2018 Dodge Demon first drive: Hellcat for real sinners

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Americans love excess, noise, and bombast, and the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is as excessive, noisy, and bombastic as a car can get. But the ultimate Challenger is also a stunning piece of engineering, capable of nearly effortless straight-line performance unlike any car to ever carry a warranty. 

That’s good. And bad. But mostly good.

You didn’t like your organs that way, right?

Pull back on both paddles with your left foot on the brake and build the revs—this is where some understanding of drag racing and a sticky, drag-prepped surface pays off. Try to ignore the odd sounds the Demon’s engine is making at this point. It’s perfectly normal for the car to sound like a pissed off attack helicopter before launch, when the Demon’s Torque Reserve system is priming the powertrain for maximum performance.

MORE: The Demon’s crate: What’s in the box?

Release one of the paddles and wait for the Demon to ask you to release the brake pedal. How brave are we feeling today?

At that point, TransBrake locks the Demon’s output shaft, ensuring faster power delivery and even more torque at launch without overpower the brakes. When curiosity and bravery intersect, release the last paddle and then feed in the gas in a quick and controlled manner.

The savage acceleration that follows is a little bit like BASE jumping. Drunk. And on fire. While riding a very perturbed cheetah. It’s the most intense and visceral acceleration most people will ever experience.

Obsessive, excessive engineering

While the Demon’s aesthetic might seem excessive, the changes are also functional. Its hood scoop is the largest on the market, force-feeding the huge 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8. The scoop works alongside a hidden intake in the middle of the driver’s side, inboard headlight. The swollen wheel arches contain the enormous 315/45/18 tires, and the cleaver-like front splitter exists to beat the air into submission.

Are these changes excessive? Yeah, like a deep-fried, chocolate-covered stick of truffle-and-gold-flaked foie gras. But they’re also necessary to cover the quarter mile in as little time as possible. But not as necessary as the engine.

The Demon is the definition of obsessive, excessive engineering, with the aforementioned 6.2-liter force-fed V-8 producing 840 horsepower and 770 pound-feet of torque. The Demon can hit 60 mph in 2.3 seconds, which feels like being kicked in the chest by a coked-out mule, and complete the quarter-mile dash in an NHRA-certified 9.65 seconds. There’s an 8-speed automatic geared specifically for acceleration—consequently, the top speed drops to just 168 mph—and a dedicated Drag driving mode that optimizes all of the Demon’s systems. The adaptive suspension has a special drag setting that sets up the dampers to improve off-the-line grip. And of course, there are specially built Nitto drag radials that are well over a foot wide.

But understanding these facts and features doesn’t prepare you for the Demon’s accessibility.

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