconds!) and we pulled a 10.8 E.T. due to the distraction of using it and trying to manage our launch throttle.

We went back to the foot brake for our third run and pulled a 10.5 E.T. with a 1.7 60-foot time. Our next three runs were a 10.6, 10.4 and a 10.6. At this point we were still learning how much throttle to apply off the line and how quickly to transition to full throttle, and the Demon was still hooking up, which meant there was room for more throttle. We tried that on our next run and pulled a 10.3 with a 1.63 60-foot time. That was followed by a 10.4 and then a 10.28 with a 1.59 60-foot time. At this point we’d been racing the Demon for less than an hour, gotten in 9 runs, and dropped half a second. WOOT!

Our 10th run was a 10.36 and our 11th run was 10.31 at 135 mph. Once again, that’s flying in any street legal car and downright amazing in a vehicle as comfortable and easy to drive as the Dodge Demon. The 12th run was our best of the day – a 10.232 at 135 mph, with a 1.49 60-foot time. We know of other Demons that have pulled better times, but all of them were using aftermarket Hoosier or M & H slicks. As far as we know these are the best times anyone has pulled with a Dodge Demon running the same Nitto drag radials it was wearing on the showroom floor. Our next run was a 10.265, proving these 10.2s were no fluke.

Our 14th and final run was a pathetic 14.1 seconds. We knew it was our last run of the day so we decided to get super aggressive with the launch. The rear tires spun as the Demon’s rear end fishtailed off the line, making us look like a rookie. It was a nice reminder that, even at a well-prepared track, you have to be prudent with Demon’s throttle pedal. After that we swapped the front tires and drove home. The car’s computer said we averaged 18 mpg on the drive back. Vehicle computers are notoriously optimistic, so we’ll check that against our more accurate fuel log on the next fill up.

The real question is, how much more aggressive do we want to get to lower the Demon’s ¼-mile times? We’ve run a 10.23 with the car’s full interior and without using the transbrake (and the associated torque reserve it offers for an improved launch). If we pulled the passenger and rear seat it’s likely we’d drop 2-3 tenths. The transbrake could give us another tenth of the second. That equates to a 9.8 second E.T., which will technically get us kicked off an NHRA-certified track. You're not allowed to pull better than a 10-second ¼-mile time without a roll cage. Still, how cool would it be to pull a 9-second ¼-mile in the Dodge Demon with only the crate items installed?

I say we find out… 

 

Update Number 6: Track Time And Mopar Fun…Plus Our Demon Gets Screwed, Twice!

by Karl Brauer on March 20, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,308 miles
Latest MPG: 12.31
Lifetime MPG: 11.64
Maintenance/Service Costs: $105
Days out of Service: 3 hours, 30 minutes

We are coming off a big week of Long-Term Dodge Demon activity. First, we got our skinny (4.5/28x18) M & H bias-ply tires mounted on the skinny front wheels included in our Demon Crate. The total cost for mounting and balancing was $49. That didn’t include mounting the wheels on the Demon – we did that ourselves after getting to Irwindale Speedway later the same day.

And it was the process of loading these wheels (along with the other Demon Crate goodies) into our Dodge Challenger’s trunk that really illustrated Dodge’s genius. Remember, the idea behind the Dodge Demon was to create the ultimate drag car that can still serve as a functional, even enjoyable, street car. The transformation between these personalities could have involved a lot of time and headaches, but Dodge packaged all the necessary items into the $1 Demon Crate.

We knew that was the theory going into this Demon ownership experience, but it wasn’t until we utilized the Demon trunk liner, the Demon floor jack, the Demon impact wrench and the Demon torque wrench that we converted theory into reality. And what an effective reality it is! The trunk liner perfectly fits in the Demon’s cargo hold, and all the necessary crate items fit in the liner. After one practice run we had the conversion process, from empty passenger car trunk to full track-ready trunk, accomplished in less than 10 minutes.

Better still, when we got to the track we had the street-tire-to-track-tire process down in another 10 minutes. Love that cordless impact driver! It’s almost like Dodge designed all these crate items to work seamlessly together…

With the skinnies in place, and two containers of octane boost in the tank, we rolled up to Irwindale’s starting line and pulled…a rather weak 7.69 ET in the 1/8th mile. We’ll blame that one on a bad staging process and focus on the next run, which was a 2.0-second 60-foot time and a 7.3 second ET, or equal to our best time from our first track visit. After this run we noticed that while the engine was going into “840 horsepower” mode in the staging lanes it was in 808 horsepower mode after both runs. Does the Demon automatically kick out of 840 mode after a drag run? That didn’t seem right…

We figured it out on the third run, when the Demon’s computer started kicking us out of 840 hp mode even before we got to the starting line. We knew adding octane boost to a tank full of 91 premium wasn’t as smart as getting true race fuel, and apparently the Demon agreed. Note to other Dodge Demon owners – pony up for real race gas or risk not maintaining all 840 horses at the track.

Without the engine’s full power we didn’t expect much improvement in times, though we hoped the skinny front wheels would at least help with weight transfer, and thus maybe increase our launch grip. For the third run we scored another 2.0 60-foot time and 7.3 ET; yet another tie for our best time ever. However, our last run of the night was the one to celebrate: a 1.8 60-foot time and 7.0 ET at 104 mph. That converts to a roughly 11.0 second ¼ mile. Not bad for our ninth-ever drag run in the Demon.

Give us the full 840 horsepower, as well as the torque reserve from the transbrake (we still didn’t use it during this track visit) and we’d be well into the 10s, for sure. That 7.0 ET also got us a warning from track officials – “Anything quicker than 7.25 requires a fire-resistant jacket.” Yes sir, we’ll bring one next time.

Before leaving Irwindale we had to swap the front tires, and that’s when we noticed a large screw on the inside portion of the passenger front tire. We checked the tire’s pressure and it was still at 34 psi, so we decided to leave the screw alone, mount the tire, and drive home while monitoring tire pressure on the Demon’s driver-information screen. We made it back without issue and got the tire patched first thing the following morning for $28.

We had to get it patched early because that same day we took the Dodge Demon to another track – Pomona. This was where a Mopar press event, with Widebody Hellcats and other 2018 SRT products, was being held . We arrived in our Demon and left it parked at Pomona while enjoying a scenic drive up Angeles Crest Highway in a beautiful F8 Green Widebody Hellcat. It’s really telling when you drive a Dodge Challenger Demon and a Dodge Challenger Hellcat back-to-back. The Demon’s softer springs give it a relaxed, comfy ride quality, but the stiffer Hellcat feels surprisingly nimble and confident around sweeping mountain corners. Each has its place in the world.

When we got back to Pomona we took advantage of the large, deserted parking lot to practice with the Demon’s transbrake. It’s not that complex, you just pull back both paddles, power-brake the car to between 1,000 and 2,200 rpm, then release the left paddle to hold the car with the transmission before releasing the brake pedal. Releasing the other paddle launches the Demon with torque reserve, undoubtedly helping your 60-foot times. Getting familiar with the process during drag strip runs is nerve wracking, but if you get it down before visiting the track it should be easy to use at the starting line. Next time we’re using it.

One the drive back from Pomona we noticed the front passenger tire was a couple PSI lower than the other three tires. Our first thought was obvious – the patch we’d gotten that morning wasn’t fully sealing the puncture. When we checked that tire’s pressure the next morning it was down nearly 10 psi from the others. As we crouched there, concluding the patch must not be holding, our eyes drifted across the tread area and spotted…ANOTHER SCREW! This one was toward the outside of the tire, making it easy to spot.

Really Universal Karma? You couldn’t even muster enough creativity to pick a different tire? Actually, we’re confident it was the parking lots at both Irwindale and Pomona that “screwed” us. With all the people and cars and booths and other activity that goes on in those lots it shouldn’t surprise anyone if you drive through them and pick up a screw or two. You can imagine the look on the tire store guy’s face when drove up, 24 hours later, and told him to patch the exact same tire – again. At this point we’ve spent more money on tire patches ($56) than we’ve spent on mounting and balancing ($49).

Hopefully our Demon doesn’t get screwed anymore.

 

Update Number 5: A Leaner, Meaner Air Cleaner

by Karl Brauer on March 12, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,120 miles
Latest MPG: 10.8
Lifetime MPG: 11.82
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Our recent flatbed adventure with the Challenger SRT Demon’s PCM left us a tad gun-shy to turn a wrench on the car…for about 24 hours. Then we realized there was still more fun to be had with all the cool Demon Crate items we got. As previously discussed, we already installed the new switchgear (with the race fuel button) and the new PCM (which had to be calibrated at the dealer). But what about the new air filter and passenger HVAC vent?

Both of these items are part of the Demon Crate’s box of goodies. The air cleaner (we're assuming) offers less restriction and is required to support the Demon’s 840 horsepower setting when running on 100-plus octane fuel. The passenger-side dash vent…well, it doesn’t have any functional purpose, but it does feature the custom message each Dodge Demon buyer chose when ordering the crate. Dodge assumed most buyers would put their name on both this vent and the exterior plate on the Demon Crate. We put something other than a name on our vent and crate, which we’ll reveal at a future point (when all the Demons have been built...).

Since our Dodge dealer didn’t install the crate PCM and switchgear it also didn’t install the air cleaner and dash vent, leaving those upgrades to us. Neither item involves flatbed potential (probably), so we dove in without concern.

The upgraded Demon Crate air cleaner is identical to the original unit...or is it? We didn't see any difference initially, but after removing the standard version we spotted a substantial design shift. The upgraded air cleaner has what could be described as a bowl-like opening at the top while the standard air cleaner has a solid block-off plate. We're not sure how this opening impacts air flow or vehicle performance but it seems rational to assume it assists with greater airflow. 

The swapping process itself was pretty straightforward, though of course the three screws involved had Torx heads, meaning standard screwdrivers didn't work. According to the instructions you're supposed to pull the thick air-inlet pipe that runs from the airbox to the intake manifold, but there's another clip you have to remove to separate it from the manifold and we decided to just work around the pipe. Between working around the air pipe and dealing with the three Torx screws screws the entire process took about on hour, but if you're willing to pull the pipe and have ratcheting Torx tools you could probably do it in 20 minutes.

2018-Dodge-Demon-Drag-Tires1.jpg

The other good news is that our skinny front tires just showed up, meaning all we have to do is get them mounted and we're ready to go big time on our drag racing efforts. We've got the full 840 horsepower engine tune. We've got the skinny front tires and we've got all the associated parts (switchgear, air cleaner, etc.) installed. We even played around with pulling the subwoofers in the trunk and putting the Demon Crate liner in with all the race goodies.

For our next update we'll be returning to the track, mounting the skinnies and running high-octane fuel. With any luck we'll get kicked out for going to fast.

 

Update Number 4: The Demon Crate Arrives…And We Use It To Break Our Demon

by Karl Brauer on February 27, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,068 miles
Latest MPG: 10.8
Lifetime MPG: 11.82
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 2 hours, 30 minutes

It’s no slouch at 808 horsepower, but taking full advantage of the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon requires ordering the $1 Demon Crate. You can only order the crate after taking delivery of Dodge’s street-legal drag racer, and it takes about 3 weeks to arrive. However, at $1 there’s simply no reason not to order this item. Just getting five cardboard boxes with the Demon logo on them is probably worth a dollar to most Demon fans, and that’s not including the multiple Demon logos on the crate itself. If that’s still not enough badging for you, the word “DEMON” (in it’s hellish font) appears on nearly every item inside the crate.

What’s included in this devlish $1 box? Everything you need to convert the already-outrageous Dodge Demon into an even more track-oriented device. Let’s start with the new Powertrain Control Module (PCM) that bumps the 6.2-liter Hemi’s peak power and torque from 808/717 to 840/770. You can only access the additional power after putting 100-plus octane fuel in the Demon’s gas tank and pressing the race gas calibration button on the new centerstack switchgear (also included in the Demon Crate). Both of these items are meant to be installed at a Dodge dealer…but we read the installation instructions (also found in the crate) and decided to swap the switchgear and PCM ourselves. What could go wrong?

Honestly, we had every reason to believe the Demon’s computer would freak out if we disconnected the battery, installed the new PCM and then fired it up as if nothing had changed. But we also knew we had Hagerty Plus roadside assistance, meaning free flatbed service to the dealer was just a phone call away, assuming a worst-case scenario. What would a worst-case scenario look like? Who knows…maybe the car throws a series of warning codes while refusing to fire up until a dealer reflashes the Demon’s primary computer. In fact, that’s exactly what happened.

We brought this on ourselves by performing a PCM swap that is supposed to happen in a dealer service bay, where expert technicians and computer terminals are standing by to calibrate the new engine controller. After realizing the Demon would not be driving to Courtesy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram under its own power we called Hagerty, who had our bright red Challenger on a flatbed and at the dealership 90 minutes later. About 10 minutes after unloading it we heard the Demon’s distinctive exhaust note from the waiting area, and 15 minutes later we were told the computer was happy and the Demon was ready to go home. Total time from Hagerty roadside assistance call to happy Demon? About 2.5 hours.

That little adventure covers the new PCM and switchgear found in our Demon Crate, but there’s plenty more to talk about. The rest of the items focus on transforming a Demon from hooligan street car to full-fledged drag racer. A pair of skinny front wheels, sized 4.5 inches wide by 18 inches in diameter, are joined by a floor jack, torque wrench, tire pressure gauge and cordless impact wrench with battery charger. These tools make swapping the front wheels easy, and all of it fits in a foam Dodge Demon trunk liner, giving everything a secure location for the drive to and from the track. There’s also canvas tool bag, a fender cover, a performance air filter and a passenger mirror block-off plate (for Demon owners that can’t stomach unnecessary aerodynamic drag).

We should mention the personalized exterior plate on the Demon Crate, which includes the car’s VIN and a “Built for…” message. Also in the crate is a new passenger-side dash vent that has the same VIN and message as the crate’s plate. Dodge assumed most people would put their name in these locations, as in “Built for Horace Dodge”, but plenty of people are being more creative. We like to think of ourselves as creative, so we didn’t put a name on our plate. Instead we put…a fun phrase that we’ll reveal after all the Demons are built (because we want to be the only ones with this phrase on our Demon crate and passenger vent).

We’ve ordered a set of M and H 4.5/28-18 tires for our Demon’s skinny front wheels. These were apparently on backorder but should arrive in the next week. When they show up we’ll get them mounted, grab some high-octane fuel and head for the track to see how close we can get to that coveted 9-second ¼ mile.

 

Update Number 3: The Demon Hits The Track

by Karl Brauer on February 20, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,022 miles
Latest MPG: 10.8
Lifetime MPG: 11.82
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 55 minutes

Few modern performance cars are as track oriented as the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. The Demon’s entire claim to fame is its ability to pull a 9.65 second ¼-mile at a drag strip. Yeah, sure, it’s got a few other production car claims to fame. Most powerful V8. Quickest 0-60 time. Highest G-forces. First wheelie. But all those claims require sticky pavement to maximize the Demon’s forward thrust. And the stickiest pavement is always found at a drag strip starting line.

With our long-term Demon’s engine (mostly) past its break-in period, and with the car’s exterior surfaces encased in paint protection film, there wasn’t anything holding us back from exorcising the Demon at our local drag strip. We say “mostly” about the engine break-in period because the odometer was reading 969 miles as we staged for our first run down the track. It would have been nice to have a full 1,000 miles on the Demon before hammering its 6.2-liter V8 repeatedly, but…meh, close enough.

What we really wanted to do was establish some baseline times for the car in pure showroom stock form. We ordered our Demon crate 3 weeks ago, which means it should arrive any day now. Included in the crate is a high-octane engine calibration that raises the Demon’s power and torque from 808/717 to 840/770. There are also skinny front wheels and a performance air filter, all of which will increase the Demon’s acceleration and, theoretically, allow it to run a 9.65 1/4-mile elapsed time.

We’re anxious to install those items, but we wanted to see what the car would run on 91-octane fuel with its lower power numbers, wider front wheels and standard air cleaner. We also wanted to start familiarizing ourselves with the Dodge Demon’s many performance features. The Demon’s drag racing pedigree reads like the feature list for the latest iPhone. It is equipped with items no other car has ever offered, any one of which requires a learning curve. Taken as a group the Demon’s technology could overwhelm. Before we start chasing that 9 second ¼-mile we need to establish a solid knowledge base built on track experience.

Luckily, we’ve been visiting the Dodge Demon forum at hellcat.org, where we learned of another local Southern California racer who got his Demon weeks before us. Ron Silva had already blasted down Irwindale Speedway multiple times, and he was there again when we showed up for our inaugural track experience. Ron happily walked us through the Demon’s extensive drag race feature list, giving us pointers after each run and even shooting some video of our Dodge.

At this point it’s worth mentioning the reception the Demon received as it pulled into Irwindale Speedway’s “tech” area, where track officials certify every car before it can race. We’ve gone through this process at least 50 times over the course of our racing experience, but this was the first time we had multiple officials warning us not to go “too fast” at the track. “Demon, huh? Well, if you hit a 6.4 or better we’re going to take your VIN down and report it to all the NHRA tracks in the country.” A 6.4-second elapsed time in the 1/8th mile equals a 9.9 E.T. in the quarter mile, and if you don’t have a cage in your car (not to mention a racing license and several other items) the NHRA will kick you off their tracks for going faster than 10 seconds in the ¼ mile (or 6.4 in the 1/8 mile).

Now the Demon can certainly hit a sub-10-second ¼ mile if all conditions are right. But those conditions include the 840 horsepower upgrade, skinny (lighter) front wheels, a very sticky starting line and an experienced driver who knows how to fully leverage every one the Demon’s drag racing technologies. We didn’t know how sticky the starting line was that night at Irwindale, but we knew the other items were not present. “The car won’t do better than a 7-second elapsed time” we confidently told the officials, which seemed to satisfy them.

That said, we did want to get strong numbers, and we were happy to have Ron’s guidance. His first advice was to lower the rear tire pressure on the Demon’s Nitto drag radials to between 15 and 20 psi. He also confirmed that putting the Demon in “Drag” mode comprehensively sets the car up for maximum elapsed times. Finally, there’s the issue of the Dodge Demon’s TransBrake and torque reserve system. These items work in concert to store additional supercharger boost when the engine is held between 950 and 2,350 rpm. The driver then releases the TransBrake with the paddle shifters instead of the brake pedal.

These items make for a stronger launch, but they are additional items the driver has to get juuuuust right to benefit elapsed times. Given the breadth of Demon technology we were already dealing with during our first track visit we chose not to use the TransBrake that night.

After setting the rear tire pressure we rolled up to the starting line and performed a burnout to heat the drag radials. As Ron stated, putting the Demon in “Drag” mode engages its line lock feature automatically, which means the rear brakes are not actively holding the rear wheels during a burnout. This reduces strain on the drivetrain and the rear brakes. After the burnout we rolled up to the starting line, set the “Pre-Staged” and “Staged” lights on the Christmas Tree, and watched the three amber lights drop to the green light.

The Demon’s “Drag” mode also deactivates traction control while leaving stability control in place. This means it’s up to the driver to balance the Dodge’s 808 horsepower between maximum acceleration and tire spin. Knowing this had us erring on the side of restraint for our first run, which resulted in minimal wheel spin and a 1/8-mile run of 7.724 seconds at 100.63 mph. Our 60-foot time, a critical measurement for maximum drag strip performance, was 2.037 seconds.

Not bad for our initial attempt, but a 7.7 1/8-mile time translates to approximately a 12-second quarter mile. Not slow, but far off the Demon’s sub-10 second potential. We circled around, got back in the staging lanes and 15 minutes later we pulled a 7.528 time, at 102.04 mph. The 60-foot time dropped to 2.001 seconds. At least we were moving in the right direction. Twenty minutes later we were at the starting line again and pulled our best time of the night: 7.367 seconds at 102.61 mph and a 60-foot time of 1.920 seconds. On that run we could tell the balance between traction and forward thrust was pretty spot on, requiring plenty of effort to keep our neck straight as the Demon squatted and shot forward.

We’d like to report a continued drop in elapsed times, but our next run was another 7.785 at 101.68 mph and a lethargic 2.290 60-foot time. Too much throttle and tire spin that time. The next run was 7.80, and the last run was 7.554. We drove home feeling pretty satisfied with the Demon’s times. Our 7.367 elapsed time translates to roughly 11.4 seconds in the ¼-mile. For an 808 horsepower Dodge Demon, running wide front tires, a full interior (including the heavier upgraded audio system) and no TransBrake that’s pretty quick. There was probably another couple tenths in the car as it sat that night, but we doubt it could have pulled better than a 7.0 time (that’s a 10.9 ¼-mile).

We have to call out two other, literally, cool Dodge Demon technologies. First, the “Power Chiller” uses the Demon’s air conditioning system to cool compressed air entering the supercharger. It works so well that after each drag run we could see the engine’s intercooler air temp barely rise, and then drop immediately as we circled back to the staging lanes. The “Power Chiller” works so well that the Demon’s other cooling technology, the “Quick Cool Down” setting, was really never needed.

The “Quick Cool Down” uses the intercooler pump and engine fan to cool the engine after being shut off (presumably as you sit in the staging lanes between runs). We did see the intercooler air temp rise after turning the engine off, like it does for any engine. And the “Quick Cool Down” setting would slowly lower it. But once the Demon’s 6.2-liter V8 was fired up in “Drag” mode the engine temp dropped back to near ambient air temperature within seconds. It was always at an ideal temp by the time we were staged.

Admittedly, the ambient air temp at Irwindale Speedway that night was in the mid-to-high 70s, so the engine wasn’t fighting the kind of ambient temps it could easily see mid-day at a hot track. But it’s clear the Dodge Demon is capable of thwarting power-robbing heat soak, even in much harsher (hotter) conditions. We might run into those conditions during our next track visit, which will hopefully come soon and hopefully include upgraded power under our Demon’s satin hood.

 

Update Number 2: Exterior Treatment All Wrapped Up

by Karl Brauer on February 12, 2018

Current Odometer: 820 miles
Latest MPG: 8.8
Lifetime MPG: 11.82
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 55 minutes

When it comes to paint protection film, also known as PPF, clear bra, clear film or getting a car “wrapped” we’ve had the same lingering questions many of you probably have. Will the film really stay in place or will it peel up and show bubbles? Will it shrink and shift over time? Will it cause the car’s paint to fade at an uneven rate (assuming you only cover sections of your vehicle’s exterior)? Will the adhesive leave a nasty, paint-damaging residue when the film is finally removed?

These concerns have kept many people from ever applying PPF, but after speaking to several authorities on the matter and hearing how far paint protection film has come in the last 5 years we decided to fully wrap our long-term 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon last week. We were referred to a local shop, Envious Detailing (https://www.enviousdetailing.com) in Orange, California, to have the work performed. After speaking with Eric, the shop’s owner, we had an estimate and decided to get ‘er done.

At this point our ownership experience with the Demon covers about 800 miles. Those have been mostly highway miles with careful attention to the engine break-in procedure. We’ve only floored the car about 10 times (none until after passing 500 miles) and we certainly haven’t done any serious burnouts, donuts or off-road excursions. If you’d asked us, we’d have been confident the paint on our Demon was still pristine.

Well, it was mostly pristine, but Eric noted several chips had already blasted through the clear coat, the TorRed layer and down to the bare metal. None of these were massive chips, but their number and depth surprised us after less than 1,000 miles. Note to OCD car guys: if you buy a new vehicle and want to keep the paint perfect, get it wrapped BEFORE you do any serious driving. Knowing the paint was supposed to cure for at least 2-4 weeks we figured it couldn’t hurt to enjoy driving the car while those weeks passed. We were wrong.

The good news is the average person would be hard pressed to find these chips without a professional like Eric pointing them out. The car still looked great going into Envious Detailing, and after a full clay bar cleaning and polish treatment, plus the application of custom cut SunTek PPF film, it looked even better. Eric’s shop even removed items like the door handles, taillights and exterior mirrors to improve the film’s coverage. We were particularly pleased to get the satin finish on the Demon’s hood, roof and trunk wrapped. As anyone with matte paint experience knows, you basically have no options to fix matte paint once it’s damaged. Any attempt top polish out a scratch or chip will also polish out the matte finish.

Beyond the body wrap process Eric also showed us several window tint options, ranging from a 30 percent reduction in light to an over 90 percent reduction. Eric told us going over 80 percent can make seeing other cars’ headlights difficult at night, so we decided to go with 80 percent for the side and back glass and 30 percent for the windshield. Many of the same concerns we’ve had about PPF also apply to window tinting. We’ve all seen those horrendous bubbling, peeling window tint jobs on other cars…

Eric assured us today’s high-quality window tint (also from SunTek), when applied properly, looks great and holds up for years. He also applied a ClearPlex windshield skin to protect the front window from rock chips. Once the SunTek film is installed Envious Detailing uses Modesta Coatings to improve the film’s gloss and provide an additional layer of protection. These coatings can be applied directly to paint, and many people use them for paint protection, but they also work on protective films. Modesta Coatings make it easier to remove dirt, bird droppings and bugs (from paint and protective films). Eric also applied the coating to the Demon’s wheels to ease future dirt and brake dust cleaning.

This level of paint, glass and wheel work doesn’t come cheap. However, if you have invested in a high-end car it provides piece of mind while protecting your investment.

The price breakdown is as follows:

Paint correction & Gloss Enhancement:                                $400

Full Body Custom SunTek Clear Bra Application:              $6,000

Modesta BC08 Paint/PPF Body Coating:                                $900

ClearPlex Windshield Skin:                                                       $400

Windshield SunTek Window Tint:                                            $250

Side/Back SunTek Window Tint:                                              $450

Modesta BC06 Wheel Coating:                                                $500

Total:                                                                                         $8,900

For that kind of money you’d expect a car to look stunning after all the work is done. Happily, we think our long-term Dodge Demon looks better than stunning. With regard to the window tint, we were thinking more in terms of functional purposes related to cabin temperature and interior material protection from UVs. Those benefits are certainly present, but the dark greenhouse, accented by the dark wheels and satin hood/roof/trunk, looks even better than we anticipated.

Best of all, with the engine past break in and the body properly protected, we can now do what the Demon was engineered for.

Next update: track time!

 

Update Number 1: Our Demon Got Bent…

by Karl Brauer on January 30, 2018

Current Odometer: 748 miles
Latest MPG: 11.85
Lifetime MPG: 13.18
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 55 minutes

Shortly after getting our long-term 2018 Dodge Demon home we noticed a problem we hadn’t seen during delivery. In the center console panel, near the cup holders, we spotted two distinct “depressions” in the metal. It looked as though someone or something had pressed down on the Demon’s panel, bending the console top. If I had to guess I’d say either something very heavy was placed on it or somebody with something in his or her back pocket (keys? small tools?) sat on the console. Maybe during final assembly or transportation?

2018-Dodge-Demon-Console-Key-640.jpg

The size and degree of these depressions were minimal, which is probably why we didn’t notice them during the delivery process at Courtesy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. But finding the damage after we’d left still made us feel pretty careless in our inspection of the vehicle. The red mist of a new, 800-plus horsepower TorRed Demon can blind even the most veteran car buyers. We almost considered not doing anything about it. You can see from the photo with the key fob how relatively small and shallow these divots are.

Of course once you see something like this you can’t un-see it, and owning a brand new, $90,000 Dodge Challenger with damage we didn’t cause felt wrong. We sent an email to the dealer principle, Larry Watts, that included these photos to illustrate the damage. We hoped the dealer would believe we didn’t cause the divots, post purchase, even though we failed to identify them before signing all the purchase paperwork.

Larry replied to our email almost instantly, telling us he’d get the part ordered and let us know when it was ready to install. Less than a week later the part was in stock and we headed to the dealership. The installation took less than an hour and cost $0. Courtesy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram provides free coffee and a comfortable seating area, two features we utilized while catching up on email during our short wait.

The other big news this week was the arrival of our customized license plates. We ordered the plates on October 11th, right after confirming our long-term Dodge Demon order with the FCA concierge. The California DMV website said customized plates take 10-12 weeks, convincing us the plates would arrive long before the vehicle. But 15 weeks later, and 3 weeks after taking ownership of the Dodge Demon, the plates were still MIA. We called the DMV, waded through several layers of phone menus, put our name and number down for a call back, and waited another hour.

“Did you order classic plates?”

“Yes.”

“Well, those are on a 5-month backlog. There was more demand for them than we expected.”

Hearing that didn’t make us happy, but at 15 weeks in we (hopefully) figured we were only 4-5 weeks away from getting our personalized Demon badges.

A few hours later (that same day) the mail was delivered, including a notice that our plates were in. Two days – plus three more hours in DMV purgatory – had our Demon plates liberated and in hand.

We like to think we were pretty creative with our seven characters. What do you think?

2018-Dodge-Demon-License-Plate.jpg

 

Introduction: Our New Inner Demon!

by Karl Brauer on January 22, 2018

Current Odometer: 682 miles
Latest MPG: 11.85
Lifetime MPG: 13.18
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 0

Ten years after the Challenger’s return Dodge’s muscle car is doing better than ever. It’s sales have risen every year since 2008, with Challenger volume now rivaling the struggling Camaro and Mustang. Credit Dodge’s product development and marketing efforts, which have combined to create a non-stop stream of new and interesting versions of the Challenger over the past decade. The latest and greatest Dodge Challenger is the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. Building on the 707 horsepower Hellcat that debuted in 2015, the 808/840 horsepower Dodge Demon is arguably the most over-the-top muscle car ever created. 

Given the Challenger’s success in the face of dwindling car sales, and given the Dodge Demon possesses the most powerful V8 ever created, making it the quickest production car on the planet, we wondered what it would be like to live with a Demon and treat it like a real car for an extended ownership period. This car is one of several featured in the Kelley Blue Book long-term fleet, and we’ll be adding photos and updates on what it’s like to own and drive this high-performance Challenger every 2 weeks. It’s not everyday we get to feature a car like this in the KBB long-term fleet, and we’re looking forward to the ownership experience.

We purchased our Challenger SRT Demon from Courtesy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in San Juan Capistrano, California. The dealership honored our request to save every item from the Demon’s shipping process (interior plastic, exterior tags, etc.) and waited until we arrived to process and wash the Challenger. Larry Watts, the dealer’s General Manager, was easy to work with, keeping us informed on the Demon’s status during transit and checking back with us after delivery to see if we needed anything.

The Demon’s base price is $83,295, but we added the Painted Black Satin Graphics Package over the hood, roof and trunk lid for $3,495, the Comfort Audio Group — Leather Seats for $2,495, the Demon Vehicle Storage Package (car cover) for $475, the Demon Logo Laguna Leather Seat for $295, the engine block heater for $95, the Rear Seat Option — Leather for $1 and the Trunk Carpet Kit for $1. There’s also a $1,700 gas guzzler tax on every Dodge Demon, plus a destination charge of $1095, for a grand total of $92,949. About the only option we skipped was the $5,000 sunroof. Adding additional weight, and weakening the structural integrity of a high-horsepower drag car, didn’t seem like the best use of funds.

Taking delivery on January 3rd, with 12 miles on the odometer, we decided to follow a traditional break-in procedure, meaning no full-throttle applications, no upshifts beyond 4,000 rpm and a focused effort to vary engine RPM for the first 500 miles. Driving a Dodge Demon like this in the frantic pace of Southern California’s aggressive traffic might sound like an exercise in frustration. It’s not. The Challenger’s 808 horsepower and 717 pound feet of torque delivers the kind of acceleration few cars can match, even when soft-pedaling the Demon for break-in purposes. We never had an issue placing the car wherever we wanted.

2018-Dodge-Demon-Prairie-Rear.jpg

We actually put most of the break-in miles on the Dodge in a single day, just to get it out of the way. Our triangular route started at Kelley Blue Book’s home office in Irvine, California, snaked north up the 405 and 101 to Camarillo, then continued along the coast through Santa Barbara and Santa Maria before turning east on state route 166. From there we shot across the Central Valley to the 5 freeway, near Bakersfield, then headed south back to Orange County. After 480 miles in one day in the world’s quickest production street car you might expect us to feel somewhat beat up.

In fact, it was some of the easiest 480 miles we’ve driven in terms of comfort and convenience. Don’t forget, this car has all the amenities, including heated and cooled leather seats, a WiFi hotspot, SiriusXM radio (with a free 12-month subscription) and cruise control. About the only thing missing from the Dodge Demon in terms of modern luxury is all the latest driver assist technology like lane-keeping assist and smart cruise control. And, honestly, we never missed it. Technology is great, but handing the reigns of 800-plus horses off to a computer doesn’t interest us. Beyond the car’s easy-going, luxurious nature, we were happily surprised by how well it handled the curves of Route 166. Putting the adjustable suspension and steering in “Sport” mode reduces body roll and tightens steering response. For a “drag” car, it’s surprisingly nimble in the twisties.

With regard to horsepower, let’s clarify why we initially listed the Demon’s power at 808/840. When new, as delivered by the dealer, the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 makes 808 peak horsepower and 717 peak pound-feet of torque. However, after taking delivery every Demon owner can order the $1 “Demon Crate” that includes an assortment of race-oriented equipment. We’ll get into all the Demon Crate items in the coming weeks, but among them is a new set of buttons for the Challenger’s center stack. The new switchgear features a gas pump button that can recalibrate the engine to make 840 horsepower (and 770 pound-feet of torque) if 100-plus octane fuel is used. The dealer has to replace the switchgear and re-flash the engine management computer to take advantage of the higher octane fuel. We’ve already ordered our Demon Crate and expect to have it in a few weeks.

We also plan to “wrap” the car with protective film after having a paint correction process performed in the next couple weeks. We’re particularly nervous about the satin/matte finish on the hood, roof and trunk. The contrast between the bright TorRed body and matte black surfaces gives the Demon an impactful look, though we’ve already noted a few scratches in the hood that could prove nearly impossible to remove without damaging the matte finish. The quicker we can get it protected the better.

There’s also going to be quite a learning curve to fully leverage all the race technology packed into the Dodge Demon. Beyond expected performance car features like paddle shifters, launch control and adjustable suspension settings the Demon also features line lock brakes for scrubbing the tires at the drag strip, a transbrake for quicker launches and an “Air Chiller” that redirects the car’s air conditioning effect from the cabin to the intake manifold, cooling the incoming air charge and increasing power. Master all these features and the Dodge Demon can pull zero-to-60 in 2.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph, as certified by the NHRA. 

Can we really get our street-legal Dodge Demon long-term test car to pull a 9-second quarter mile? Maybe, maybe not. But we’ll be taking it to the track soon (after we get our Demon Crate and the engine controller re-flashed) and plan to give it our best shot. Tune in every couple weeks to see how we’re doing and what it’s like to own a Dodge Demon.

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