Dodge’s product portfolio might be thin but if you appreciate American muscle there’s no one doing it with more brashness. So of course, it was high time that they stuffed a 392 HEMI into their 3-row SUV. This is the new Durango SRT.
Upon receiving this Car and Driver back in the late 90s, I unsuccessfully tried to convince my parents to buy the first hotrod Durango. Flash ahead 20 years and Dodge has resurrected the idea, this time without a supercharger or Shelby’s name. Sure, you can buy a Durango R/T or Citadel with a HEMI but not the big one.
This 6.4-liter V8 is reserved for the brand’s most outrageous models and here and it’s outputting 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque on recommended premium gas. Even with its ability to selectively shut down cylinders when not needed, it’s especially thirsty returning 15mpg in combined driving according to the EPA, however I didn’t quite make it to 12mpg for the week…the price you pay for moving 2 ¾ tons with this much haste.
The National Hot Rod Association has certified its 0-to-60mph time of 4.4 seconds, but I was able to manage an even quicker 4.2 meaning you don’t have to back down from that Mustang GT next to you at the stoplight. Launch control isn’t that unique of a feature anymore but an actual launch control button is so Dodge tries to dummy proof the process. And while you’re at it, the UConnect system’s Performance pages are as in-depth as you’ll find with all sorts of interesting gauges and recorders, some of which are also available in the driver information display. I can’t really imagine anyone taking this SRT to track days but if they do, they’ll be well equipped to have some fun.
Built upon a unibody with a 4-wheel independent suspension, the Durango SRT is more than just a big truck with a big motor. The 8-speed automatic –minus the rotary shifter here – gets a specific SRT tune for optimized shift points, new Sport and Track modes offer 1 touch powertrain and chassis customization sending as much as 70% of the torque to the rear wheels via the performance-tuned all-wheel drive system, Brembo brakes with 6 pistons in the front clamp down on 15” slotted rotors, a wake-the-neighbors exhaust system is always on, and most importantly an active damping system with Bilstein shocks works wonders in keeping the stiffer springs in check. The ride quality is exceptional, even in the most aggressive settings. There are lots of other complimentary SRT touches both to the body and the cabin to make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
So I expected it to be loud and fast which of course it is but what truly surprised me is how nimble and civilized it is. This is not just $75k worth of straight line antics. The adaptive dampers and 4-wheel grip are amazing. So this thing can really get after it on curvy roads. All the driver’s controls are honed far beyond a brutish SUV. The exhaust note is omnipresent but otherwise the cabin is luxuriously quiet and appointed. Dodge has done a truly analyzing job here.
Well, there is a caveat when it comes to traction – these Pirelli all-seasons did not play well with the heavily treated upstate NY winter roads, particularly when they were mixed with some morning dampness. In these conditions and with Sport mode selected, get ready to make some steering corrections. But on stickier surfaces the Durango SRT dutifully follows your input. As stability control and all-wheel drive become less intrusive in the higher drive settings, the driver becomes more of the focus and that’s refreshingly fun. In other words, don’t toss these keys to a newly licensed driver…it’s no Hellcat but it can be frisky. Summer tires are optional. Auto, snow and tow settings play it safer. And towing is maxed at a stout 8,700 pounds.
I know what you’re thinking. Dodge doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to quality. Which is why it’s reassuring to see the attention to detail in here. The Durango is far from new but there’s little clue to that because FCA has updated it and kept it remarkably fresh. The electronics are amazing and fit and finish are top notch. I can’t promise you won’t have issues with yours at some point but at least initially there’s much to feel good about.
The seats are heaven with support in all the right places and hugging on the sides, touchpoints are of soft leather and the content list is extravagant and well executed. Intuitive and fully modernized infotainment is backed by a plethora of connection points all the way through the 3rd row, there’s a Blu-ray rear entertainment system, rear climate controls, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, remote start and the latest safety tech. The 2nd row heated captain’s chairs are split by a deep console, cleverly accessible by the 3rd row. They don’t slide however so legroom can feel a bit tight until you recline. A tumbling action grants access to the 3rd row from either side where adults will actually fit.
What would make the SRT more livable is a control switch for the exhaust – it is loud all of the time – and a less sensitive gas pedal because unless you feather it heads are going to snap. Otherwise, for about $64,000 Dodge has covered all the bases. Its formidable size melts away from behind the wheel and the drive is indeed fun and boisterous. With their insolent image, Dodges certainly aren’t for everyone and this one in particular wears its Brotherhood of Muscle badge emphatically but under the skin is a sophisticatedly refined Durango you can take uptown. $74,955 is the sticker on this loaded SRT – a 3-row with few peers.