Each year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) invites us to its sprawling proving grounds complex near Chelsea, Michigan, to check out the company’s lineup for the coming model year. It’s a tradition we journalists look forward to as we get to thrash around in whatever vehicle we fancy, from little subcompacts like the Fiat 500 to brawny Challenger and Charger Hellcats. Typically, we can’t say anything about these models until the media embargo is lifted – this year, the green light will be September 1 at 12:01 a.m.
However, FCA officials have given us permission to drop a few breadcrumbs that should whet your appetite for what’s coming in September.
Muscle continues to be a strong part of FCA’s vehicle portfolio and its SRT team has pushed the boundaries even further for 2018. Leading the pack is the limited-production (3,000 for the U.S; 300 for Canada) Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, with production scheduled to start at FCA Canada’s assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario in the fall.
The Demon is the world’s first purpose-built, factory production drag-racing car and its numbers are staggering: 840 horsepower and 770 lb-ft of torque from its 6.2-litre, supercharged (14.5 psi of boost), Hemi V-8 engine, which is designed to run on 100 high-octane unleaded gasoline or 91 octane on demand. Its output is the highest ever from a production-car V-8 engine.
The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), a major drag racing sanctioning organization, has certified the Demon’s quart-mile clocking at 9.65 seconds at 140 mph (225.3 km/h) – a world record for a production car. Its g-force acceleration is 1.8 g – another record, and it will launch to 60 mph (96.56 km/h) in a mere 2.3 seconds.
Under its massive Air Grabber hood scoop (291.6 square centimetres), there’s a liquid-to-air Power Chiller intercooler system and an After-Run Chiller system that keeps cooling the supercharger and charge air cooler after the engine has been shut down.
Each Demon is fitted with a TransBrake to improve the launch phase and it’s the first factory production car that can be ordered without a front passenger seat.
A big black Demon Crate is offered to each buyer. It includes numerous items to fully unleash the car’s potential at the drag strip, including a set of narrow drag racing front wheels and tires, a jack and an impact gun to facilitate the wheel change, plus several other items intended for track use exclusively.
Surprisingly, this beast gets a full factory warranty, including three-year/36,000-mile limited vehicle warranty and five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain coverage.
The Demon’s wicked personality is rubbing off on its Challenger stablemate, the SRT Hellcat. For 2018, Dodge is introducing a wide-body model featuring a wider stance that will enhance its lateral grip, as well as braking and acceleration times. The Hellcat Widebody has been fitted with the same fender flares as the Demon, adding 88.9 mm to its overall width. Inside the flares are new, wider 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires mounted on new 20 x 11-inch aluminum rims. A new electric power steering system with selectable steering tuning (street, sport and track modes) adds to the improved dynamics.
The wider Hellcat was able to lower its lap time on a 2.7-kilometre road course by about two seconds a lap, compared to the current Hellcat. That translates into about 13 car lengths after one lap. On the drag strip, the Widebody’s elapsed time for the quarter mile improved by 0.3 seconds (10.9 for the Widebody vs. 11.2 for the standard Hellcat) and its lateral grip on the skid pad increased by .04 g (.97 g vs. .93 g for the standard Hellcat.) Its top speed peaked at 195 mph (313.8 km/h).
The Hellcat Widebody is powered by a supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi V-8 that generates 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft torque. It can be paired to either a Tremec six-speed manual gearbox or a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. A Brembo brake system with two-piece, 391-mm rotors and six-piston front calipers is standard.
Production of the 2018 Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody begins later this summer at the Brampton assembly plant, with deliveries to Dodge SRT dealers in the third quarter.
Sharing the love
The SRT team is sharing some of its products’ muscle-flexing attitude with another member of the Dodge lineup in 2018 – the Durango R/T three-row sport utility vehicle. While a full-blown, 475-horsepower SRT version of the 2018 Durango made its debut in February at the Chicago auto show, Dodge is now borrowing bits from that model to pump up the R/T model.
For 2018, all Durango R/T models will be fitted with the aggressive, functional performance hood and fascia used on the Durango SRT. The hood features a centre air inlet duct flanked by heat extractors, a new front lower valence that houses a cold-air duct system and LED fog lamps.
Durango R/T models also gets as standard equipment a front park assist system, which uses sensors in the front bumper to detect obstacles ahead. The system is an addition to the ParkSense park assist system, now standard on all R/Ts.
A BeatsAudio nine-speaker premium audio system with a subwoofer and a 506-watt amplifier is also now standard on the R/T.
Muscle wasn’t the only item being featured at Chelsea this year. FCA demonstrated it can be equally adept at creating luxurious vehicles, although you might be surprised by the vehicle the company chose to flaunt this expertise – its Ram pickup. The 2018 Ram Limited Tungsten Edition is being touted as the most luxurious pickup the brand has ever produced and it takes but a quick look to find that claim is credible.
The interior is gorgeous, with what Ram describes as “ultra-premium Natura Plus Frost and Indigo-hued leather seats.” The use of the premium leather extends beyond the seats to instrument panel, steering wheel, centre arm rest and door panels. The headliner is light greystone suede – a trucking industry first – and there’s real wood trim accenting the cabin. The floor is covered with Indigo-coloured carpet with rubber floormats and snap-out Frost and Indigo carpeted inserts. An 8.4-inch Uconnect radio display is standard and includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and SiriusXM Guardian.
Exterior cues that let the world know you’re driving the ultimate Ram include a tungsten chrome grille with the brand name spelled out in large, bold letters. The Tungsten Edition features a sport hood (only on the 1500 model), plus body-colour matched bumpers, mirrors, door handles and running boards. The headlamps have a black surround borrowed from the Sport model, while across the tailgate, body-coloured letters spell out the Ram nameplate. Tungsten chrome accents and badging with unique satin-painted Limited wheels complete the top-tier trim package.
The Ram Tungsten is also equipped with air suspension (1500), navigation, remote start, backup camera, power adjustable pedals with memory, heated steering wheel, front ventilated and heated seats, heated rear seats and the RamBox storage bins (Heavy Duty, 6-foot, 4-inch bed only).
The Limited Tungsten Edition luxury trim package will be available in the third quarter of this year. It will be offered on the Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 single- and dual-rear-wheel models; Crew Cab and Mega Cab (Heavy Duty); four-wheel and two-wheel drive; and short- and long-wheelbase models.