Looking at the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, it’s easy to dismiss it as a knuckle-dragger, a relic of Detroit’s street-racing ’60s. But in my palpitating hands at the drag strip at the Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park), the Demon shows what deft application of modern technology can do: namely, enable a US $83,295 muscle car to accelerate faster than a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder or a $2.7 million Bugatti Chiron. Yes, the Demon was born for drag racing, where it’s the fastest-accelerating production car in history, as certified by the National Hot Rod Association, with a 9.65-second quarter mile (0.4 kilometer). It will reach 30 mph in 1 second flat and smoke 60 mph (97 km/h) in 2.3 seconds, faster than any other car on this year’s list.
Every component is optimized for speed, from its barely street-legal Nitto tires to its 6.2-liter Hemi V-8. The 2,700-cc supercharger inhales atmosphere at 1,150 cubic feet (32.5 cubic meters) per minute. Fun fact: The engine’s thermal energy could, in theory, take a gallon of water from room temperature to boiling in 1 to 3 seconds, depending on your assumptions. Tea, anyone?
More production-car firsts: The transbrake, long used in professional drag racing, binds the output shaft of the eight-speed automatic transmission, allowing you to launch the Dodge without holding the mighty engine in check with the foot brake. Torque reserve is another key to NASA-quality launches. The belt-driven supercharger’s bypass valve closes to “prefill” the engine with 8 pounds per square inch of boost.
Another dashboard switch preps the Demon to run on 100-octane racing fuel, which unlocks the full 626 kilowatts (840 horsepower—you get “only” 808 hp on premium unleaded).
Then there’s the Power Chiller, which diverts refrigerant from the air conditioner to a finned heat exchanger. The chilled coolant then flows to the supercharger’s heat exchangers, reducing the temperature of the charge air and thus increasing its density, for a faster burn. Diverting all the A/C turned my Demon’s cabin into a sweaty sauna. But I was having way too much fun to care.