The headlining feature is TransBrake, a system that enables ferocious, brutal starts on a drag-prepped surface with a minimal amount of experience. Within two runs, I felt confident enough using TransBrake to kick out the engineer riding shotgun for the 1/8-mile passes, and move up to the big-boy 1/4 mile. With a range of effective prompts in the instrument cluster, the Demon walks its driver through getting the most potent launch possible.
Naturally, you can launch the Demon without using TransBrake, although I'm not really sure why you would—hell, the extra time it takes to engage the system might give the guy in the other lane a fighting chance…briefly. Dodge includes the Challenger's standard launch control system or you can also just plant your right foot, although neither method will work as well as TransBrake.
The hardest part of this entire affair is picking the right engine rpm and timing the throttle tip-in after releasing the second paddle. Go too early and the weight transfer is all screwy, meaning you won't have as much traction as the 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 needs. Go too late, and the Demon bogs down with a palpable sense of annoyance at your incompetence. Ask me how I know.
Something is missing
Unfortunately, our figurative turns in the Demon were limited to the drag strip, so I can't comment on the ride, handling, or braking. That's a problem, and it's not the only one.
The Demon is a tremendously potent and hilariously fun vehicle, but it all feels too easy. When I was a young writer, I couldn't figure out how drag racers lit up their rear tires while stationary—it simply didn't compute. Now, all I need to do is climb in a Demon, press a button and follow the instructions to activate the built-in line lock system. Poof, tire smoke.
It's the same story with TransBrake (and to a lesser extent the built-in launch control system). The Demon allowed me, someone with virtually no drag racing experience, to fire off a vehicle-indicated 10.6-second 1/4-mile run while pulling 1.6 G off the line. For better or worse, this is race-grade performance at driver's-ed-level accessibility.
To be clear, I'm not saying Dodge is irresponsible for putting the Demon on sale, or that it should specially license or train owners who buy one. If you're foolish enough to get behind the wheel of a Demon and mistreat it, you deserve whatever fate befalls you.
But I wish that getting the most out of this car was a little more challenging. Mastering a vehicle is a big part of what makes driving fun, but in the Demon's case, the joy comes merely from the sensory overload of the acceleration—and you'll adjust to that performance eventually, even at this level.
There's also a question of how long it takes to engage these systems. Some of our launches completely ignored the Christmas tree. While we staged the cars properly, TransBrake took too long to activate in time to hit the lights. Dodge said there were shortcuts owners will learn to activate the system—like a double-tap of the SRT button kicking the car into Drag mode—but it didn't elaborate on more of the Demon's secrets.
I also wish the Demon felt a little more special from behind the wheel.
While you can remove the front passenger and rear seats, you're still looking out on the same expansive Challenger dash, interacting with the same lickity-split UConnect infotainment system, steering with the same fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and reclining on the same wide but supportive seats. Unless the drag strip is stretching out ahead of you, it's difficult to get excited about sitting in the driver's seat. Dodge wouldn't need to go far to solve this problem—a unique driver's seat or a steering wheel could do the job.
These are minor problems, especially when the rest of the Demon is such a staggering performer (even in the hands of a novice). It's possibly the finest expression of a muscle car, ever. But we can't make that judgment for certain until we drive it on public roads, experience the foibles and idiosyncrasies of such a high-performance vehicle, and put Dodge's claim—that this stunning performer can drive to the track, switch to skinny runners, lay down a blistering, sub-10-second 1/4-mile time, and drive home again—to the test.
Until that happens, the Demon is the world's fastest curiosity, an ultra-high-performer with too many unknowns.
Dodge provided Internet Brands Automotive lodging to help bring you this firsthand report.