Dodge Demon Roadster. Great name, but this is just a concept car right?
For now, yes. But like pretty much all of Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler's concepts, this one is driveable and we have driven it. The Chrysler Group also has a funny habit of putting their concept cars into production, in which case the Demon promises much. It is unashamedly European-influenced and would undoubtedly go down a storm in the soft-top-obsessed UK… if the price was right.
So what's the Demon's USP then?
Well, Dodge calls it a 'roadster with attitude'. That's stretching it a bit, especially as the engine is a comparatively weedy 2.4-litre petrol with 172bhp, but aesthetically it is solid, chunky and purposeful. Attractive? Well, to my eye the rear arches are too flabby and the headlights too Ford S-Max, but the proportions are good and the overall style more masculine than an MX-5's. Dodge Demon principal exterior designer Jae Chung admits to using the MX-5 as the immediate benchmark, but drew heavily on influences from the larger Viper and Jaguar sports cars of the 50s. The diagonal crease from the top of the front arch to the middle of the rear wheelarch is Chung's little homage to the XK120.
The interior looks production-ready, that's weird for a concept isn't it?
Yes, very much so. Concept car interiors are usually fitted with tons of trinkets, screens and fake touch-pad controls – not the Demon. Which is another hint that this car will make the leap from concept to production reality. It's a refreshingly pure interior: cloth trim, large comfortable seats and a simple dash layout – just like a small, front-engined, rear-driver sportster should be. It's also 'designed for the taller percentile,' says interior designer Dan Zimmermann. That's a polite way of saying 'for the American backside'. But Dan's a pragmatist too: 'the cloth seats help to keep the costs down.'
You mentioned the engine earlier – why isn't the Demon powered by a suitably American V8?
Two reasons: there's still talk (albeit more hushed these days) of a mid-range, front-engine rear-drive sports car to sit below the Viper (and above this car), and also the Demon is actually quite a dinky little thing. A V6 might fit under that hood, but the concept makes do with the 2.4-litre four. The Demon's 172bhp and 165lb ft of torque at 4400rpm doesn't sound like much, but Dodge promises a decent power-to-weight ratio and a 0-60mph time of 7.1 seconds. Usefully quicker than an MX-5, then. Top speed has been calculated at 130mph, although we didn't get the chance to prove the speed for fear of destroying this ultra-expensive and fragile concept car.
So what's overall driving experience like, top-speed run aside?
Pretty good. For a concept car, the Demon is pretty well resolved. The driving position is good and the interior does indeed feel more spacious than an MX-5. You're not wowed by an extreme engine note (in fact the Demon concept sounds rather harsh), and neither does the car try too hard to impress – it's just satisfyingly honest on the move. Agile and fun too. We'll reserve judgment if and when a production model comes along, but Mazda has proved that the basic small roadster formula works.
'If and when they build it'? What's the latest?
Well, we can't ignore the fact the DaimlerChrysler group is no more and the chances of any concept on the Chrysler side of the equation making production are decidedly shaky. Like the last chunky Dodge concept, the Hornet, the Demon will need to be underpinned by a chassis sourced from outside the company if it is to make production. Dodge will admit that they have made some tentative enquiries globally, but won't tell you who with. And interestingly, they wouldn't rule out a possible tie up with their ex: Mercedes Benz. Now if they could pinch the SLK's fine chassis, adopt some cost-savings and get the Demon to UK customers for less than £20K then they could be onto a winner. The Demon is exactly the kind of car Dodge could use in these turbulent times. Straightforward, fun and funky.