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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