Driving new cars and writing about them for thousands, if not millions, of people to read is just a fantasy for most. But anybody doing this job long enough will tell you that there are some downsides. One of them is that you become completely, utterly desensitized by the routine. Especially in today’s market climate of bulbous crossovers and numbing autonomous driving hype. Covering this daily occurrence does actually feel like work when facing the coming of an era that aims to make driving, and all of its empowerments, extinct. And the media is expected to spread this gospel with pure sincerity and virtuous intent, in the name of being invited back to the next forgettable vehicle driving event. That’s just a little bit on how the sausage is made.
In the face of this relentless pro-autonomous-vehicle rhetoric, there exists a group of people working for an automaker in Auburn Hills, Michigan. And they’ve built the biggest middle finger to this wet nursing platform that they possibly could.
It’s the damn Dodge Demon. Harbinger of horsepower, champion of ferocity, and destroyer of tires. Its 840 horsepower engine screams in the face of this gutless denomination. Its 9.65-second quarter mile time breaks through the continuum of impotence with vigor and defiance.
To hell with decreeing that it needs to be excommunicated from public roads. The 2018 Dodge Demon is EXACTLY what the world needs right now. It’s a savior, if we want it to be.
The world needs to be reminded that there is no heaven on earth, and people cannot be motivated by bubbles of cowardice and safety theater, as the AV movement has been arrogantly hiding behind. Humans need to have standards for themselves, and maintain a sense of gumption if we are ever going to give our grandchildren something to look back on fondly. The Dodge Demon stares you in the face, and dares you to seize its power. It dares you to actually risk something – whether its reputation, a trip to the body shop (or hospital), and even internet shaming – in the pursuit of going faster. Depending on those that jump in the cockpit, the capabilities of the Dodge Demon can be either tools of motivation, or fear.
It’s grasping the sueded steering wheel of this trembling mechanical beast that we’re reminded that inanimate objects can, and should, awaken very human emotions and reflexes. Fight or Flight is one that comes to mind.
As one should, the Dodge Demon commands full attention and respect from the driver. It demands at least moderate understanding of grip, weight transfer, and steering input when at the drag strip. At US 131 Motorsports Park, we tested our knowledge with the quickest RWD production car to ever roll off the assembly line, on the quickest dragway in Michigan.
Before we attempted to rip a hole in space and time at a rate of speed never before experienced in something DOT-approved, there are procedures to follow. Like any standard rocket ship or jet. The process of which adds a level of detail and immersion that’s otherwise non-existent in a production car.
We’ll start the process with the car already on, and that Drag Mode is engaged. The first step is to open Drag Options from the UConnect touchscreen, and select the Line Lock mode. Proceeding to the burnout box, this two-footed process requires the left foot pressed firmly onto the brake pedal, A thumb pressing the ‘OK’ button on the left side of the steering wheel, and the right foot building the revs up to 1,200 RPM and above via the gas pedal.
In a counter-intuitive order, release the brake pedal while keeping the right foot on the throttle. The Demon will remain still, rumbling impatiently. Nothing will happen until you let go of the ‘OK’ button. In an snap, the 315-wide Nitto NT05R tires will proceed to turn and burn.
In a whiff of tire smoke and rubber granules, it’s time to approach the starting line. And it’s now time to engage the launch sequence.
Creeping up to the amber pre-stage light, we followed the specific instructions of our spotter to ensure the nose of the Demon was as physically close to the line as possible. Our spotter also gestured if we had to adjust the direction of our tires. From there, we put our left foot on the brake pedal, and pulled both shift paddles back. Holding onto those paddles for dear life, we again built the revs up with our right foot – the digital readout in the instrument cluster displaying exactly how much RPM is being channeled to the trans brake. Our ears were filled with the mechanical pulsating sounds of the drivetrain, locked and loaded. Like a hand-sized bullet in a .50 caliber rifle.
Keeping the revs built, we again released the brake pedal. Holding the shift paddles was all that was keeping this dragster stationary.
We let go of one paddle.
Right foot disciplined on the gas pedal.
We let go of the second paddle.
We fired away.
The throttle was pinned. The front wheels lifted off the ground. The Nittos hooked immediately to the sticky pavement thanks to a properly executed burnout and perfectly timed launch. We were passengers in a demonstration of extreme physics for 10 seconds (or less).
Every aspect of this launch sequence, from Line Lock, to letting go of that last shift paddle, is hair trigger. Drop below the minimum RPM range, and the Dodge Demon disengages. Have the wheels cocked in an ever so off-center position, and the Dodge Demon disengages. This is about as far as the Demon will nanny you from binning into the wall. This is not a vehicle for the reckless, or the inexperienced.
We’ve driven 650 hp Corvettes. We’ve driven Vipers. We’ve driven Hellcats. The Nissan GTR Nismo. No production car really prepared us for the sheer ferocity and speed that can be experienced in a Dodge Demon. We never walked away with the sensation of a child standing on our chest before. Or our hands so fatigued from white-knuckling the steering wheel for nine passes on the day.
There was a sense of hope upon leaving the track. Hope that there are still true believers in the industry that understand that the car can, and should, be more than just some throw-away appliance. As if 6-plus years of intense planning and development deserves to be thrown away or traded in like some sort of cell phone. As if driving is merely a form of labor that needs to be automated so that we can all live happily ever after in a stagnant utopia. For those that disagree, they merely need to drive a Dodge Demon.