What It Is: Dodge’s latest Challenger variant, the devilish SRT Demon, caught mostly undisguised testing in Michigan ahead of its debut at the New York auto show in April. Uniquely, the Demon is a production car set up for full-blown drag racing, with Dodge even going so far as to offer skinny front wheels that can be bolted on at the strip. Curiously, this prototype has hood pins, visible rivets, and LB Performance stickers, making it look like someone’s custom Challenger, but the Demon-specific hood scoop and dual headlight/airflow passages give away its true identity.
Why It Matters: These spy photos throw a bit of a wrench in Dodge’s plans to slowly tease different aspects of the Demon in the weeks leading up to the car’s big reveal. We’ve seen seven such teasers since January, and more are on their way between now and April. None have shown the car in its entirety like these photos, however. The Demon itself is a big deal for being a street-legal drag-racing special. Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge have for years offered purpose-built Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger drag cars, but they are parts-counter cars without a VIN and thus are strictly for off-road use only (that’d be the racetrack, not a dirt two-track).
With the Demon, Dodge wants its buyers to be able to drive their Challengers to and from the track on four (wide, barely street-legal) drag radials. At the drag strip, owners may swap the front wheels for skinny drag-racing “runners” that can be stored in a special metal toolbox complete with a jack, tire-pressure gauge, and torque wrench. The unused wide front wheels and tires can either be set aside until the drive home or even employed as replacement rear tires should an owner crack off a few too many quarter-mile runs in one outing. The whole idea is incredibly novel, and it’s an innovative way to spin something really interesting from what is by now a fairly familiar box of parts.
Platform: As these photos confirm, the Challenger Demon will look pretty much like every other Challenger save for a quartet of fender flares that widen the already large coupe by about 3.5 inches, plus an extra-wide hood scoop. Dodge has promised to remove 232 pounds from the hefty Challenger for Demon duty, even going so far as chucking every seat save the driver’s. Owners may be able to add at least a passenger seat back into the mix as an option, although the seats make up a large portion of the Demon’s diet. The absent front passenger seat saves 58 pounds, with another 55 pounds tossed out with the back seats. Smaller wheels (18-inchers in place of the Challenger SRT Hellcat’s 20-inch pieces), tubular anti-roll bars, lighter-duty brakes, and ditching sound-deadening material and trunk trim accounts for the rest. Some weight ultimately may be added back in when Dodge fits final-spec rear half-shafts capable of handling the Demon’s yet-to-be-specified torque, and the final weight of the fender flares and other added-on aero bits needs to be tallied.
Powertrain: So far, the biggest open question surrounding the Demon is how much power it will make. It’s a given that the Demon will be powered by a version of the supercharged and intercooled Hemi V-8 found in the Challenger SRT Hellcat. It is also a given that the engine’s output will far surpass the Hellcat’s mighty 707 horsepower. Our current best guess pegs the peak horsepower figure at 815 and torque at more than 700 lb-ft; all of that will be channeled through the rear wheels. The Demon will get an automatic transmission optimized for drag racing and equipped with a torque converter capable of 18 percent greater torque multiplication and a higher stall speed than what is in the Hellcat.
Also standard will be four P315/40R-18 Nitto NT05R drag radials. These tires scrape past DOT certification with the bare minimum tread grooves, and Dodge claims they mark the first instance of a production car being sold on drag radials. They also have the Demon-head logo embossed right on the sidewall. You might have noticed the large “Nitto” windshield sticker present on this Demon prototype—and also the Pirelli-branded tires wrapped around its 18-inch rims. What gives? Those are nonstock winter tires being used for testing; the Demon was photographed in Michigan during winter, a less-than-ideal context for semislick drag radials.
Another neat detail? Each wheel features an etched-in arrow that racers can use to track tire shift relative to the wheel. For those who’ve never visited a drag strip, this amounts to a built-in indicator that performs the same task as a good old-fashioned tire marker. Drag racers will draw a line across the rim’s edge and onto the tire before a run down the strip and, at the end of the run, if the lines on the tire and wheel no longer line up, they’ll know their launch was compromised by the tire slipping on the wheel. This can be an issue when a car has as much launch torque as we think the Demon will have and the rear tire pressures are lowered for improved traction off the line.
Estimated Arrival and Price: Seriously, is it April yet? The Demon will be unveiled at the 2017 New York auto show before deliveries commence later this year. Expect a base price near the $80,000 mark, as well as a limited production run.