Video: Calvin Chan
Published: May 2, 2018
Want a fast family hauler? Follow the classic American recipe: slap a V8 under the hood, do a bit of tweaking, add a bit of garnish and voila. That’s exactly what Dodge did with their new Durango SRT, and have thoroughly transformed this six-passenger carriage into something you wouldn’t mind taking onto a drag strip.
With a starting price just above $70,000, the Durango SRT isn’t cheap but is a bargain compared to other high performing three-row SUVs like the GLS 63 AMG and Range Rover Sport SVR. With that $70k, the Durango gets an updated widebody front fascia and functional hood scoop - looks like a Hellcat on stilts to be honest. The SRT treatment also gets you a new exhaust, limited slip differential, stiffer springs, anti-roll bar, adaptive Bilstein shock absorbers, 20-inch wheels, and a 3.70 rear axle ratio. There are also 392 badges on the side fenders, which of course reflects the engine displacement in cubic inches.
And that’s where most of that money went, into Dodge’s signature 6.4-litre HEMI V8 pushing out 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Dodge says it's the most powerful three-row SUV around, which is not really true at all. The folks at AMG make the GLS 63 that actually pushes more horsepower and torque than the SRT but is one-tenths of a second slower from 0-100 km/h. Dodge should have instead called the Durango SRT the quickest three-row SUV, not the most powerful. But is it any fun to drive? And is it still as good of a daily driver as the regular Durangos?
Now 475 hp may sound like a lot, but you have to remember that this Durango weighs a TON, more than a long wheelbase Range Rover. Still, it accelerates really quickly, enough to make you a bit dizzy off the line. 0-100 km/h comes in 4.5 seconds - faster than a V6 Jaguar F-Type. The 8-speed transmission is mighty quick too when its left to its own devices. Shift yourself via the paddles or shifter and it can get rather clunky and jerky.
But it’s not only the speed that gets your attention, it’s the noise. The Durango SRT is loud and proud, which is both a good and bad thing. The good? It’s one of the best sounding SRTs by far - the supercharged variants in the Hellcats and Demons just don’t do it for me. Here, there’s just so much noise and even in 8th gear, you add throttle, and the entire car rumbles and resonates with that deep V8 soundtrack. It’s simply intoxicating.
The bad? You can’t turn it off, meaning you become one of those neighbours. That, and the whole car noticeably shakes when you start it up or add gas. You always get this thrumming feeling in your body and it’s not the most pleasant, especially if you’re driving this on a daily basis.
Durango shares a platform with the Jeep GC but it’s much longer, and I actually think the Durango rides better and is more tolerant to bumps and potholes. It’s not a corner carver by any means, and it doesn’t move like a Range Rover Sport or BMW X5, but it’s still hard to deny its effectiveness in going fast, whether it feels agile or not.
That being said, the best thing about the Durango SRT aside from the engine is definitely the suspension tuning. It’s so balanced and can switch from very firm to very soft dampers with the touch of a button. It’s far more comfortable than I expected, and more comfortable than other performance SUVs, making it really easy to live with on a day to day basis. On the flip side, when stiffened up, the Durango really squats down and reduces body roll quite considerably, though you always get that top-heavy feel.
You also have the option to customize everything from the suspension, transmission, AWD system, and steering, and each of those have a few options as well. It’s very cool to have the ability to tailor it to how you want to drive. Personally I leave everything in Comfort expect the steering, which I put in Sport. When everything is in Sport, it’s a little too stiff and eager for daily driving. When in Track Mode, the suspension will jiggle you around like a bobblehead, though I am truly curious how many owners really are going to use it.
Have we talked about fuel economy yet? Yeah, probably because I really don’t want to. This thing has been a money pit this week. I’m averaging around 18.8 L/100km - but it’s really hard to hold yourself back and drive “efficiently” when you have this fire breathing V8 at your command.
The Durango is the closest thing you’ll get to a minivan, without actually being a minivan. The Durango only seats six, not seven like the regular models, as there is no middle bench offered here. I’m sure there’s going to be a few seven-person families out there disappointed. On the bright side, third row space is exceptional. You can even opt to delete the third row at no extra charge.
Don’t expect top notch interior quality here - you have to remember that this is a Dodge, not a Jeep. Plastics run rampant on all the high traffic areas, which isn’t always a bad thing. Screams functionality over luxury. I wouldn’t mind spending a few hours in here. With all this modern tech like Apple Carplay and a plethora of USB outlets, the Durango SRT is road trip ready.
The steering wheel feels great, meaty grips with a shiny but plasticky bottom end. Got so many buttons that you’ll never have to take your hand off the wheel. There are audio controls behind and paddle shifters flanking above. The seats are also really snug. It sucks how a sunroof costs an extra $1,400 but without it the cabin feels a little dark and bunker like.
The SRT also comes with these neat displays called Performance Pages. Here you can display everything from the oil temperature, G-forces, Dyno graphs, and you can even take a snapshot of them and store it on an SD card. Really neat.
For those wanting a Durango Hellcat, don’t cross your fingers. I think the GC has that covered. But what I love about the Durango SRT is its multiple personalities. It’s a riot in a straight line but also well mannered and calm when you want it to be. That and it’s just as comfortable as your standard Durango, something not normally seen in performance SUVs. I think that’s what sold it for me. The constant V8 thrum might not be for everyone, and not having seven-seater capability is a shame, but for that family that needs that compromise of a 2 in 1 vehicle, this hot-rod SUV provides just that.
Model: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT
Paint Type: Bright White
Base Price: $72,495
Price as Tested: $82,860
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,110 / 1,924 / 1,827
Curb weight (kg): 2,500
Engine: 6.4-litre HEMI V8
Horsepower: 475 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 470 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 18.3 / 12.2
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 19.2