Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Breana Noble

Challenger SRT Demon 170 is 'new pinnacle of factory-backed crazy' in Dodge 'Last Call'

An up to 1,025-horsepower Dodge Challenger Demon that can travel the quarter mile in under nine seconds and requires the signing of a waiver to purchase marks the end of the Hemi-powered muscle car as the brand moves into a new era of performance.

For $96,666 plus destination and other fees and the notarized disclosure, speed enthusiasts can get their hands on one of the no more than 3,300 models of the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170, the seventh and final special edition Dodge muscle car as a part of the Stellantis NV brand's "Last Call" lineup.

"We are going to celebrate the end," Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said in a briefing ahead of the Monday night reveal, "with what is now going to be the new pinnacle of factory-backed crazy."

Allocation to dealers is now visible on the Dodge Horsepower Locator tool, which launched in October with the full final year of allocation to dealers to help customers who want a 2023 model get one. Orders of the Demon 170 begin March 27 and close May 15 with production launching in July. Those at the manufacturer's suggested retail price will receive priority scheduling over dealers that charge more in a recovering-inventory environment from a global microchip shortage.

At least 2,500 models will be built with the hope to get up to 3,000 for the United States and 300 for Canada. That will depend on microchip availability, Kuniskis said.

Automakers typically don't end production of popular models. But thousands of dealers and high-octane addicts descended Monday upon the Las Vegas Motor Speedway like a death knell for the Challenger and Charger as they've been known because of the move to a zero-emission future.

Production of them will end in December at Ontario's Brampton Assembly Plant, and an all-electric Dodge muscle car will be launched in 2024. Dealers are expected to learn more about that and what the next five years for the brand hold later this week at Stellantis' dealer meeting, its first since 2015.

"We're going to show them the end of the era Monday," Kuniskis said. "And then we're going to show them the future on Wednesday."

Kuniskis wouldn't disclose how this Demon with a fully rebuilt powertrain will compare to the performance figures of the top-of-the-line Banshee trim, the battery-powered replacement for the Hellcat in Dodge's EV era.

But the brand has disclosed that on the middle 400-volt trim, factory-backed, aftersales Direct Connection kits will boost the future EV to 500 kilowatts with 670 horsepower. The Banshee will carry an 800-volt system with "a lot more" power, Kuniskis has promised, and history proves Dodge loves to outdo itself.

As for the current generation, there were more than 63,000 2023 Challengers and Chargers available to order prior to the Demon 170's reveal on Monday, according to the locator. Dodge declined to predict production or sales numbers for 2023. Based on the limited runs of the six other previously shared special edition muscle cars paying homage to Dodge's history, more than 4,000 still are available to order in the United States, nearly 91% of the production run for North America.

Kuniskis describes reception to the year-long allocation strategy as "mixed": "It's more good than bad, and the bad only comes in when people get frustrated that they can't find the exact car that they want. But to be honest with you, that was going to happen anyways. It was just going to be a delayed reaction, because eventually they were going to try to buy, try to buy, try to buy, try to buy it, and we're going to get to the end of the year, and they would have never found it. At least this way, I told you: 'Here's every car. Here's where they're going. Here's how to get it."

He added that the hope is for the production to carry the brand until the launch of the electric muscle car about a year from now. The brand also is looking for flexibility, especially with Chargers for the commercial side of sales.

A few dealers told The Detroit News that business is brisk. Daytona Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram started March sales with projections for them to be its best in the past three months: "The vast majority we have been allocated has sold," he said about the response to the "Last Call" models.

The brand also appears still to be selling down 2022 model year vehicles, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for auto information website Inc. Model year 2023 vehicles represented 44% of Dodge sales in February compared with 86% for the industry overall.

The Demon 170, meanwhile, is a product of a clandestine meeting with 40 people during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the parking lot of the SRT building. The Demon had been meant to be the final chapter for the current-generation muscle cars, Kuniskis finally admitted, but the pandemic and the transatlantic merger that created Stellantis from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and French rival Groupe PSA delayed the next iterations.

From the new company, Kuniskis made a request for the special project — one of only three from Dodge in his memory, including the original Demon. All the engineers and designers voluntarily joined the project on top of their other duties. After fans construed the adoption of the Street Racing Technology team into Stellantis' brands as the death of SRT, Kuniskis and his team had something to prove.

"Our brand positioning really was never born out of necessity, current or past. It was born probably a little bit more out of spite than anything else," Kuniskis said during a briefing ahead of the Monday night reveal in Vegas. "When we reorganized, people said, 'SRT is dead, the factory of bats--- crazy is closed.' We said, 'No, bulls---, brick and mortar can't contain crazy. SRT is in our DNA and we can still do crazy better than anybody."

The goal was four-digit horsepower with 0-to-60 mph in under 2 seconds. The Demon 170's speed is 1.66 seconds and delivers 2.004 g-force, the highest g-force acceleration of any production car, according to the brand.

Dodge had planned to show the special edition in November at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas. The vehicle, however, had problems with literally blowing up during testing. The team replaced parts until the only remaining significant part of the original Demon's engine was a camshaft.

"This is literally a brand new car," Kuniskis said. "It didn't start out that way, but we ended that way. ... We weren't going to give up on four digits."

The 6.2-liter high output supercharged Hemi traces its origins from the Direct Connection Hellephant C170 crate engine, its namesake. The engine will be built in Saltillo, Mexico.

Its best power performance comes on the E85 ethanol blend at 6,500 rotations per minutes. At 4,200 rpm, it produces 945 pound-feet of torque. The 170 produces 900 horsepower and 810 pound-feet of torque on E10. Pumped gas produces 880 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque.

Because it runs on ethanol that produces about 45% less carbon than gasoline, Kuniskis describes it as "the first eco-friendly, sustainable muscle car ever." The fuel, though, is 25% less power dense, so he admits the fuel economy is "terrible," but didn't provide an exact figure.

The Demon 170 can run the quarter-mile in 8.91 seconds at 151.17 mph, the first-ever eight-second factory muscle car, according to Dodge. With no safety cage or parachute, the National Hot Rod Association has banned it. Dodge will sell a parachute aftermarket through Direct Connection. The original Demon also was banned from quarter miles by the NHRA.

That vehicle also came with two key fobs: a black and red one, with the red unleashing more horsepower. The Demon 170 comes with one fob with horsepower determined by sensing the percentage of ethanol fuel content.

"The single most impressive feature is the incredibly advanced ignition system," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at auto information website and an owner of the original Demon. "Being able to measure real-time the ethanol content reduces the troublesome process of constantly measuring and mixing ethanol."

The biggest challenge with the 2018 Demon, though, was tire traction. The Demon 170 comes with Mickey Thompson 245/55R18 ET Street front tires. Standard are 17-inch by 11-inch rear and 18-inch by 8-inch front forged aluminum wheels with a lightweight carbon fiber wheel option.

"They have more sidewall, more flex, are higher quality and from a better known brand. That should help with traction," Brauer said. "But they've upped the power, so if it's an overall better situation, who knows? Certainly under perfect conditions, going an 8-second quarter mile and 0 to 60 in under 2 seconds is bonkers."

Bonkers especially at its price point, considering inflation and high transaction points on new cars today, Brauer added. The 2018 Demon was $86,090. Kuniskis said the vehicle is meant to be a halo and that prices closer to $150,000 could've turned off Dodge fans.

There are 14 exterior colors available, including heritage B5 Blue, Plum Crazy purple and Sublime green. Optional is a Satin Black painted hoof, roof and decklid. The car also has unique badging, including "alcohol injected" bezel laser etched on the hood.

Owners of the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon will be able to match the same vehicle identification number as their original Demon for the Demon 170. The 170 also comes with a commemorative decanter set with the owner's name and VIN engraved.

Like the original Demon, owners also must sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of street-legal production drag car. The purchase includes a one-day SRT experience class at the Radford Racing School in Arizona.

Nyle Maxwell, chairman of the Stellantis national dealership council and dealer principal of the family of four Stellantis dealerships bearing his name in Texas, said the seventh special edition is a fitting end.

"Tim Kuniskis has done a wonderful job creating excitement in vehicles fun to drive and to take to the race track," he said. "It's that halo effect."

Dodge promoted the Demon 170 with a weekly teaser featuring evil leprechauns, an idea spun from a dream Kuniskis had that he felt worked because they're known to drink a lot, be hard to catch and hand over gold when caught: "I always believe it's better to be lucky than actually good at what you do."

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.