kind of obsessed
The Dodge Durango SRT Is a Tamed Performance SUV, and That’s Why I Dig It
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The Dodge Durango SRT isn’t the freshest piece of fruit in the SUV produce aisle. While the SRT version arrived just two years back, there wasn’t much new beyond the addition of the 6.4-liter V8 beneath the hood and the sportier suspension between wheels and body; the Durango itself dates back a decade, and much of its platform is shared with Mercedes-Benz’s SUVs of the mid-Aughts, like the second-generation ML-Class that debuted in 2005. Still, much like Keith Richards’s Swiss doctor, Dodge has kept pumping new blood into that aging-yet-still-capable body; in addition to the SRT version, the Durango has seen fairly continuous upgrades over its lifespan, from a 2014 model year facelift to Chrysler’s latest infotainment system two years back.
Why, then, am I just extolling its virtues now? Well, because, due to the quirks of the automotive journalism industry, I hadn’t had a chance to drive it before. Now that I’ve spent some time with it, though, I can honestly say that I’m a little bit obsessed with it.
A note for all you gearheads about to switch over to email and fire a missive my way: I’ll be the first to admit that, unlike the Porsche 911 Turbo S and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, I’m not obsessed over the Durango SRT because of the unadulterated driving joy it brings. It lacks the joie de conduire of a Porsche Macan or Cayenne or a Mercedes-AMG GLC63; they drive like elevated station wagons, while the Dodge feels like the elder crossover it is.
But it’s certainly not boring, either — not with 485 horsepower under its hood. The 6.4 doesn’t pack the sledgehammer punch of the supercharged Hellcat, but its naturally-aspirated nature means the power grows and grows as the revs rise, rather than coming on like a body blow. As such, it’s more enjoyable to wring the engine out with the paddle shifters, savoring the nuances of the engine. Plus, there’s something satisfying about accelerating quickly without being so quick as to lack time to appreciate it, the way many modern super-speed cars do; it’s like flying instead of teleporting.
Still, thanks to its all-wheel-drive grip, it scoots off the line with a vigor that matches the other Dodges packing this engine, in spite of a curb weight half a ton higher than a Challenger. And while there’s no hiding how much higher it carries its weight than a coupe or sedan, the suspension does a good job of suppressing body roll and keeping the Durango well-planted in a way that doesn’t feel all that dissimilar from a Charger or Challenger. Modern Mopars have never been about carving up corners with scalpel precision; they’re about covering the straight lines between bends as fast as possible, then ideally drifting through the corners with tires smoking.
While part of me would love to see a Durango Hellcat Widebody drop onto the scene like the modern-day version of those Shelby-tuned ones of the Clinton era, the majority of me prefers how much it resembles an ordinary Durango. The SRT front end treatment looks far better than this SUV’s ordinary face — which is probably why you can now also find it on the lesser-V8-powered R/T and V6-powered GT models. From every other angle, though, it’s family car normcore.
Color choice matters, too, and my test car’s Billet Silver paint made it even more anonymous, whether parked or rolling. Indeed, it gave the smooth-sided beast an almost bland, vaguely minivan-ish look from any angle but the front. If that’s a downside to you, go for a color like Redline Pearl or F8 Green; before you do, though, consider the advantage of blending into a sea of anonymous SUVs and vans the next time you decide to explore the land north of 85 miles per hour.
Hand in hand with that understated sleeper car nature comes the vast usability of a SUV of this size. The Durango is something of a tweener in the SUV world — a little bigger than the likes of the Ford Explorer or Toyota Highlander, a little smaller than the Chevy Tahoe or Nissan Armada. And much like Goldilocks found, splitting the difference turns out to be just right. While it’s no more difficult to drive than a midsize SUV, the Durango’s interior feels capacious.
Amazingly, I was able to fit my six-foot-four-inch frame into all three rows (though it was a tad tight in the latter two). Fold all those seats flat, and two people could easily sleep inside; keep the standard second-row captain’s chairs upright, and a family of four and all their luggage could be set for a post-pandemic road trip in lieu of air travel.
In addition, the Durango boasts a dashboard and center console that, like many current FCA cars, very much hails from the if-it-ain’t-broke school of product planning. Large, legible controls dominate, both on the touchscreen and on the hard buttons and knobs surrounding it. It won’t wow the design critics, but damned if it doesn’t make it easy to crank up the AC/DC. And the aggressively crimson “High Performance Laguna Leather Seats” (a $1,595 option) that appear to have been yanked out of the Challenger Hellcat Redeye Widebody look aggressive, but they’re more like La-Z-Boys then Recaros; the only thing you might want for on a long drive is a tad more lower back support.
If the Durango SRT has a usability ace in the hole, though, it’s towing capacity. Most high-performance SUVs and trucks are happy to sacrifice some of their pulling prowess on the altar of speed, but the SRT is actually the Durango with the mostest when it comes to trailering. It can yank up to 8,700 pounds around on its optional hitch, enough to tow even a massive, opulent 33-foot Airstream Classic or a 20-foot power boat.
If there’s a quibble to be had with the Durango SRT, it’s the price. You can argue the two-cars-in-one point until you’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that while the rest of the Durango lineup hews close to the Charger line — a Durango GT is $34,995 to a Charger GT’s $31,995, the Durango R/T is $44,395 versus the Charger R/T at $36,495 — the Durango SRT’s base price vastly exceeds the Charger Scat Pack Widebody’s $46,495. (Dodge no longer sells a non-Hellcat version of the Charger SRT, but back when they did in 2018, it started around $52,000.) The Durango’s added size and AWD may offer added capability, but the further apart the two go in price, the harder it is to make the argument in favor of the SUV.
As such, I might be tempted to opt instead for the Durango R/T instead. Yes, its 5.7-liter V8 is down 115 hp and 80 lb-ft on the 392, but it looks every bit identical to the SRT, still tows 7,200 pounds, and even offers a two-speed transfer case with low range — something you’ll probably appreciate more often than you regret taking an extra second and a half to go from 0 to 60. Plus, even fully loaded, it only comes out to around $54,000 — which, with Dodge’s current offer of 0.9 percent financing for 84 months, means you could have monthly payments as low as around $660 a month.
Price as Tested: $75,350
Drivetrain: 6.4-liter V8, eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
Power: 475 hp, 470 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway
Dodge provided this product for review.
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